Within a one-week span this month:

- A gunman killed five people at a Kirkwood, Mo., City Council meeting and wounded others.

- A robber shot five women to death at a Lane Bryant store in suburban Chicago.

- A woman shot and killed two fellow students at Louisiana Technical College.

- A former student shot and killed five people at Northern Illinois University and wounded many more before committing suicide.

All those acts were committed where weapons already were banned, yet people are calling for more legal limitations on firearms.

What's missing in the visceral revulsion to guns is that firearms in the hands of law-abiding citizens can counteract such evil.

Every day, law-abiding armed citizens in their homes and around their communities prevent horrific crimes: Women repel rapists twice their size; merchants protect their customers from thugs; older people dissuade drug addicts who would gladly torture them out of the price of a fix.

Armed citizens might have stopped the massacres mentioned above. They did just that at Pearl High School in 1997, at Appalachian School of Law in 2002 and just two months ago at New Life Church in Colorado Springs.

In Mississippi, though, it's illegal for anyone on a college campus to carry a weapon, though - as it was for the Pearl High administrator to have a gun in his vehicle. Here, students, faculty and staff are the same defenseless targets that they were at Northern Illinois and Virginia Tech.

In Mississippi, it's illegal for a licensed gun owner to protect himself or others in a church. No one could end the atrocity as did the one member in Colorado Springs.

Bills in the Mississippi House of Representatives would end those limitations. They're not likely to make it out of committee, but even if they became law, churches and private colleges could still prohibit firearms on their property, just as any private entity can now. The college bill should include severe penalties for mixing alcohol or drugs and firearms.

Handgun owners with Mississippi licenses to carry have undergone background checks for criminal behavior, substance abuse and mental illness. They are, by definition, law-abiding citizens. They have a better record even than off-duty policemen for responsible behavior while armed.

Bad people do unthinkable things, and they like to do them where their prey cannot readily respond. I hope we won't someday be kicking ourselves for putting people in the same defenseless positions others were in at Virginia Tech and Northern Illinois University.

Contact Daily Journal Oxford Bureau reporter Errol Castens at 281-1069 or errol.castens@djournal.com.

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