The killings of TV journalists Alison Parker and Adam Ward of the WDBJ station in Roanoke, Virginia, as they were broadcasting live, have stunned the country because of the shocking characteristics of the homicide and the use of social media by the killer to publicize his crime. That same day, with less media attention, four people died at gunpoint in Minnesota, three in Los Angeles, one in Cincinnati, and two in Chicago. Those are just a few of the dozens of people who die of gunshots every day.
This daily quota of deaths is an embarrassment for an advanced society such as ours. The United States have a culture and history linked to firearms that every year claims tens of thousands of lives. The official justification for the population’s right to bear arms is that they are for personal security against an aggressor, and for protection in case of a tyrannical government. Open carry activists like to point out that the best defense against “a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
The reality is very different. The killings of Parker and Ward follow the same traits as most homicides of this kind, which have nothing to do with the fiction encouraged by the National Rifle Association (NRA). The homicide Vester Flanagan was known by the victims and had specific resentments against the reporter and camera man, which originated during his stint as an employee at the TV station. It is known, from what he wrote, that he was obsessed with previous massacres. Those who worked with him remember him as a temperamental man, but it cannot be said that he had a history of mental illness. This is why he could purchase a gun legally.
In this case, job frustration, desire for fame and little else were enough to turn a good man exercising the right to bear arms into a serial killer. Most firearm murders are committed by people who are decent, honest individuals until a mix of personal crisis and gun possession turns them into assassins. If only it would be that easy to tell the good guys from the bad ones, as the NRA says. Until that day comes, it is more practical to just restrict access to guns.