Yesterday’s Hero

One difference between the recent shooting at the mall in Omaha and the religious facilities in Colorado is that, in Omaha, the murderer stopped himself (before the police could reach him). As Laura Bauer reports for the December 8 Kansas City Star, the murderer “opened fire at the mall, killing eight before taking his own life.”

Yesterday’s murderous rampage ended differently. Kieran Nicholson reports for today’s Denver Post:

The two killed at [New Life Church] are sisters Stephanie Works, 18, and Rachael Works, 16, police said. … Also shot at the church Sunday were David Works, 51, Judy Purcell, 40, and Larry Bourbannais, 59, police said. …

The shooter was shot and killed by a volunteer security guard at the church, said [Pastor Brady] Boyd.

Boyd said the security guard, a woman with a law enforcement background, and his personal bodyguard, encountered the gunman in a hallway at the church and fired on him, saving many lives.

“He had enough ammunition on him to cause a lot of damage,” Boyd said.

The security guard’s name has not yet been released.

Whatever else can and will be said about the murders, that woman, the volunteer security guard, is a true, courageous hero who deserves our thanks and praise.

I’m also impressed that Nicholson and the Post fairly reported the facts. However, it is odd that Nicholson refers to the murderer as “gunman,” but she does not refer to the security guard as a “gunwoman.” (Indeed, while the media are filled with references to “gunmen,” I do not remember every reading the term, “gunwoman.”) Bauer also refers to “a gunman.” But the relevant fact is not that the man carried a gun, but that he used it to murder people. Thus, he is properly called a killer or a murderer. The bare fact that a man carries a gun — is a “gunman” — is legally and morally neutral. Police officers, security guards, and numerous civilians, both male and female, carry guns legally and responsibly.

But of course the means of murder is the minor issue. The big question is this: why are moral monsters running around murdering innocent people they don’t even know? Any murder is a heinous crime, the ultimate evil. But a murder of strangers adds an additional level of senselessness. Some will find symbolism in the fact that the murderer attacked a church; they will see the murders as a symptom of our (allegedly) Godless culture (though religion is on the rise). The religionists are correct that the murders are a symptom of cultural nihilism, the destruction of human reason, values, and morality. But the antidote to nihilism is not religion, which sacrifices human reason to faith and human values to the whims of a mythological being. A culture of human reason, values, and morality rejects both nihilism and religion.