However, there's another factor that seems to be slipping through the cracks in these stories: the prevalence and ease of access to firearms. In the Tulsa shootings, the confessed shooters are a 19 year old and his 33 year old roommate. The 19 year old's life has been shaped significantly by gun violence. He was raised by a single dad and when he was 17, his dad was shot in front of him after starting a fight with a man who had been harassing his daughter (the 17 year old's sister). Then, in January, his fiancee committed suicide by shooting herself in front of him and leaving him with their 3 month old baby son. He had been carrying a gun of his own since his dad's killing and used it, with his roommate, to shoot 5 people.
When I was 21 years old, I was the assistant program director of a summer camp. That summer, I hired a 17 year old from Berkeley named Nate as one of my boys counselors. He was outstanding. He related well to the kids, was kind, playful, and creative, got along great with the staff, and was responsible. When he was 19, he got into a fight with a man at a party. A few days later the man saw Nate walking in Berkeley and called a friend for back-up. The two men started following Nate, arguing with him for twenty minutes as they walked. After twenty minutes, Nate pulled out a semi-automatic pistol he was carrying and shot both men, killing the friend. Today, the man is dead and Nate is 23 years old and serving time for murder in prison. I was completely shocked when I found out. I felt and still feel that Nate was a good person who made a terrible and tragic mistake. Nate should not have been carrying a gun. All of these incidents, as well as the Trayvon Martin shooting, could have been prevented if someone hadn't been carrying a handgun.
Handguns make killing another person way too easy. In one second of anger or fear, a fatal shot can be fired from a distance. Unlike beating or stabbing deaths which require close and prolonged contact with a victim, shootings can take place from far away in a split second and thus can take place before the shooter has had a chance to think logically. Unfortunately, people will always occasionally get angry with each other (Nate), some people will always want to have power when they are not qualified to have it (George Zimmerman), and there will always be a small percentage of the population who hates or does not understand another group because they are perceived as different (Tulsa shooters). The ease of use of handguns doesn't excuse the actions of the killers, but the damage that this anger and small group of people can do is amplified hugely by having easy access to handguns. The United States' embarassingly high homicide rate bears this out.
There are times when having a gun (that is normally kept safely locked) can be useful or necessary: hunting in the wild with a rifle or shotgun, protecting your livestock or crops from predators on a farm with a rifle, target shooting in a controlled gun range with a rifle. However, semi-automatic handguns are designed for killing people and should never be carried by private citizens in cities. Doing so only leads to tragic consequences.