Two recent incidences of church-related violence raise interesting questions in my mind about gun control and weapons use in general.
In the evening of Saturday, December 28, a man named Grafton E. Thomas first tried to enter a synagogue with a machete. When he found the doors locked, he entered the rabbi's nearby home, where a Hanukkah party was going on, and stabbed five people before being apprehended after fleeing the scene when he was identified by a synagogue member who wrote down Thomas's license plate number.
Danger still exists, because the attacker is still alive and still mentally ill, though he is in custody. If he ever gets loose, he is likely to kill again.
Sunday morning, December 29, in the town of White Settlement, Texas, near Fort Worth, a man unfamiliar to church members entered the church, stood up after the service began, pulled out a shotgun, and fired two shots, killing two people. He himself was shot dead within six seconds of first opening fire, by a member of the congregation security staff, one of seven, who was in the church and had a concealed-carry license. This guy is a retired FBI agent. Listening to the recording is astounding. You hear three shots that all sound like they come from the intruder's gun in quick succession. In truth, the first two shots were fired by the intruder, and the retired FBI agent fired the third shot.
Danger eliminated within six seconds.
That said, in the first case, you have five people stabbed, but they and the attacker all survived, at least so far. One person has a skull fracture and is in critical condition. In the second case, you have three people dead from gunshot wounds. So, are three victims better than five? Are all alive better than all dead? Is it better to resolve the situation within six seconds or within half an hour? By 'resolved,' I mean that the attacker has been apprehended and disarmed and is no longer a clear and present danger.
Now, I personally feel that all victims alive is better than all victims dead. But....
The guy who shot up West Freeway Church of Christ will never endanger another person. Grafton Thomas will be dangerous to everyone he encounters for the rest of his life, as long as he is armed and suffering from mental illness.
No criminal trial will be necessary for the attacker at West Freeway Church of Christ. Grafton E. Thomas' family appears to already be communicating to the public through a lawyer. I will bet that the lawyer, not the family, issued the following contemptible statement:
"We have instructed Mr. Thomas’s newly retained attorney, Michael H. Sussman, to seek immediate mental health evaluation of Grafton," the family said in its statement. "We believe the actions of which he is accused, if committed by him, tragically reflect profound mental illness for which, as noted above, Grafton has received episodic treatment before being released."
The family also extended sympathies to those injured, saying, We express our deepest concern and prayers for those injured physically and otherwise deeply affected by the events of Saturday night and our family’s earnest yearning for their well being. We thank those who rendered medical attention to each of those injured."
That has got to be the most fake, lame expression of regret that I have ever read. It reeks of lawyer influence because the statement takes such care to not admit any wrongdoing on Thomas' part--in addition to calling him 'Mr. Thomas'--which makes it clear that this was written by the lawyer, not the family, who I suspect are devastated.
Now--Why are six victims alive in New York and three dead in Texas? Because New York has gun control, and Texas does not. The only weapon Grafton Thomas could get was a machete. The West Freeway Church shooter was able to walk into any Texas gun store and, after a brief waiting period, purchase any gun he wanted that can legally be sold. Or maybe he got it from home; I don't know.
However, I don't want to make the mistake of arguing that these two cases perfectly illustrate the issue, because they don't. They are simply easy to contrast because they happened within 24 hours of each other.
Monsey Assailant Apprehended