CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- One Friday morning in December, an armed man entered the grounds of an unsuspecting primary school and began violently terrorizing more than 20 students and teachers.
And there were no fatalities.
No, I'm not talking about the unspeakable atrocity that befell Newtown, Conn., but of an eerily similar and equally shocking incident that took place in the Henan Province of China only 12 hours earlier.
The two series of events are almost identical. These men each infiltrated a local school on the same morning and began mindlessly wreaking havoc on innocent students and staff. One killed 20 students and six adults before ending his own life; the other is currently being held under police custody and all of his victims are recuperating.
All else seemingly equal, there is only one variable in this equation: one man had a gun, and the other did not. The man in China was armed only with a knife.
A typical pro-gun response to mass shootings such as this tends to be the "guns don't kill people, people kill people" line. Looking at these two similar tragic occurrences side by side, it does tell us that, yes, people certainly can harm other people. But more importantly, it clearly demonstrates that these people are capable of doing far less damage when they do not have access to guns.
Do you think the attacker in China wouldn't have used a gun if he could have? China's strict gun control policy took the gun out of this man's hand, and these 22 young students and the teacher he stabbed are still alive because of it.
Instead of focusing on how the easy access to firearms plays a fundamental role in every one of these senseless tragedies, we seem to look for a motive or rationale on which to blame them. First it was Marilyn Manson. Then violent video games and TV shows. What next? At what point will we stop playing the blame game and focus on our problem with the prevalence of the guns themselves?
And what do we do now? Now is indeed a time to grieve, but not a time for inaction. In the last months alone we have seen this slaughter of innocent elementary school students, a gunman opening fire with an assault rifle on bystanders in a Portland mall, and the horrific murder-suicide of NFL player Jovan Belcher and his girlfriend.
In light of these events, it's clear that something must be done. So the question is, will we simply find somewhere else to place the blame for this tragedy, or will we start making the changes that will ultimately take guns out of the hands of potential shooters?
Call your senator. Write your congressperson; tell them we are sick of unthinkable atrocities like this one.
If we don't get our gun problem under control, there will always be another Columbine, another Aurora, the results of which will inevitably look more like Newtown, Conn., than Henan, China, I'm afraid.
Salisbury lives in Charleston.