“Gunman slays seven”, “Kid killer rampage”, “Supermarket slaughter”.
These are all pretty standard headlines.
We’ve got used to them – but not so much that they don’t still grab our attention... and sell newspapers.
The latest has involved the serious wounding of American congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords.
We assume – at this stage – that she was the prime target.
And this wasn’t a sniper attack: this was close-up and apparently personal.
The victim is a Democrat, a natural target for the large majority of Republican voters in her part of Arizona.
But, of course, in using that word “target” we don’t normally mean that we are intending to use bullets.
The same is true – I believe – when Sarah Palin, the Republican star and former vice-Presidential candidate, described Gabrielle Giffords as “being in their sights”.
She was simply indicating that Ms Giffords was perceived as a threat to Republican ideas and needed to be attacked politically.
But for many, political and legal processes are too slow and too complicated.
You see a problem – or you think you see a problem – and you say to yourself, “Let’s get rid of it”.
If no one else does, some individuals are prepared to do the job themselves.
As George Bernard Shaw said: “Assassination is the extreme form of censorship.”
Of course, killing an individual very rarely deals with the real problem.
It’s more to do with venting our own anger and frustration.
That’s why we like thrillers – action pics where most things are resolved on an ascending scale of violence.
Seeing the baddies get their come-uppance satisfies our sense of natural law.
And, of course, in many films there is absolutely no doubt who the baddies are.
In such circumstances, the law of the gun seems natural
In most cases, it’s just not that simple in your life and my life.
Yes, we have problems – real problems – and we are often confronted by someone who seems to be causing the problem – another motorist, a neighbour, the council, the government.
Getting them removed – one way or another – often seems to be the answer.
The more difficult response is to be patient, to listen, to seek to understand.
Jesus actually spent a lot of time listening to people, finding out where exactly they were coming from, asking them questions. Some responded and wanted a better solution.
Others didn’t want to know. And finally those people thought that getting rid of Jesus was the simplest solution.
When confronted by aggressive opposition, Jesus continued to be patient and to speak peaceably.
That is so hard.
But over time, knowing him actually seems to produce that patience and greater understanding in us.
And even a small amount of that must be better than the answer being worked out in Arizona.