We can, and must, stop this madness. I offer a few, tentative first steps on a journey that promises to stretch out for many miles ahead.

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THIS past weekend, three kids from the Kamiak High School class of 2015 were shot dead by a fellow Kamiak classmate, who was upset about a failed romance. A fourth victim is in serious condition.

My wife is a teacher at Kamiak; my son, a 2012 alumnus. The shooting occurred about a 1½ miles from our home, on a street that I have ridden down on my bike. “Close to home” describes the event both literally and figuratively.

Once again, as in more and more mass shootings, the killer used a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle. This extraordinarily efficient killing machine fires rounds that travel at twice the velocity of those from a handgun and as rapidly as the shooter can pull the trigger. It allowed a smart, well-off, well-educated kid, exercising his “right to bear arms” (a right granted when the state-of-the-art in firearms was a single-shot muzzle-loaded musket) to resolve with bullets the type of dispute that in my not-that-bygone youth days would have been resolved with fists.

I grew up in a household where my dad kept a pair of guns — together with ammunition — in the unlocked top drawer of my parents’ bedroom bureau. In my youth, I would occasionally open the drawer to peek at the guns, but I never once touched them. Then, grabbing my toy guns, I would join my friends outside, playing war until our mothers, calling us to dinner, forced a shaky truce.

Clearly, something has changed since those days — but what? I have a couple of thoughts:

First, kids today can, from an early age, watch real — not imaginary — mass murders, beheadings and all manner of other atrocities right before their young eyes. These images can be viewed free of charge, on demand, over and over. Add to that the presence of graphic, almost unimaginably violent video games that instruct on and desensitize the act of killing. Slowly, but surely, our kids grow calluses on their souls.

Feeling our loss of community and the sense of safety it provides, we clutch at guns.”

Second, we have allowed America to devolve, catastrophically, into a nation of chilly, anonymous disregard for others. More and more of us wander through our days amid other lonesome strangers. Feeling our loss of community and the sense of safety it provides, we clutch at guns. While vacationing this past month in Europe, in the mere span of two weeks, I was able to see video from my own country of: a police officer shooting a man lying helpless, flat on his back; a young woman eerily narrating the death of her boyfriend while the police officer who had shot him screamed out profane excuses for his action; and the horrifying ambush and murder of police officers in Dallas.

Mukilteo shooting

A couple I met in London the day before I left asked me, in all seriousness, whether I was afraid to return to my country. The question at first seemed just crazily odd, but then began to make grim sense. Days after we arrived home, another ambush of police officers occurred in Baton Rouge, La.

Last, but by no means least, is the constant sturm und drang of National Rifle Association propaganda, eagerly picked up and flung at the nation by some who seek high elected office and desperately need the NRA’s money to get it. The endless blare of misinformation seeks to frighten us for our lives unless we buy ever more guns, attempts to convince us that the government is secretly plotting to invade our homes and take those guns away and plays to our American fantasy of heroically gunning down evildoers. All of this is capped off by the craven assertion — disproved at the cost of boundless sorrow in both Dallas and Baton Rouge — that “the best thing to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”

We can, and must, stop this madness. I offer a few, tentative first steps on a journey that promises to stretch out for many miles ahead:

First, parents must monitor and police their children’s internet viewing. Computers can be locked, blocked or even turned off if necessary. Second, we must stop the proliferation of high powered semi-automatic, military-style rifles. These killing machines have no place in the hands of civilians. And finally, we must overpower and drown out the NRA terror machine, whose ceaseless blare blocks out reason and common sense, misstates the intent of the framers of the Second Amendment and normalizes the deviancy of a society where we fear each other so much that the answer to far too many problems is the echo of a gunshot.