After the shooting of the four Farmers Bank tellers in Randallstown last Monday, the community finds itself struggling with the emotions -- horror, grief, anger, fear -- that often follow such a senseless and cold-blooded crime.
Expressing these emotions can be a helpful exercise. It helps us work our way through a tragedy. It also proves we're not yet so callous about violent crimes that we can no longer be shocked by them.
What we have to be careful about, though, is how we handle our anger and fear.
In the wake of the shootings that left two women dead and two others seriously wounded, business people and private citizens in the Randallstown area have discussed arming themselves with handguns. That way, they believe, they can hold back the crime wave that threatens to wash them away.
"Get a handgun and protect yourself," one Randallstown man said, summing up a lot of people's feelings a day after the incident.
Clearly, and understandably, that was the fear and the anger talking. But talk of that sort is more likely to compound the problems than eliminate them.
A bank teller, a drug store clerk or a homeowner might feel better with a handgun tucked away in a nearby drawer, but how much protection is the weapon really going to offer when one or more armed criminals come calling?
As Baltimore County Police Chief Cornelius Behan likes to say, "If guns were the answer to violence, we'd sell them at police headquarters."
A more sensible approach would be to bolster security at banks and other businesses that are prime targets of robbery. The Randallstown Farmers Bank apparently was unguarded at the time of the shootings. Its relatively isolated location made the bank even more vulnerable. Such businesses play a dangerous game by assuming violent crime happens only in "the big, bad city."
Meanwhile, the county's community policing (COPE) units have been visiting Randallstown businesses and homes to quash rumors and quell fears. The COPE officers have a message the community would do well to heed: Stay calm and leave the crime-fighting to the professionals.
As for those still thinking of buying guns, they might do more good by using the money to help the victims' families pay for expenses and other needs. Contributions can be mailed to the Farmers Bank Victims' Relief Fund, in care of the bank, 9833 Liberty Road, Randallstown, Md., 21133.