Shortly after the latest school shooting, a murder-suicide, the University of South Carolina announced "the threat has passed." But has it? A rash of potential suicidal gun wielders may make us rethink our safety. And it's been on my mind since we've had two murder-suicides within four miles of my house.
Four miles from where I live in LaGrange, a man, Thomas Jesse Lee, is suspected of gunning down several members of his family, and a girl staying with his step-daughter (who he allegedly asphyxiated), which had our whole county on edge. Two of my students who had graduated were his neighbors. My daughter, who heard it at church, was trembling that night as we tried to tuck her in. Within seconds of learning that the suspect was captured on Monday night, our Cub Scout Den parents happily relayed the news to everyone. The threat had seemingly passed.
But it was the second such shooting in our neighborhood. Four miles in the other direction from our house, another potential murder suicide happened in January, where a man is suspected of killing his girlfriend during the argument and then turning the gun on himself.
As I began writing this column, another man is suspected of killing his ex-wife and several children before shooting himself, just an hour north of us in Douglasville, Georgia. At least five are dead, and we're told on local news that the number could climb, as seven were shot.
In each of these cases, we're told that threat passed, as the alleged shooter kills himself, or herself (an ex-wife is suspected of killing a University of South Carolina professor, and then is suspected of shooting herself). But has it?
The good news is that crime is going down, including violent crime, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Murders are down six percent from the first half of 2014, below the first six months of 2013, though the violent crime rate declined more in the Midwest and Northeast, than in the South and West.
According to the National Institute of Justice, "familicide" is often perpetrated by a white male. The NIJ cited research from the Violence Policy Center where "in 591 murder-suicides, 92 percent were committed with a gun. States with less restrictive gun control laws have as much as eight times the rate of murder-suicides as those with the most restrictive gun control laws. Compared to Canada, the United States has three times more familicide; compared to Britain, eight times more; and compare to Australia, 15 more."
It would be nice if we had a simple solution. The alleged LaGrange shooter, Thomas Jesse Lee, went to a church in Mississippi after killing his family. They were kind enough to buy him a ticket to Alabama, and drive him to the bus station, not suspecting his past or motives.
And why would someone, who fled all the way to Mississippi, be heading back to east Alabama? The threat for this particular case might be gone, but not in general.
John A. Tures is a professor of political science at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Ga. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.