Five people were murdered by a machete in New York this week during a religious celebration. Two people were murdered in a shooting at a church in Texas. The Texas shooter undoubtedly was intent on killing many more but was stopped by a retired FBI agent, who swiftly responded by returning fire against the shooter. Violence has become a norm in our culture and it’s high time that we stop focusing on the weapon used and start focusing on the mental health and culture issues that underscore violent events. The similarity between the two murderers was the mindset, not the weapon. Gun control would not have stopped the shooter any more than “machete control” would have stopped the stabber. Indeed, this time, the stabber was able to complete more murders than the shooter.
To no longer be able to rely upon good intentions of fellow churchgoers represents a marked change in our society, and all of us have had to adapt. I find myself uncomfortable in densely populated buildings and am increasingly aware of my surroundings and exit routes. When my kids go to movies, I don’t just worry about the mischief they could involve themselves in, but their safety in a crowded theater. Like most parents, when I drop my kids off at school I worry about those who might seek to harm them. No one wants to be a sitting duck. But we can’t let our fear and vulnerability deter us from worshipping together, or from gathering together for community or educational purposes. Isolationism isn’t the answer. Ironically, isolationism may be one of the causes for deranged thinking that motivates mass killers. We certainly don’t want to perpetuate that motivation.
With the increase in violent crime against innocent bystanders, it is no surprise that folks are fed up and fighting back. Gun ownership per capita in Montana is high and I wonder if the low incidents of home invasions is because would-be burglars know an arsenal is likely to greet them once they cross the threshold. This is not an endorsement of vigilante justice, but I am a strong proponent of having more good guys carrying weapons that can stop those who seek to harm us. We don’t fund enough law enforcement officers to be present constantly in crowded areas, and we need options to fill this gap. Ensuring every school has a resource officer is no longer a luxury; it is a necessity. But these efforts will not be effective unless we also address the culture of violence, adequately fund mental health resources targeting those susceptible to homicidal tendencies, and enforce laws currently in place. Here’s hoping the hallmark of 2020 is implementation of causally connected solutions to mass violence.
Tammi Fisher is an attorney and former mayor of Kalispell.