A man walks into an immigration office in upstate New York, holds the occupants hostage and opens fire, killing 13 people before turning the gun on himself as the police close in.
A man in Pittsburgh kills three police officers.
A third man, in Washington state, kills his five children in their trailer park home before driving over to a nearby casino and turning a gun on himself in his vehicle.
All of this in a space of two days.
Is this an indication that we need to clamp down on guns in the United States?
Of course, in this country, with its gun culture, it's difficult to cap the bottle after the weapons genie has already been out for so many years. Lots of people own guns. Most of them law abidingly.
But with tensions such as they are in this society, some gun owners who are mentally unstable present a clear and present danger to themselves and those around them.
It's sadly ironic that the Binghamton, NY case took place just weeks after a noted psychiatrist lashed out at the news media on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com for reporting, inaccurately he argued, about the psychological effects of the economic downturn. He suggested that there was no upturn in the number of depressive, suicidal people because of the economy. Maybe not, but the New York state gunman, Jiverly Wong, a Vietnamese immigrant, was upset about having recently lost his job (he was also apparently angry that people made fun of his accent). Wong had three guns on him, lots of ammunition and was wearing body armor.
In the Pittsburgh case, Richard Poplawski, who had recently lost his job and was wearing a bullet proof vest shot it out with police. In addition to his personal economic woes, police say he also feared President Obama would take away his guns. (Are there those who will now argue that this is a reason to not consider stricter gun control laws?)
Whenever there are mass shootings of innocent people by deranged gunmen in the United States, some gun advocates suggest the answer is more, not fewer guns. If only one of the victims had been armed, perhaps the shooter could have been stopped, they say. If someone bent on a rampage feared he might be shot by one of his intended victims he might be deterred from carrying out his plans.
Of course, a person who plans on taking his own life after killing others might not worry too much about getting shot in the process.
That aside, it is probably true that had someone in the immigration office been armed, Wong might have been stopped before killing 13 people. But what of the other two incidents?
In Pittsburgh, the victims were police officers. And they were not just armed, but trained as well.
And in Washington state, it's unlikely that any of five children would be carrying guns on them in their trailer home in the event that their father, James Harrison, might turn a rifle on them. So the argument, in those two cases, doesn't hold.
Clearly there are good reasons why most gun owners arm themselves. A friend who grew up on a farm says his father always has a loaded shotgun propped up next to the stove in the kitchen to take care of "varmints" that might be lurking outside, bent on attacking his livestock or eating his crops.
There are those who also live in remote areas who keep themselves armed for protection because of a typical long response time for police. On the other side of this scale, there are those who keep a gun by their sides in high crime urban neighborhoods for protection.
Then there are those who only crack open their weapons for sports shooting or hunting. All of these are legitimate reasons to own guns.
Finally, invariably those who wish to further control guns in the United States push for what they call an "assault weapons" ban (though there are fears that guns and ammo may be taxed at a higher rate soon as well). With the exception of the Pittsburgh shootings, in which the man was reportedly armed with an AK-47, the gunmen were not using assault weapons. So such an additional restriction would not have prevented the other two tragedies.
Perhaps the real lesson to be learned is that it is expecting too much to put the burden on government to prevent these kinds of tragedies. Sometimes, distraught people do bad things to others. And sometimes, no laws and no amount of law enforcement can keep it from happening.
We talk about issues like this and more weekdays at 5 PM New York time on News Talk Online on Paltalk.com