The Knoxville Church Shooting: We've Been Here Before

Look up "sacrosanct" in the Oxford English Dictionary and you will find:

Of persons and things, esp. obligations, laws, etc.: Secured by a religious sanction from violation, infringement, or encroachment; inviolable, sacred.

As many of us were enjoying our Sunday afternoon this past weekend -- perhaps coming home from church, or grilling out in the back yard -- we heard reports that a gunman opened fire at a children's production of "Annie" inside a church in Knoxville, Tennessee.

"Sacrosanct" doesn't seem to mean what it used to. Many were saddened by the news, but few were surprised, because this is not a new event in America.

We've been here before.

In fact, CNN reported that this was the fourth shooting attack on a church in 15 months, the most recent being the Colorado church assault where a suicidal gunman was stopped by a former Minneapolis police officer who had been specifically tasked to be on the look-out for the shooter.

The accused gunman in Knoxville had a history of domestic violence and suicidal behavior, and had a protective order filed against him by his now ex-wife, back in March 2000.

One account reports that he once held a gun to his ex-wife's head after "drinking heavily." Apparently, he had also been charged with a DUI and refused to submit to a blood alcohol test.

If that isn't enough, reports further say that he was motivated by a "hatred" of the "liberal movement" and targeted a church that to him symbolized advocacy of civil rights for African-Americans and gays.

When I say that we make it too easy for dangerous people to get guns in America, the accused Knoxville church shooter is exactly the kind of person I have in mind.

It seems this man couldn't even get a job, yet he was able to walk out of an Anderson County, Tennessee pawnshop with the shotgun he would use a month later to kill two people, wound six others, and expect to be killed by police intervention.

On the other hand, it is important for us to take notice of the fact that the gunman could fire just three times because the shotgun he used was limited to three shells before he was forced to re-load.

Unarmed parishioners had the chance to tackle him while he paused. As bad as the Knoxville shooting was, it could have been much worse.

If we don't have the laws to help keep firearms from a man like this, then clearly we are not doing enough in this country to keep dangerous weapons from dangerous people. Some say the answer is more private guns in church. But that simply accepts four church shootings in a year-and-a-half as "normal" in America.

We need to find ways to keep dangerous people from gaining easy access to firearms. There is much more we can do to protect our children and families and help prevent shootings that, if history is any guide, we can expect to happen again.

(Note to readers: This entry, along with past entries, has been co-posted on and the Huffington Post.)