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Friday, April 3, 2009

April is the Cruelest Month

So wrote T.S. Eliot in "The Waste Land." And it seems to be true. Today, in Binghamton, NY, a gunman killed 14 people at an immigration center, some of whom were taking their citizenship test when they were shot. Two years ago in April, 33 people were killed on the campus of Virginia Tech. And nearly 10 years ago, in late April of 1999, 12 students and a teacher were killed at Columbine High School near Littleton, Colorado.

But it's not just April. In February last year, five customers and employees were killed in a robbery at a Tinley Park, Illinois Lane Bryant store. In December of 2007 a gunman killed eight people in a Von Maur store in Omaha. And the list can go on and on and on.

The reporter on the news today said that this type of tragedy is an American signature tragedy. Gun violence doesn't need to be dramatic multiple killings either. In Chicago this school year, 20 Chicago public school students have been killed, 18 the result of gun violence, most of them one at a time over the course of seven months.

I don't even pretend to have the answers, but I do have a lot of questions. Why do the simplest arguments need to be resolved with a gun? Why are so many innocent bystanders killed? When did human life become so disposable? Why is it so easy to obtain a handgun legally? Why do proponents of handguns object to delays for background and criminal checks on gun purchasers? And what can be done to stop this killing?

I don't have answers to these questions or any others, but I do know something needs to be done about this. Something needs to be done to stop the killing, to make lives count, to make the lives lost not be for nothing, but perhaps a catalyst for change, for a better way. Life, in April or any other month, doesn't need to be cruel. There has to be a better way.