The Enid News and Eagle, Enid, OK

December 29, 2012

2012: The year of the lone gunman

By Jeff Mullin, columnist
Enid News and Eagle

ENID, Okla. — Among the milestones the new year will bring will be the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy.

On Nov. 22, 1963, the president was cut down by a lone gunman, unless you subscribe to the myriad conspiracy theories surrounding the murder.

That is somewhat ironic, given the fact 2012 will go down as the year of the lone gunman.

One year ago today, as we prepared to ring out 2011 and welcome 2012, no one had ever heard of James Eagan Holmes, Wade Michael Page, Jacob Tyler Roberts, Adam Lanza or William Spengler.

Today, unfortunately, these men are famous.

In July, Holmes walked into a midnight showing of “The Dark Knight Rises” in a theater in Aurora, Colo., carrying a shotgun, a semiautomatic rifle with a 100-round drum magazine and two handguns.

When he was finished, 12 people were dead and 59 were injured.

Less than a month later, Page killed six people at a Sikh temple in a suburb of Milwaukee.

In early December, Jacob Tyler Roberts killed two people in a crowded shopping mall in Clackamas, Ore.

On Christmas Eve, Spengler set fire to his own house in Webster, N.Y., then lay in wait until volunteer firefighters arrived. He then shot four of them, killing two and severely wounding two more.

That brings us to Lanza, who just 11 days before Christmas walked into the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newton, Conn., and killed 20 first-grade students and six teachers and administrators.

Of these, only Holmes will stand trial; the rest killed themselves. And there is some question about whether Holmes is mentally competent to ever go before a court.

And these men weren’t alone. On Oct. 21, Radcliffe Haughton opened fire inside a day spa in a suburb of Milwaukee, killing three women and wounding four more before taking his own life. Sept. 27 saw Andrew Engeldinger take a semiautomatic pistol into a sign company in Minneapolis and kill five people before killing himself. He had been fired that morning.

On May 20, Ian Stawicki killed five people in a Seattle coffee shop, then killed himself after a citywide manhunt.

It was April 2 when One L. Goh opened fire at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college in Oakland.

He killed seven people and wounded three others. Goh later surrendered to police.

Chardron, Ohio, was the scene of a school shooting Feb. 27. Thomas Lane killed three students and injured three more. He was arrested a short time later.

On Feb. 21, four people were killed at a suburban Atlanta health spa. Jeong Soo Paek then killed himself.

It shouldn’t be about the gunmen. Them we should forget. It is the victims we should remember.

Jonathan Blunk, a Navy veteran, died in that Aurora theater, trying to shield his girlfriend. He was 26.

Steve Forsyth, 45, died in the Clackamas mall. He left behind a wife, son and stepdaughter. Maelyn Lind, 38, was killed in the Brookfield Spa. She was the mother of four.

Eric Rivers was shot at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis. It took him nearly two weeks to die. Paramjit Kaur, 41, died in the Sikh temple shooting. She was the mother of two.

Kimberly Layfield, 38, an aspiring actress, died in the Seattle cafe shooting.

Tshering Rinzing Bhutia, a 38-year-old immigrant from India, was a nursing student killed in the Oikos University shooting.

Demetrius “D” Hewlin, 16, was sitting in the Chardon High School cafeteria talking with friends when he was shot in the back of the head. He enjoyed volunteering with Habitat For Humanity.

Keum-hee Baek and Keum-sook Baek both died in the Georgia health spa shooting. They were killed by their brother.

Avielle Richman, 6, was a fan of Harry Potter and was inspired to take up archery after watching the Disney-Pixar film “Brave.” She died in her school room in Newton, Conn.

Michael J. Chiapperini, 43, was a local police lieutenant who owned a window-tinting business. It was his role as a volunteer firefighter in Webster, N.Y., that got him killed.

And there are more, so many more, gunned down in these various mad spates of violence for which our country is becoming so well-known.

Since 1982, reports independent news organization Mother Jones, there have been at least 62 mass murders carried out with firearms, the killings taking place in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii.

It needs to stop. We owe it to all the victims of all these brutal acts to open a dialogue about the violent nature of U.S. society.

This isn’t just about guns, or bloody films, video games and TV shows, our failed mental health system or a seeming general cheapening of the value of human life.

Americans love violence.

That’s why football is our most popular sport and why mixed martial arts, described by Arizona Sen. John McCain as “human cockfighting,” has grown like Topsy.

All sides in this debate need to stop pointing fingers and come together to find a solution. We owe it to the victims to try.

And if we choose to do nothing, we should look the surviving family members in the eye and explain why.

Mullin is senior writer of the News & Eagle. Email him at