Gun Violence

“Registered or unregistered, borrowed or stolen, automatic or semi-automatic, handgun or rifle — none of it matters as much as the state of mind of the handler. And since one’s psychological condition, as well as the myriad factors that can influence it, can drastically change at any time, the standing of a ‘responsible gun-owner’ is subject to the same rules as Russian roulette.” – John Morlino, Unrelenting gun violence doesn’t take a holiday (South Florida Sun-Sentinel, December 13, 2009)

Memorial stones for victims of VA Tech massacre include one for the gunman

In October 2002, I was among tens of thousands in the Washington, DC, area terrorized by the “Beltway Snipers.” Six of the victims were killed close to my home, including one person who was gunned down along my daily walking route. Since then, I have taken a strong interest in preventing gun violence and have spoken about the topic at numerous venues, including:

* Gandhian Conference on Nonviolence
* Washington, DC, Ethical Society
* Young Jains of America national conference
* North Carolina Society for Ethical Culture
* North American Vegetarian Society annual convention

Available presentations include:

Guns, Denial & Insanity: No one of sound mind engages in extreme violence. It is an act born of desperation. Accordingly, if we wish to substantially improve our collective safety, we must dramatically reduce the chance of anyone reaching such a level of despair. This session argues against the purported virtues of gun ownership and offers a blueprint for creating a safer society.
Peace through Unconditional Compassion: We all want peace in the world, peace in our neighborhoods and peace in our hearts. To achieve these goals, we must expand our capacity to extend compassion and forgiveness unconditionally — even toward those who harm others. Drawing from real-life examples of people demonstrating compassion and forgiveness in the face of unspeakable tragedy, this session explores the practice of embracing the fullest principles of Ahimsa as a means of attaining genuine inner peace.

Schedule a presentation by clicking on the “send E-mail” link (above right). Please include your name and phone number in your message.


The Only Sane Conclusion From Orlando (OtherWords, June 22, 2016) 


(Photo: Lucas Wirl / Flickr)

Those directly impacted by the trauma and memory of the murders need every ounce of support we can muster to help them cope with their profound loss and grief. As for the rest of us, we — and, by extension, our society — will be far better off if we make a conscious effort to forever remember everything we saw in our mind’s eye that day. (Read More)


Another Day, Another Massacre (OtherWords, October 14, 2015) 

Yes, it’s happened again. A man with a legally acquired arsenal walked onto a college campus. Moments later, 10 people were dead, and nearly as many wounded.

Sick to your stomach? Of course you are. Surprised? Didn’t think so. (Read More)


Who in Their Right Mind? (OtherWords, September 9, 2015) 

The James Holmes verdict highlights a fatal flaw in the way our legal system treats people with mental illness.

My immediate reaction to James Holmes’s 2012 shooting rampage at an Aurora, Colorado movie theater was twofold: horror and incomprehension. Who in their right mind could do such a thing?

Who in their “right mind,” indeed. (Read More)


An American Horror Story (, July 23, 2014)

She’d turned away her uncle earlier that day. Now he was back, and wouldn’t take “no” for an answer. Fifteen-year-old Cassidy again tried to dissuade him from entering the suburban Houston residence, but her efforts were in vain.

Once inside, Ronald Lee Haskell tied up his niece and her four siblings (Bryan, 13, Emily, 9, Rebecca, 7, and Zach, 4), then waited for their parents to come home. When Katie and Stephen Stay walked in, they, too, were bound at gunpoint. (Read More)

(Photo: Kevin Dean)


Guns, Denial and Insanity (, June 21, 2014)

Unless you’ve been hiding in a cave for the past few weeks – an increasingly attractive alternative for anyone concerned about this topic – you’re acutely aware that mass shootings in the United States seem to be occurring at roughly the same rate as bullets fired from an assault rifle.

One would expect these senseless murders (is there any other kind?) to leave a populace severely shaken. Yet, judging from the rote delivery of and our numbed response to such news, senseless also describes our collective response to gun violence. (Read More)


The Speech President Obama Should Have Given About Guns (, January 17, 2013)

On December 8, 2012, Joseph Loughrey accidentally shot and killed his 7-year-old son, Craig, in the parking lot of a Pennsylvania gun store. On December 11, bullets fired by Jacob Roberts took the lives of Cindy Yuille and Steven Forsyth in an Oregon mall. Many were likely spared when his weapon jammed. Three days later, at Sandy Hook Elementary School, in Newtown, CT, it was Adam Lanza’s turn. His gun worked perfectly.

Three moments in time during one, agonizing week in America. Thirty-two people dead. Twenty-one of them children. And one, inescapable conclusion.

None of us should own a gun.

Period. (Read more)

The Killer in Me Is the Killer in You (, January 16, 2011)

As much as we’d like to believe otherwise, Jared Loughner’s shooting of US District Judge John Roll, Arizona Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and 18 of Giffords’ constituents on January 8, 2011, was not an aberration. Instead, it was merely the latest and most highly publicized of three recent gun-related incidents that have, however fleetingly, captured public attention. . . . (Read more)


The Year of the Gun (A version of this article was published as “Unrelenting gun violence doesn’t take a holiday” in the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, December 13, 2009.)

When Paul Michael Merhige allegedly shot six members of his own family after their Thanksgiving dinner, it marked America’s second consecutive holiday season marred by mass murder. The tragedy in Jupiter, which left four dead, including Merhige’s 6-year-old cousin, was one of five multiple-victim shootings over the long weekend, capping a horrific year of gun violence… (Read more)


What Will It Take to Disarm Santa? (The Peaceworker, March 2009)

At eight years old, she may have been skeptical about the existence of a famous traveler from the North Pole. Still, she raced to the front door after hearing a knock and, lo and behold, there he was. But, in the fraction of a second it took her to smile, her uncle, Bruce Pardo, dressed as Santa Claus, pointed a gun at her face and fired – the opening salvo of a hideous rampage that left 10 people dead in Covina, California…. (Read more)


In Omaha Mall, It Could Have Been One of Us (Orlando Sentinel, December 20, 2007)

When I first heard of the horrific tragedy that took place at a Nebraska mall last week, I thought to myself: It could have been me. What I meant, of course, was that I, too, could have been killed or wounded, had I been in the wrong place at the wrong time. A short while later, I had an equally unsettling thought: Had life given me a different hand to play, I could have been the gunman…. (Read more)


Compassion for the Virginia Tech Gunman: Take in pain, vulnerability of others to initiate healing (San Francisco Chronicle, April 29, 2007)

Shortly after the carnage at Virginia Tech, 32 makeshift headstones appeared on campus commemorating the murder victims. Four days after the shootings, a 33rd headstone was added, memorializing Seung-Hui Cho, the gunman. An accompanying note read: “I am sorry that you did not get the help you needed.”… (Read more)


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Schedule a presentation by clicking on the “send E-mail” link (above right). Please include your name and phone number in your message.