Editorial cartoon, Aug. 8, 2019

William Patrick Williams’ grandmother is a hero. According to authorities, the Texas woman prevented a mass shooting when, on July 13, her grandson called from a hotel room to tell her he was homicidal and suicidal. The concerned grandmother persuaded the 19-year-old to let her take him to a nearby medical center in Lubbock, Texas, to seek help.

The wise woman also contacted the police, who obtained permission from Williams to search his hotel room. There, officers discovered an AK-47, 17 fully loaded magazines, several knives, black tactical gear and a black T-shirt bearing the words “Let ’Em Come.” Police say he intended to “shoot up” a local hotel and then commit suicide. God alone knows how many lives his grandmother saved by getting involved and notifying authorities.

There have been too many victims. This past weekend saw mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, that left 22 dead and 24 injured; in Dayton, Ohio, where nine were killed and 26 injured. And in Chicago, multiple shootings left seven dead and more than 50 wounded. In May, a disgruntled Virginia Beach employee fatally shot 12 co-workers and wounded four others. We don’t need to list the other places where there have been killing sprees — Americans are all too familiar with them.

Mass shootings have become epidemic. An epidemic is defined as the rapid spread of an infectious disease to a large number of people in a given population. The growing fascination with the wholesale murder of innocents by mostly young American men meets that definition.

With alarming frequency, too many of our youth are becoming infected with a pathogen of hatred. The contagion is being spread through social media and via chat rooms and message boards. Even Facebook and comment links on online news and opinion sites can be breeding grounds for venom and anger. We have all seen conversations between mature adults quickly dissolve into ugly rants. If grown adults aren’t immune to name-calling and threats, imagine the vulnerability of troubled young minds constantly exposed to radical websites promoting violence and murder.

What can be done? While we await the day legislators and politicians cease their finger-pointing and seriously address the myriad issues behind this national crisis, the rest of us can do our part to prevent the contagion from spreading. Counter hate with kindness. Refrain from venomous commentary. Reach out to the marginalized, the troubled and the anomic loner. And, please, if you see something or suspect someone of planning violence, say something.

Robin Beres

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