Fort Worth's Tragedy

America once again finds itself soul-searching after the murder of seven people at a Baptist church in Fort Worth, Texas.

In Washington, the cry quickly went up for more gun control, specifically provisions passed by the Senate. While we'd like to see those provisions become law, we also know anything short of a full ban on guns would not have prevented this tragedy. Larry Ashbrook purchased his guns legally. No background check would have prevented the sale. While he was reported to have symptoms of paranoia, he was not diagnosed as mentally ill.

Ashbrook fit the profile of angry, isolated men who commit such crimes. But, as Northeastern University criminal justice professor James Alan Fox observes, few such individuals actually proceed to mass murder. While a gun was the means, experience shows that if one is not available, such individuals use other weapons.

Such crimes began occurring regularly in the mid-1960s, and since the mid-'70s have averaged two per month. Guns have been around a lot longer than that.

Some experts point to the collapse of a sense of community. People move often, rarely knowing their neighbors. In another era, neighbors might have reached out to help an unemployed man with no family. No law can mandate neighborliness. It's something people must take upon themselves.

(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society

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