Three people were shot to death Saturday in Athens, and three others were wounded. A UGA professor was being sought as the killer. I was mildly surprised to hear the news before I switched the TV to "Cops" to watch the San Diego police collar hapless derelicts.
The Athens shooting made big headlines locally, but it wasn't much of a national story. The national newscasts barely mentioned the incident, almost as if it were another routine incident - a big auto wreck or a boating accident. Ten years after Columbine, school-area shootings are getting to be old stuff.
I was slightly taken aback at the Athens happening only because a real life-and-death shoot-'em-up had finally come to the University of Georgia. I had thought for some time that the environment at UGA was ripe for such violence. The city and university have all the right ingredients for an urban blow-up - a huge enrollment of young men and women, plenty of firearms for sale, a wild and wooly nightlife, lots of liquor flowing and an administration that has shown little, if any, interest in bringing a modicum of moderation to the city and campus.
So, why did the senseless shooting take so long to explode in Athens? I'm not sure. The shooting occurred in broad daylight in the vicinity of a little theater - not your typical multiple-murder venue.
A professor goes nuts and starts killing. The same thing could have happened at the post office or in a downtown café. It was just one of those things, right?
Deadly shootings are occurring with greater frequency - not just on college campuses, but everywhere. On a recent weekend, so many police officers were mowed down across the country that the newscast sounded worse than a warfront casualty report.
The Athens incident will undoubtedly prompt official demands for better screening and more security. Some brave soul might even suggest that the police pay more attention to underage drinking. And, oh yes, the faculty recruiters ought to look more carefully into the background of nutty professors.
However, you may not hear one obvious remedy: Make Athens and the UGA campus into zero-tolerance gun-free zones, with exceptions in place for a few peace officers and carefully chosen administrators.
Despite what you may have heard, guns do kill people - in our country and in our South more than any place else on the globe. Just about everybody, especially in the South, has a gun of some sort. A lot of us have loaded AK47s stashed away just for the heck of it.
Next year, a loophole-filled law banning the sale of semi-automatic assault rifles will expire. It will be instructive to see which of our brave and informed lawmakers will step up to renew the ban and make it even stronger.
The firearms industry reports record sales of guns across the country, a trend that started just as Barack Obama was elected president. I don't exactly know how the sales boom and the election relate, except that some folks are suddenly fearful that Obama will take away their killer toys - just like the feds grabbed up all the poisoned peanut butter they could find.
Don't worry, folks, Obama doesn't have time to fret about the size of the civilian arsenal. He has too many other items on his plate.
Next year, Georgia will elect a new governor, a fresh slate of constitutional officers and a new batch of legislators and congresspersons. How many of these candidates will be bold enough to advocate curtailing the sale of firearms and ammunition? My guess: Not more than two - maybe three. Surely, our three physician-legislators, who ought to understand better than anyone how much damage a gun can cause, will lead the way to toughen up the laws on firearms.
The gun industry has done a masterful job of making gun-control into the third rail of Georgia politics. Show me a politician who is against guns, and I'll show you a candidate who does not want to be elected.
Remember this: Guns are us. In the South, you're not a man if you don't own a gun or two or three. So don't expect any corrective action to come from the Athens tragedy - just more hot air about Second Amendment rights and more crazy excuses, such as, "The Athens shooting would not have happened if more people had been packing."
You can reach Bill Shipp at P.O. Box 2520, Kennesaw, GA 30156, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.