While Massachusetts was voting yesterday, police in Virginia were looking for the guy who killed eight people, most of them presumably relatives, some of them schoolchildren, at his house in rural Appomattox County.
The killer hid on his wooded property and apparently shot at and brought down a police helicopter before surrendering this morning. He was wearing a bullet-proof vest and camouflage pants when he was arrested.
Police have been tight-lipped about details of this terrible crime, though they did mention that they found and detonated several explosive devices on the property.
Police also say, now, that they do not know why Christopher Speight went on his murderous rampage.
But there are several hints, in news accounts and comments under them, that Speight was another gun nut who worried that the government was going to take his guns.
According to the Lynchburg News & Advance (linked above), Speight:
was a gun collector and was "very skilled with weapons," said Connie Anderson, co-owner of the Sunshine Market on Campbell Avenue in Lynchburg, where she said Speight occasionally worked as a security guard employed by Old Dominion Security.
Anderson said he has known Speight about five years and that she and her husband, David, both have concealed weapons permits and have been to Speight’s home in Appomattox for target practice.
Anderson said Speight talked to her husband Saturday night about an apparent family dispute involving the home, which was left to Speight and his sister after his mother died.
Speight’s address, 3030 Snapps Mill Road, was listed for sale in 2009, in Yahoo.com’s real estate ads. The building was listed as a three-bedroom, three-bathroom home, sitting on 34 acres of wooded land.
So, another domestic dispute, this one apparently over property, ends in tragedy.
One commenter under the newspaper story said he knows Speight, and recalls:
I used to work with him. He was always unbalanced, and extremely paranoid, especially of the government. You know the story. Unfortunately, something pushed him over the edge, and he’s extremely well armed.
He was always an intense person, displayed the survivalist mentality, and had a fear the government was going to "try to take his guns."
Despite all that, Speight received concealed weapons permits and apparently his arsenal was all legal, in Virginia.
The "government wants to take your guns" fantasy is an article of faith for many on the right, and has become even more so after Obama's election. Some teabaggers, to judge by signs at their events and comments on their websites, are deluded by this far-right myth.
The fantasy is fanned by the NRA and NRA-wannabe groups, largely as a fund-raising racket, even though the Supreme Court, and political reality, have made the Second Amendment stronger than ever.
But a few "unbalanced and extremely paranoid" gun nuts believe the BS, and kill and/or shoot at cops.
Speight is not the first to do so, and I fear he won't be the last.
Two interesting coincidences -- Virginia's "gun-rights" activists rallied in Richmond Monday. They support bills that "would allow concealed handguns to be carried in more places and make it easier to get both guns and the permits."
And Tuesday, the day of the mass murder, was the birthday of Robert E. Lee, who spent some time in Appomattox County in the spring of 1865.