Let's keep guns out of criminal hands
Jeffrey Lee Michael's obsession with the Mayan apocalyptic prophecy kept him from competently functioning. But it didn't keep him from having all the firepower he needed last Friday, the date of the Mayan's predicted doomsday, to bring the apocalypse to the tiny central Pennsylvania village where he lived.
He killed two men he knew and a woman who was in the process of decorating a church hall for a children's Christmas party. Then, he wounded three state troopers responding to the shootings, before he was killed in an ensuing gun battle with troopers.
Then, on Christmas Eve in a suburb of Rochester, N.Y., volunteer firefighters responding to an early-morning house fire were greeted by gunfire that killed two of them and critically wounded two others.
Last week, National Rifle Association chief lobbyist Wayne LaPierre declared that "the only thing than can stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." Well, the volunteer firefighters who responded to the fire on the frigid Lake Ontario shoreline demonstrably were good guys. That, apparently, is what they get for attempting to fight a fire while unarmed.
And what was that woman near Hollidaysburg thinking when she decorated her church hall for a kids' Christmas party without an armed escort?
The shootings, and others that have occurred since the Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., are a reminder that state legislatures need not wait for Congress to establish more rational rules for access to deadly weapons.
There is scant hope for that in Pennsylvania, where lawmakers regularly have defied pleas from the law enforcement community for laws that can help keep guns out of criminals' hands without adversely affecting legitimate owners.
There is no single law, no silver bullet, that will stop the carnage. But changes are needed at the state and federal levels to establish momentum for a change in the anything-goes gun culture. State lawmakers should stop pandering to the gun lobby and start protecting Pennsylvanians from people who shouldn't have guns.