In the midst of the horrific mass murder in Newtown, Connecticut last week we are inclined to find any solution that might work to stop the repeated mass murders we have seen in American society in recent years. The massacre in Aurora, Colorado at a theater was not that long ago, and in both cases the perpetrators used a mixture of firearms, particularly military style semiautomatic rifles. The easy option is to try to remove those kinds of rifles from society, but the removal of those guns from society won’t stop the problem. Criminals are too smart, they will find a way to cause massive amounts of mayhem and death if they want to, and no amount of laws will stop them.

I worked with Nebraska’s worst criminals for three and a half years at its most secure prison as a religious coordinator. I got to know many of those men. Most criminals are not stupid. Most criminals I have known were extremely intelligent and very creative. If one of them wanted to kill a lot of people they could and would and a ban on semiautomatic rifles would not stop them. Any one of them could devise a bomb or incendiary device that could cause dozens of deaths. We need to remember that the brats that massacred people at Columbine High School used pipe bombs as part of their arsenal.

The problem is not the guns. It’s the people. No matter how much you try to make society safe by eliminating weapons you can’t make it safe. You have to deal with the root causes of people being bad, people wanting to do evil things, and getting bad people in prison or in places where they can’t do harm. We also need to do everything we can to discourage violence in our society and encourage people doing good things. Until you deal with the heart issues of people, no matter how much you try, criminals will find a way to hurt people.

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