Gun violence has occurred all around the country including Virginia, but mostly in big cities with bigger targets and anonymity. But is small town America immune? Definitely not.

This article will provoke backlash from some, but it must be said.

Guns kill. Someone must pull the trigger, but it is the gun that kills. Before there is an uprising among the fervent 2nd Amendment folks, I’m not advocating taking anyone’s guns, unless they are military assault style weapons. Protecting one’s self and hunting is the American way, and I believe in that right.

I want everyone who reads this to stop and think about this. Picture an excited 6-year old going to Walmart with his or her parents to buy school supplies for the first day of school. Picture the terror on that child’s face as an angry man with an assault rifle loaded with a 100-round magazine begins shooting. Think about the fear and shock of that child seeing people fall dead, for no other reason than hate and the color of their skin.

A 21-year old white man drove six hours to kill brown people in a border town because our president has talked of invading aliens storming our borders. This young man became a radicalized, home-grown terrorist right here in America.

Our leaders have demonized other people trying to escape terror in their own country and made a mockery of our asylum laws. Russian trolls have spread discontent on social media for gullible people to consume. Every time you see a post that fires up your emotions, remember it could be a troll trying to do just that.

The gun he wielded is what killed, and his hand pulled the trigger, but what motivated him was hate. He didn’t know a single person he killed. He just wanted to stop the invasion that was invented by politicians to further their own beliefs that somehow the refugees were going to destroy America.

Let’s not forget that immigrants and refugees founded this country and have made us what we are. Unless you are Native American, we are all immigrants who came to escape something for a better life. America will never be a country for one race, or one religion. It will be the home for all Americans, and as time passes, more of us will be some color other than white and some other religion other than protestant.

I don’t want to fear going to the mall or grocery store. I don’t want to look over my shoulder at the racetrack or the sports stadium. I don’t want to worry about my grandchildren and great-grandchildren living in fear of angry men with guns. But that’s where we are headed unless something changes.

Many things led us to the awful shootings in El Paso and Dayton: hate filled rhetoric on TV, access to awful weapons of war that are designed only to kill people, failure of government to pass meaningful gun laws and the rise of populism fueled by a man with little regard for the anything and anyone other than himself.

But the one thing that everyone has overlooked is apathy. This shooter in Ohio was known to have a hit list of boys he wanted to kill and girls he wanted to rape. His high school classmates knew of these lists and did nothing. They likely told parents who did nothing. As with many other mass shootings in America, someone knew that something was wrong and did nothing.

Shouldn’t we all know that we have a responsibility to speak up? Surely, we don’t have to have announcements on TV and radio, like in airports, that tell us if we see something suspicious to notify authorities. Are we that numb to the world around us that we just ignore the danger staring us in the face?

Our own Republican led Virginia General Assembly made a mockery of the need to pass gun controls by adjourning in 45-minutes the special session called after a mass shooting here in Virginia. Are we so numb to reality that no one sees the danger in not acting?

America is number 20 in gun deaths per capita in the world. Do you know what countries are between us and the top? Not one European country -- not Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Japan or South Korea, not any Eastern European country, not India, Pakistan or other Asian countries, except for Afghanistan, not even any other Middle Eastern country, not even Russia.

We stand alone among the G20 nations as the only country without strict gun control laws, and unless I missed something, all these countries are free democratic societies.

Have you ever seen the holes in bodies that a .223 round makes? Have you ever seen bodies laying on the ground in pools of blood? Those of us who have know that there is no place in civil society for assault style weapons, yet they can be bought at a gun show without even a background check.

We do not need to be armed against our government and tyranny; we make change at the ballot box.

No one is trying to take away anyone’s guns, but we must end the manufacturer and sale of these weapons of war and the high-capacity magazines that turn them into killing machines.

We must pass universal background checks for all gun sales.

We must implement “red flag” rules that allow weapons to be removed from someone who is seen as unstable.

After a ban on assault style weapons, I personally would like to see a voluntary government buyback of all such assault weapons currently owned by civilians in the country, a farfetched notion I know.

Go back to the beginning of this opinion piece and think about your child or grandchild being the one traumatized by a man such as the shooter in El Paso.

Think it can’t happen here? You are deluding yourself if you think it can’t happen here or anywhere in America.

Hate, racism, anger and bias aren’t restricted to other places. I see it in Facebook posts, Twitter tirades and in the flags flying on tall flag poles.

Do you know who can stop this carnage? You and me. We can stop it by demanding that laws change. We can call our state and federal legislators and tell them to take action now. Then if they don’t, vote them out.

Wayne Stanfield is a retired USAF and Vietnam veteran and local businessman. He owned and operated multiple medical equipment and pharmacy businesses in Virginia and North Carolina and is the former director of non-profit trade associations. He is the author of many trade and opinion articles.