Addressing mass shootings: Every idea on the table
For some children of the ’60s, the decade’s most traumatic crimes weren’t the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy or the martyrdom of Martin Luther King — or even the appalling 1963 Klan church bombing that killed four black girls in Birmingham. It wasn’t even the rape, torture and strangulation of eight student nurses by a psycho named Richard Speck in Chicago in mid-July of 1966.
The most terrifying violence came two weeks later when a former U.S. Marine named Charles Whitman killed his wife and mother before taking an arsenal to the University of Texas tower and shooting everyone he saw. By the time an Austin cop took him out, Whitman had killed 16 people and wounded 31.
As a kid growing up the Bay Area, I viewed Stanford’s Hoover Tower and the Campanile at UC Berkeley differently after that. One day, while walking by Saints Peter and Paul Church in North Beach, my dad said that Joe DiMaggio had gotten married there. My kid brother asked if a madman had ever used the cathedral as a perch to shoot people below in Washington Square. Parents assured their children with the only logic they could muster: Such crimes are rare, they said. This was true then. It’s not true anymore — and hasn’t been for a while.
As a cub police reporter in San Diego in 1979, I was on the scene for the first mass shooting at an American elementary school. The anomaly wasn’t only the choice of target, Cleveland Elementary School, but also that the shooter was a girl, 16-year-old Brenda Spencer.
The first mass shooting in a church took place the following year when a 46-year-old atheist walked into the First Baptist Church in Daingerfield, Texas, yelling “This is war!” It wasn’t war, but it seemed like hell to the […]