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Yes, evil kills, but guns kill more

Updated: August 27, 2012 11:08AM

For most of us, I suppose, evil came to mind immediately when we learn of the mass murder at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

That’s the word both President Barack Obama and Mitt Romney used.

“Such violence, such evil, is senseless,” Obama said.

The killing was “a few moments of evil,” Romney said.

We blamed evil — we always blame evil — because we have exhausted all rational ways to explain mass murder in our country. Aurora joins Columbine, Alabama, Virginia Tech and a long list of other towns and places where one or two individuals have inflicted, in an instant, unimaginable violence on innocent Americans.

And we live in fear that sooner or later it will happen again.

The experts weigh in, but they don’t know. Nobody knows. But we sense that something fundamental going on, something we call evil.

“I hope this evil act, that this evil man doesn’t shake people’s faith in God,” said Anita Bush, a relative of 23-year-old Micayla Medek, who was among the 14 people who lost their lives inside the movie theater.

Recently, I spoke with the Mexican poet Javier Sicilia, whose 22-year-old son was kidnapped and murdered two years ago by drug dealers. Sicilia’s writings are a mix of Catholic imagery and pleas for social justice.

Sicilia talked about all the social ills, such as poverty, that fuel the drug trade and its extreme violence. But he also was unafraid to give evil its due.

“Extreme violence surpasses psychological, anthropological and sociological explanations,” he said. “We enter then the realm of evil.”

I am not a religious person, but I understand the need to explain many things in religious terms since science can’t answer all questions.

How can three young men pick out an older man at random and punch him in the face so hard that he dies? How can a gangbanger shoot into a crowd and kill a 7-year-old?

But as evil as the alleged Colorado killer, James Holmes, might be, had he walked into the theater with a knife instead of an assault rifle, the outcome would have been very different. How is a man allowed to purchase 6,000 rounds of ammunition without once being questioned by authorities?

You cannot buy a new car with cash without the FBI wanting to know about you, but you can buy thousands of rounds of ammo online without the ATF raising an eyebrow.

We struggle to understand how and why Jame Holmes went from a graduate student to mass murderer, but we know exactly how he could commit mass murder — how pretty much anybody could. Automatic weapons.

Perhaps there is evil and always will be. And perhaps we will always wrestle to understand what it is about America that makes mass murder so common.

But while we search for answers, we can do our best to make sure that evil can’t get hold of an AK-47.

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