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Letter from the Editor

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"Hey, the dogs are growling," my wife said.

It was the middle of the night, and the dogs were in their kennel, but they were definitely growling. My wife said, "I think I might have heard somebody walking around."

I grabbed my shotgun from under the bed and very loudly pumped a shell into the chamber. We stood in the dark bedroom listening for a few minutes. There were no sounds. The dogs had stopped growling. We starting walking from room to room, turning on lights. False alarm.

Am I glad I had a gun handy? Yep. Am I worried that too many nuts possess guns in this country? Yep. Do I have any answers to the increasing number of mass killings by crazy people with guns? Nope.

In the past week, a man lured three Pittsburgh cops to his house and killed them. A Chinese immigrant entered a building in Binghamton, New York, and killed 13 people. A man killed his five children, then himself, in Washington state.

There's no real pattern to these shootings, except that each murderer was mentally unbalanced and saw killing as a solution to his problems. The victims have little in common, except they're all dead. The cops in Pittsburgh were armed. The other victims were not.

Gun rights activists argue that if someone in that building in Binghamton had been armed, they might have been able to protect themselves. That's possibly true, which is why I have a gun in my house. But is that what we've come to — arming everyone to stop the occasional whackjob?

Tennessee lawmakers are leaning toward this strategy. They're intent on passing laws allowing legal concealed-carry permit holders to take their weapons into more public places, including, this week, a measure to allow guns in restaurants serving alcohol. This scares most bar owners, who know that mixing alcohol and guns is a lethal cocktail.

We ran a cover story a couple weeks ago about the process of obtaining a concealed-carry permit. Most people quoted in the story were getting a gun for protection. But one man said he was getting a permit because he'd heard President Obama was going to "take away our guns." It's insane, but that fear is being perpetuated in the right-wing media and by some politicians. Fear means ratings — and votes for those who propagate it for political gain.

Which leads to my greatest fear: that more guns, more insanity, and more death are in our future.

Bruce VanWyngarden

brucev@memphisflyer.com

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