It’s coming from an unlikely source, but the message of David Berkowitz is undeniably positive: society needs to take the “glory out of guns.”
Or so says Berkowitz, also known as Son of Sam, speaking to the New York Daily News from his prison cell, where he’s serving out his six consecutive 25-to-life sentences.
Three shooting incidents in the past month—the murder of a boy in the Bronx, the Sikh temple shootings, and one man’s movie theater attack— have together inspired a public message from this former mass murderer, urging would-be killers to put down the guns. His message is social, not political.
“I’m looking beyond gun control,” says Berkowitz, now 59, in an interview with the Daily News. “That’s for legislators to wrangle with. My hope is just that young people would understand just how terrible this violence is. When they use a gun against someone else, they ruin their lives too. It’s not worth it.”
The “.44 Caliber Killer,” a postal worker whose reign of terror in the 1970s left six dead in random shooting attacks has, in prison, become a born-again Christian who speaks out against violence. In his 35 years in prison, Berkowitz has gone from Son of Sam to a grandfatherly presence known to some prisoners as “Pops.”
“I don’t even recognize that person,” Berkowitz says 35 years to the day since his spree ended. “’Son of Sam’ represents evil and satanic things. That person is like a total stranger to me now.”
In the years since his personal changes, Berkowitz has become a mentor for mentally ill prisoners, and no longer seeks parole, as he believes that will help prevent further pain for victims’ families.
As part of his outreach, Berkowitz corresponds with Christians outside of prison who maintain his website, ariseandshine.org, and distribute Christian, anti-violence pamphlets on his behalf.
“I have more regrets than words can say,” says Berkowitz, “But God has given me peace about my situation.”