As we are in the season of giving, the original plan for today's column was to feature three important givers I've known: Payton Jordan, Lou Zamperini and Don Grant. Their gifts? Themselves.

Jordan tops my list as the best man I've ever known. Once an outstanding athlete, he became one of the nation's best track and field coaches. He not only developed record-breaking champions among his teams, he stressed the importance of fine character and sportsmanship. And one seldom, if ever, heard him say anything bad about anyone.

If you've read the book, "Unbroken," you know of Zamperini's heroics in World War II -- surviving 47 days on a life raft in the Pacific, plus living through nearly two years of torment and cruelty as a prisoner of war. Then, afterward, influenced by Billy Graham, he returned to Japan and forgave those very guards. Also, believing his survival must have had a purpose, he began operating a youth camp to help troubled youngsters from the Los Angeles area. Tough but kindly and helping others find their way through life: that's Zamperini.

Don Grant was the most dedicated coach Encinal High School ever had. As a track coach myself, I could never put in the countless hours he did, and always for the kids.

"That's why we're doing all this," he'd say.

No matter what he coached, the clock was immaterial -- he worked to improve those with talent and squads of wannabes, too.

These were all part of my intended thoughts ... then last Friday, a smart, quiet, young man with problems committed an unbelievable, inhuman crime. A crime against the innocent. He used not just one, but three, guns! Authorities also say he carried enough ammunition to destroy everyone in the school, if he'd had the chance.

Then, the pictures were shown on Sunday. Pictures of very young children caught in that kindergarten class that was chosen at random by that smart, quiet, young man with problems. Their little lives were ended before they had barely begun.

As a former history and government teacher, I can't help but ask why that one right, to bear arms, should be allowed nearly unlimited freedom while reasonable limits cap the others. Freedom of speech, for example, doesn't mean you can say anything, anywhere, anytime. Freedom of religion? Any religion? Those ancient pagans had some highly questionable rituals, as I recall.

America: We have been known as a giving, caring country, willing to aid victims of disasters in far-off lands. Are we now to become the nation of rampant gun violence? Check the Internet for comparisons. Here in a given year, 9,000 to 11,000 or more are victims of gun homicides. Yet in one year, Canada had 144 gun-related deaths; Australia, 59; United Kingdom (where we got the idea for the right to bear arms), 41; and Ireland, home of my ancestors, 21.

Don't those countries have smart, quiet, young men with problems, too?

Contact Joe King at alamedanews@bayareanewsgroup.com.