Bloody Sunday in Wisconsin

We must look into the issues below the surface to help prevent future tragedies.

The tragic and bizarre events that occurred Sunday in the woods of northern Wisconsin have left communities in Wisconsin and Minnesota searching for understanding. As we grieve six people’s deaths and hope for the recovery of two others, we can draw much from the many aspects of this tragedy.

Chai Soua Vang, a St. Paul native, was arrested Sunday for the killings. Vang being a Hmong male, speculation immediately arose whether the shootings were racially motivated. But the events of Sunday are not clear enough to say one way or another whether race had anything to do with it. Vang claims he was insulted with racial epithets, but one of the surviving hunters claims otherwise. In any event, the actions of one man should not condemn an entire community, no matter what you hear on local radio morning shows.

Gun control, as it relates to the incident, is worth discussing. A standard Samozaryadi Karabin Simonova semiautomatic rifle was used in the murders. The weapon is a relatively cheap substitute for an AK-47 and legally available throughout Wisconsin. As such, the question turns not on enforcement of current gun laws but on whether those laws are strict enough. Do sportsmen and sportswomen need to hunt with guns that were made for the purpose of warfare? Surely, we cannot blame the gun, but we can question whether that gun should be widely available.

Lastly and most importantly, serious questions can be raised about the psychological effects of military training. The accused’s brother said Vang had served in the U.S. National Guard. The news reports surrounding the tragedy in the northern woods certainly make it seem as though Vang “snapped” and went into a “kill mode.” Could a larger issue be whether men and women who are trained to kill by the U.S. military be “detrained” before release from the military?

Clearly, the overwhelming majority of former veterans do not experience difficulty switching from military to civilian life. But is there something the military and society can do to identify and help those who do?

We must take what we can from the tragic events of Sunday. To do so, we must look into the issues below the surface to help prevent future tragedies.