When I was 20 years old, a friend of mine murdered two of my close friends.
He shot them execution-style in a warehouse in West Hartford, Connecticut.
We never got the chance to ask him where he acquired the gun which he used to shoot his friends in this senseless act. The next day his self-mutilated body was found two states away in Vermont. He had killed himself.
Now, more than two decades later, 28 people are dead in Newtown, Connecticut, a sleepy New England suburb where trees and lakes are more plentiful than murder investigations. It is much like the Connecticut community where I grew up near Hartford. The shooting Friday of innocent students and school personnel was one of 62 mass shootings which have occurred in the United States since 1982, according to the Washington Post.
Having experienced the surreal shock of losing two friends to bullets, I can only imagine the agony these parents, teachers and children are experiencing in Sandy Hook, a village in Newtown. It took me at least a year to get over the sensation that would wash over me frequently, a fear that someone might shoot me for no logical reason. It is only a coincidence that both these shootings happened in Connecticut, of course, but they are similar in that they both involved young men, guns, and mental health problems, undiagnosed or not.
Since the shooting, which sent me and my friends to three funerals in a single week, I have heard all the debates about gun control, and every time after one of these mass shootings occurs, I shake my head, knowing that the debate will pass and we will cave in and move on. Then, the next mass shooting will happen and the photographs of grieving parents and terrified children all will remind us Americans that we have failed. We have failed to take on the NRA, failed to demand that our Congress take on these powerful lobbyists, failed to stop passing the buck. President Barack Obama teared up Friday when he spoke of the shootings, but will Americans and Congress support him if he tries to take "meaningful action" when it comes to changing gun laws?
Here is a fact to ponder. In the vast majority of the 61 mass shooting in America since 1982, the guns which killed the victims were purchased legally — and most likely, easily. You can buy guns at Walmart.
I used to work as a mental health counselor, and I acknowledge that we do not devote enough resources to treat the mentally disturbed people who eventually turn to guns to carry out their twisted plans. Nor do we find alternatives for the teenage boys, and 20-somethings lured to video games the way they used to be seduced by Playboy.
But when it comes to guns in the reall world, here's a simple fact, and there is no getting around this. It is far easier to kill someone with a gun than a knife or a baseball bat, or just about any kind of weapon you can think of. Without the precise, long-distance capabilities that a gun affords, the killer who took my friends would never have been able to take down two people, one of them more than 6 feet tall. Nor could the Newtown killer have annihilated an entire classroom. Not even a class of five-year-olds.
It is simpler to buy a gun in America than it is to get a driver's license at a time when we should make it as hard as possible to purchase one. That way, if someone is mentally disturbed, we will put up a nice fat roadblock that could derail a massacre.
One of my friends who was murdered is buried just 100 feet from where my parents are laid to rest. And, one thing I do know. If his killer had no gun to bring into that warehouse that March night I would have one less grave to visit every time I visit my Connecticut hometown.