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There are always lunatics; why should they be armed?

A shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla.

Here we go again. One sad, alienated individual armed with a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon wreaks havoc upon a community, in this case of school children, in the case of Las Vegas, concert-goers, ad infinitum, and in all cases with the rest of us as there but for the grace of God or circumstance goes our children, our colleagues, or ourselves (“In a Florida high school another tragedy; let’s not let it be another missed opportunity,” Feb. 15). And then, as if the tragedy itself isn’t enough to deal with, we must listen to the same stale false introspection into the why’s of this event, searching for a motive, a cause, a personality type that we can identify and root out before they can victimize us again. At its best, this sort of social self-examination yields answers with which we are already familiar: The dangers of loneliness and alienation exacerbated by social media and the balkanizing influences of the Internet, add in the occasional mental illness, a disadvantaged childhood, substance abuse, religious fanaticism…the list of demons within us is lengthy and familiar.

At its worst, this collective searching for the soul of the victimizer is a calculated distraction from what we should be talking about: the how. How is it that one individual can cause such lethality in mere minutes? How is it that police body-armor can afford such little protection for those entrusted with protecting us, as happened in Dallas in 2016?

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We have always lived with the lonely, the disaffected, the mentally ill, the religiously fanaticized, and the merely hateful. In past generations, these individuals did us occasional but limited harm. None of this is unique to our century or our generation. It is absolutely true that social media and the Internet have poured gasoline on these fires, and that is indeed unique to us and we must recognize, take responsibility for, and deal with these phenomena as the threats to civility and safety that they are. However, it is also true that what’s new to our age is the ubiquitous availability of military-style weaponry to just about anyone who wants it. Obsessing over the why’s of how an Adam Lanza comes into being is a dangerous distraction from what we can actually do something about, which is controlling the amount of damage that one very upset or disturbed individual can do.

Stop the sale and manufacture of semi-automatic weaponry to private citizens. Stop the sale and manufacture of ammunition magazines larger than 6 rounds. Stop the sale and manufacture of ammunition designed to pierce body armor or fragment upon impact. Do what Australia did, very successfully I might add, and declare all such weapons and ammunition illegal and subject to confiscation. None of this infringes upon a homeowner’s right to defend his home, a hunter’s right to hunt, a sportsman’s right to indulge himself in target practice, or, in a worst case scenario, a community's right and ability to form a well-regulated militia for the purposes of of opposing a government run amok. What we can do about the why’s of these tragedies is very little and almost entirely too late to help. It’s "the how" we can do something about, and we owe it to the Parkland families to do exactly that.

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Mark Thistel, Baltimore

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