WINNEMUCCA - Two recent incidents involving shootings in northern Nevada were tragic, and once again raise issues about guns, a topic that I acknowledge is potentially fraught with peril.

An 80-year-old man was fatally shot by an alleged bank robber Oct. 16 in Reno when he confronted the gunman.

Another recent tragedy on Oct. 21 involved a student who shot and killed a teacher and wounded two others at Sparks Middle School.

There are those who adamantly and unequivocally insist that if everyone toted a gun all the time these things wouldn't turn out the sad way they did. Someone would be there to take out the shooter in a heartbeat. And why should criminals or those bent on taking lives be armed while the law-abiding public at large is not?

In a way, I suppose that there is a potential deterrent effect if the entire population was known to be carrying guns. Would a criminal try something like robbery if everyone was potentially armed? But, then again, people with guns planning to carry out some grudge or bad deed are hardly rational.

Personally, in the event of a bank robbery, I wouldn't want the guy behind me in line to have a gun and decide to use it. I don't want to suddenly find myself in the midst of a Wild West gunfight.

No. Just let the robber get out the door. No reason to play hero and potentially get shot or hit some innocent bystander. Whatever amount of loot the robber made off with isn't worth a shootout that could take the life of someone who just happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

Law enforcement's usual advice in these types of crimes is to comply with the robber's demands. Don't give a deranged person who is desperate enough to rob a bank a reason to use the weapon. Let the robber get out the door where trained and certified police, most of whom are good shots, can deal with it.

I'm not trying to second guess the guy at the Reno bank robbery who was tragically shot. From all media accounts, he intentions were courageous and noble. He did what he thought he ought to at the time, which was confront the alleged bank robber. Unfortunately, he died for his good samaritan efforts.

In the case of the Sparks Middle School shooting, there's no question most people would intervene to shield innocent kids. They'd do it without thinking twice.

The shooter was also a kid, all of 12 years old. He shot and killed one teacher, Michael Landsberry, a member of the Nevada Air National Guard, and shot and seriously wounded two students before turning the gun on himself.

Conservative Chuck Muth, who writes a weekly column for the Humboldt Sun, argues in a recent piece that Landsberry possibly could have ended the situation if the school was not a "gun-free zone" and Landsberry was allowed to carry a weapon on school grounds.

Never one to mince words, Muth railed that "Landsberry's death is on the heads of every pontificating, self-righteous, anti-gun member of the Legislature who supports the continuation of these gun-free zones..."

Muth's thesis is that no place ought to be off limits to law-abiding citizens with guns or else the deranged and armed have the advantage.

I don't know that more guns at the scene could have produced a different outcome in these two tragic shootings. Maybe. But maybe more lives are lost as well.

I'm reminded of the ABC News show "What would you do?" where a hidden camera and staged scenarios test the moral compass of unsuspecting people. The show's host, John Quinones, then confronts and quizzes people on why they did or did not intervene or say something or do something.

At the Sparks school, I'm going to take some action against a shooter. But a good samaritan in a bank robbery I'm not.

Steve Lyon is editor of the Humboldt Sun. Contact him at