PITTSFIELD -- Sue Carlton of the Tampa Bay Times coined shootings our "new normal" in her Jan. 16 column in The Eagle and I see no reason to disagree with her. How could you? Her column was prompted by a 73-year-old retired cop who shot and killed a man and wounded his wife (who was shot through the hand while she held it over her husband's chest) over texting before a movie.

Carlton doesn't even address the fact that a day earlier a 12-year-old boy walked into his New Mexico middle school and shot two classmates with a sawed-off shotgun or the day after the theater shooting a young man walked into a grocery store, killing two random people with a pistol.

And on Wednesday, it became personal. A young man walked into my niece and nephew's school in Watertown, N.Y. with a rifle. He carried it around all day in a case until he calmly started to take it out after lunch. Luckily, a teacher saw the whole thing unfold and stopped him before anything happened. The investigation has so far revealed the 15-year-old student had put a "detailed plan into action several months ago."

How does all this end? What's the response?

The Florida case is already playing out along predictable lines. It was self-defense. The shooter was hit in the face with, gasp, popcorn. The paper box might have even scraped the ex-cop's face. Of course he shot him, right? It's his right after all, thanks to stand-your-ground laws in the Sunshine State.


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And please, don't even start on "the only thing that stops a gunman is another gunman." Do you really think if you were "packing" in Price Chopper you'd have the time to comprehend the situation before you or yours became the victim? Consider the scene. Shopping with kids. Telling your kids to please put that down. No running. No, you can't have chocolate-covered Oreo breakfast cereal. You're looking at your shopping list (or iPhone updating Facebook. "Shopping with kids is like organizing cats in the bathtub lol") trying to remember where the brown sugar is when a man walks around the corner with gun drawn and shoots you in the chest. You wouldn't have time to register what was happening, never mind pull a gun or even jump in front of your kids. But hey, you were at least able to carry your 9-millimeter, right?

If you consider yourself a "gun rights" advocate, is this what you want? Is this what the founding fathers meant?

Responsible gun owners, and there are millions of them, need to recognize the old saw "a few bad apples will ruin the whole bunch." You're having your right's future written for you by a few.

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If you own guns, you should be the first person to stand up and say enough is enough because this reflects on you. We compare Obama to Hitler, cry about the moral decay of America and hoot and holler about our rights being taken away, yet 20 first-graders are gunned down in cold blood and what do we get? "Guns don't kill people, people kill people" and mental midgets like Wayne LaPierre writing our gun laws.

What happened to forming a more perfect union? Establishing justice to insure domestic tranquility? How about the freedom to drop your kids at school without worrying about whether or not they'll be shot? Going to the store without checking if the safety is off?

What do we as humans, parents, kids and Americans do about it? Buy more guns, make bullet-proof backpacks and couch cushions? This is like asking passengers on a 767 to keep their head down as the plane plummets 40,000 feet. It gives us a sense of power, I guess, but that's about it.

I don't propose to have all the answers but to at least start the conversation. My first idea would be to institute a 48-hour waiting period after purchasing a gun. Why? Consider it a cooling-off period. Temporary insanity is just that. Temporary. We've all lost our ever-loving minds before. Most of us calm down and go on with our lives or walk home with a bloodied nose. It shouldn't end at Wal-mart with a credit card, rifle and a box of ammo.

The conversation needs to evolve beyond the talking points this debate consistently devolves into. Mandating five-round magazines or arming kindergarten teachers isn't going to do it. We're better than this. Before this truly becomes the new normal, we need to channel our inner-Stuart Smalley. We're good enough and smart enough to get beyond this, doggone it. We better be, because it's starting to look like our lives depend on it.

Chris Hayden is a Berkshire Eagle staffer.