I wrote this column in 2015 and this is now the second time I’ve reprinted it without changing a word:

On Dec. 14, 2012, there were two terrifying attacks at elementary schools with two very different outcomes.

In central China, a deranged man went on a rampage outside a school, stabbing 22 children. All of them lived.

Seven thousand miles away on that same day, a gunman let loose inside a Connecticut elementary school, fatally shooting 20 children and six adults. Because of the bloody body count, one of these stories received international attention while the other attack was relegated to a short

Associated Press story in The New York Times.

These facts are relevant when we discuss the tragedy du jour: a racist rampage by a madman in a South Carolina church that left nine people dead.

Much time has already been spent about the motivations of the gunman, whether South Carolina fosters a culture of racist violence, and even whether the state should continue to fly the Confederate Flag.

Similarly, a brief and fruitless discussion about mental illness was held in the wake of the Connecticut shootings and an attack in a Colorado movie theater that left a dozen people dead in July of 2012.

The one thing clearly linking the massacres in South Carolina to Connecticut to Colorado are guns. It’s far too easy to obtain a firearm in many states and then it’s even easier to illegally bring those guns into states with stricter gun laws like New York.

Gun control is typically the third rail of national politics with most elected officials fearful of the political arm of the NRA and other gun-rights groups. But there are certain issues that should transcend job security; the lives of dozens of schoolchildren and those parishioners in South Carolina should be clearly at the top of the list. If you want become famous for something, I can’t think of a worthier cause.

For thousands of years, bigoted and insane people have lurked through our history. But if they’re holding a knife instead of a gun, we all stand a fighting chance.


Bob Hardt