Thursday’s targeted attack on a Maryland newspaper by a gunman was the latest chapter in an increasingly chilling narrative in our nation.
No place, it seems, is safe from those who want to inflict harm on others.
Not schools, not churches, not movie theaters, nightclubs or outdoor concert venues.
And as we are sadly aware here in the Killeen area, not popular buffet restaurants or even seemingly secure Army bases.
Last week, we added newspaper offices to the list of once-safe locations that now can be found on the list of grisly mass shootings.
The attack on the Capital Gazette in Annapolis was intentional and premeditated — with the gunman blasting through the newsroom’s glass door with a shotgun, lobbing two tear gas canisters into the room and taking aim at several journalists, killing five before surrendering to police.
Once again, a community is in shock and mourning the senseless loss of life.
Unlike other recent mass shootings, the motive in the Capital Gazette shootings appears to be clear. The 38-year-old suspect had a running grievance with the newspaper over the past seven years.
He had sued the paper for defamation over a 2011 column that cited his guilty plea in a criminal harassment case. The court subsequently sided with the newspaper, as did the state’s appeals court in a 2015.
Moreover, the suspect was known for his scathing tweets about the newspaper and some of its staffers over the past several years, frequently taking specific reporters and editors to task.
A retired publisher acknowledged he worried the suspect would carry out an armed attack on the newspaper — the very scenario that developed last week.
Could something have been done to stop the attack? No doubt, some will say law enforcement should have stepped in prior to the shooting.
Without knowing all the facts, it’s hard to say whether specific threats were ignored or glossed over. However, angry tweets and disparaging social media posts alone are not grounds for an arrest.
The same First Amendment to the Constitution that grants the newspaper the right to publish news and commentary for the Annapolis community also protected the suspected gunman’s right to harshly criticize the paper — right up until the horrific attack on Thursday afternoon.
Still, though the attack may have been the result of a specific grievance against a single newspaper, it was also was an assault on our constitutionally protected tradition of a free American press — and one that must recognized as such.
Thursday’s horrific shooting appears to be yet another example of a frustrated, angry individual determined to have the last word — a statement made through a shocking act of violence.
The act of gunning down four journalists — and a sales employee — in their own office was an emphatic, violent declaration that the gunman would have the final say.
Ultimately, the courts will have the final say, as the suspect was charged with five counts of murder.
Angry and frustrated teens and adults have spoken through violent acts at schools in Columbine, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; Parkland, Florida; and Santa Fe, here in Texas.
They have taken the lives of students and staff at Virginia Tech University; massacred movie-goers in Aurora, Colorado; killed innocent church-goers in Charleston, South Carolina, and in Sutherland Springs, and slaughtered nightclub revelers in Miami.
Our community, too, has felt the pain of such horrific acts. Thirty-six people lost their lives in two separate incidents — a 1991 shooting at Killeen’s Luby’s Cafeteria and a 2009 shooting at Fort Hood.
Both attacks were committed by angry, frustrated men — one in a rage over his perceived treatment by women in Bell County, the other upset at the prospect of deploying to Afghanistan to fight fellow Muslims.
In both cases, innocent lives were cut short or permanently altered.
And in both cases, our community still bears those scars.
In the aftermath of Thursday’s tragedy in Maryland, it’s likely we’ll see a renewed call for tighter firearms restrictions and more thorough background checks.
While those discussions are no doubt worthwhile and necessary on some level, we must face the harsh reality that a motivated individual will go to great lengths to obtain a weapon — even if that means buying it illegally.
Also, an individual who has no criminal record or history of mental illness would not be singled out by a traditional backgound check. Further, the weapon used in Thursday’s attack was a shotgun — a firearm that is perfectly legal to own.
A more immediate solution — albeit one that would be difficult to achieve — would be to develop a better system for recognizing and reporting troubling behavior displayed by individuals who may contemplate acts of violence.
Obviously, this is a gray area in regards to civil rights, as it is not lawful to conduct surveillance on individuals who are not suspected of criminal activity.
However, better monitoring of social media must be a part of any prevention strategy.
Further, law enforcement must be prepared to act on specific threats in a timely manner, if sufficient evidence exists.
Amazingly — but not surprisingly to those in the journalism profession — the staff of the Capital Gazette went back to work soon after the shooting, reporting on the attack and producing a Friday edition that honored their slain colleagues.
In the aftermath of this latest mass shooting, it’s reasonable to have a heightened concern about the safety and security of public venues.
However, it’s both unreasonable and unwise to avoid these venues — restaurants, movie theaters, nightclubs or even workplaces — over fear of a potential attack.
Putting our lives on hold is simply not the answer.
Just as last week’s explosion at Coryell Memorial Hospital brought out the best in first responders, caregivers and local residents, we must focus on our best qualities in moving beyond the Annapolis shooting.
That’s not to say the Maryland shooting should be glossed over or forgotten. In fact, it should serve as the impetus for serious discussions about strategies to address the alarming rise in such attacks nationwide.
In the meantime, as local residents discovered in the aftermath of the shootings at Luby’s and Fort Hood, we must continue to do what we can for others and try to find solutions as a community.
That’s the only way to move on after a tragedy.
And as the Capital Gazette staff has seen through their tears, tomorrow is another day — and another edition.