Late Monday night, a family died in the small town of Elkmont in northern Limestone County.
Emergency responders and law enforcement arrived at a home on Ridge Road to find three people dead and two more seriously injured. Those two later died.
A 14-year-old Elkmont boy has been charged with five counts of juvenile murder in connection with the deaths and is being held in a juvenile detention facility.
The Limestone County Sheriff’s Office has said the teen confessed to the shootings.
The victims, according to Limestone County sheriff’s spokesman Stephen Young, were the shooter’s father John Wayne Sisk, 38; his stepmother Mary Sisk, 35; his 6-year-old brother; his 5-year-old sister; and his 6-month-old brother.
Authorities are still unraveling the family drama that preceded Monday night’s tragedy, but the second-guessing has already begun.
Were there signs that friends, neighbors and school officials missed? Was there more that could have been done?
The mass killing is the 26th in the United States this year, based on the methodology of The Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University mass murder database, which tracks homicides where four or more people are killed, not including the offender.
Yet it was not a mass killing in the sense that people normally use the term. It wasn’t a person targeting random strangers in a public place — a soft target like a mall, club or concert venue — for reasons political, religious or otherwise.
According to authorities, the murder weapon was a 9mm handgun that was in the home illegally. Many would argue we should simply ban all handguns, but there is almost no chance it would pass constitutional scrutiny if they did, and it would likely prove as unenforceable as the nation’s drug laws if enacted.
This is not to say there are no cases where stricter gun laws might help.
The “gun show loophole” that gun control advocates say they want to close is more properly described as an exemption for private party sales and transfers. But whatever you call it, that is a “loophole” that could be closed and that might deter some shootings.
As far as the Elkmont tragedy is concerned, we may find there is more that could have been done. Better mental health services might be part of the picture.
Unfortunately, no matter how loudly a tragedy may cry out for solutions, just passing a law is rarely the solution.