The Edge of the Wood

by John Messeder, Nemophilist & Ecological Storyteller

The worst mass shooting

I woke Sunday morning and, as is my wont, perused my email. I subscribe to several forums and news sources and it takes less time to get the important stuff than to turn on the TV and wade through the commercials.

Early reports said 20 people had been killed, 23 more wounded. The writer must have misread, because later the report was 50 killed, 53 wounded – “the worst mass shooting in U.S. history,” some have said. I doubt that, but I suspect it depends on the definition of “mass shooting.” The shooter was one of those who lay dead, which is too bad; it would have been helpful, maybe, to know for sure what prompted him. On the other hand, he apparently called 9-1-1 to proclaim his allegiance to ISIS.

The shame of Sunday morning’s “news” is that we live in a world where a portion of us thinks shooting folks is a legitimate way to make a point, and a corresponding portion thinks background checks and banning assault-style weapons will stop it happening. The rest of the next two days were full of major news organizations carrying messages in which politicians declared their “thoughts and prayers.”

But we feel better railing against guns and religious fanatics.

A friend pointed out Australia dropped its murder rate when it confiscated the guns. But Australia doesn’t claim to be the leader of the free world. You shoot up a disco Down Under and its barely a blip on the evening news radar. Not to belittle our Aussie friends but if you want attention, you gotta go big. Knock out the financial center of the western world. Blow a hole in the headquarters of the biggest military on the planet. Kill and maim a large number of partiers or marathon runners, and you will get some TV exposure.

It only happens here, some say to the news cameras. They would be correct, except for when it happened in Spain, and France, and Belgium, and England.

And the shooters and bombers are not all of Middle Eastern origin. They have included a middle school kid in Mississippi, a couple of boys from an affluent neighborhood in Colorado. a young man at a bible study in South Carolina, and college students in Virginia and Oregon.

Closer to my home, a man shot his wife because he wanted “a little respect.” Another guy shot his son for mouthing off, and then shot his wife for starting to call the police. Another thought his wife was messing around on him. None of them used an assault-style weapon.

Has anyone noticed that all the shooters were male, and at least nominally Christian?

So what is it that makes so many men think mass murder, often followed by suicide, is a valid way to make a statement? Guns – especially assault-style weapons such as the AR-15, are merely the tools, and religion too often the excuse.

When we feel the need to make a point in Afghanistan or Iraq, we make it with drones and Special Forces, while back home we expel kids from school for being caught with a nail file in their book bag.

I agree with those who say there is no need for an AR-15 in private hands. But there are thousands, maybe millions of them privately owned and used for little more than blowing holes in the sand piles behind paper targets.

Using our oxygen griping about the NRA serves only to support Wayne LaPierre’s million dollar salary.

We need to teach our kids there are less violent ways of arguing a point.


  1. John, I really connected with two aspects of your June 24th column., “Busted Wing”…one thing was the discovery (by all of us, probably) that life can significantly change in 5 seconds! ( Last day of April, 2013…walking my Poodle on a drizzly day, had run up a bank at the corner of my yard to adjust a political sign, then miscalculating my athletic ability, made a mighty leap 4 feet down the bank to the street. CRUNCH! AARGH, THREE broken bones in my ankle.Operation involving metal plate insertions, rehab and no walking till September! Second thing: as I was reading your empty nest mystery, I instantly thought: “I bet it was a Blacksnake!” and the next words you wrote……..! Years ago I heard a sweet Momma House Wren screeching the way they do when they need help and suspect no one can give it… I ran to the nest box and saw a large blacksnake fall to the ground…probably full of baby wrens because I knew they’d hatched a few days earlier…in its torpid state, it just laid there as the crazed little wren hopped in circles around its head and cried horrible wren cries. I called my neighbor Dan and he raced over to HACK it to DEATH as I requested. I cried and cried…I know blacksnakes should never be killed and I am NOT a wimpy woman who’s afraid of snakes……. but for weeks I had taken delight in the wren family, the sweet peeps of the babies, the insect special deliveries, and confronting the ghastly deaths made me angry
    Nature is brutal . Now , particularly this summer, thw world seems heavily populated with my angel wrens, and I always marvel at their survival. Loved your column…always excited to read it!

  2. These comments on JUNE 24th 2016 Column, BUSTED WING!

  3. Thank you for your comments, Nancy. I need to see whether there is a way to move your note. I normally post online Sunday afternoon.

    Good news: a House Wren has is feeding three chicks in another of our nesting houses.

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