MEMO From Michael: Violence and Mass Killings: Our New Reality?

What a sad irony that right after re-living the tragedies of the 9/11 terrorist attacks we are confronted with another senseless mass shooting, resulting in 12 deaths and eight injuries at the Washington Navy Yard. And while we are digesting that, 13 people were shot in a Chicago, apparently the result of a random shooting by a roving gang.

Do you realize this was the fifth mass shooting this year! All bizarre. All awful. Especially, the Colorado movie theater killing of 12, and the horrendous slaughter of 26 young children and two teachers in Newtown, Connecticut. See a summary of mass killings at MotherJones.com.

In each case, the media leads a search for someone or something to blame. Who messed up? Why did our laws or mental health system fail us? So, the killings, always by a deranged man, ignite intensified political debate about gun laws and how we should identify and confine mentally ill people who might become homicidal. It’s as if we’d would feel safer if we had someone to blame or could convince ourselves that we can eliminate the problem of random shootings with better laws or better law enforcement.

I don’t think so.  I confess I am sympathetic to the gun control movement (for the life of me, I cannot understand why even NRA gun advocates defend the right to buy, own and use automatic weapons with unlimited bullets). But how can one seriously argue that universal background checks will stop people who have gone mad from finding a way to hurt or kill people? More extensive limits on guns and ammunition might prevent some crimes but not this sort.

Sure, enhanced security could make individuals safer (though the killer may simply find another group of victims), but having armed guards at every school and park, or arming teachers, as some have advocated, entails a host of off-setting economic and social costs.

And I don’t think we can count on finding early tip-off signs that a killer was in the making. I’ve yet to hear anyone come up with a sensible, Constitutional way of preventing a few people with mental problems (and there are millions) from going berserk.

I’m not advocating that we surrender — better laws, better enforcement, better mental health care might help, but we may have to face the fact that, like floods and hurricanes, the possibility of mass random violence may have to be accepted as part of our new realty.

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Comments 14

  1. There will be no solution until there is a complete overhaul of society’s values, priorities, and standards. This society just doesn’t “get it.”

  2. The human race has survived without a solution. Murder in all it’s forms – from mass to the unborn – is the expression of evil. Only one has defeated evil and he has the solution.

  3. I’m sorry Michael but you did’t live up to your factual and logical standards. “… cannot understand why even NRA gun advocates defend the right to buy, own and use automatic weapons with unlimited bullets” is simply not true. I’m not an NRA member but can state conclusively that they don’t advocate private ownership of automatic weapons, those that spray bullets until they run out. Even the military doesn’t do that with true assault rifles anymore. The M-16 is limited to three round bursts because full auto isn’t useful and civilian versions can’t even do that. Getting the facts right is necessary to cooling such an emotional debate to a temperature where reason can be heard.

    I agree with Brenda that evil exists, as does crazy and criminal. All of these mass shootings, without exception, occurred where people were prohibited from effective self-defense and evil hunted there intentionally.

    But we almost never hear of the attempted mass shootings that failed when stopped by the victims. Look up New Life Church in Colorado and you’ll see an attempt at mass murder that didn’t make the list because a woman with a concealed pistol stopped the killer before he murdered the threshold four people in one place. He certainly meant to kill many more but failed. Evil was stopped by good but only because good was prepared. How ’bout a commentary on that?

    As to the Navy Yard, video records show the killer had free reign to hunt unarmed veterans for nearly half an hour before the police finally stopped him. And that was on a defended military base in the most defense-restricted city in our nation. Which of those vets, or the teachers at Sandy Hook, or the soldiers at Fort Hood would have turned down a gun had you offered it in the last minute of their lives. Any? I don’t think so.

    1. Post
      Author

      Thank you for correcting my factual inaccuracies and I apologize for making them but none of the corrections affect the reasoning and point of my commentary. I really don’t mean to be defensive but which of my conclusions do you think is erroneous?

      1. “I really don’t mean to be defensive but which of my conclusions do you think is erroneous?”

        Your bottom-line conclusion is: “… but we may have to face the fact that like floods and hurricanes, the possibility of mass random violence may have to be accepted as part of our new realty.”

        That’s where I disagree. Floods and hurricanes are acts of nature over which man has essentially no control. Mass violence isn’t random; even insane killers carefully choose gun-free zones so as to increase their odds. Regardless, it’s illogical to equate an act of nature with a human act. One is truly out of control while the other is willful. That’s your error.

        That willful crime pattern being the truth, there are many, many precedents proving that human violence on any scale isn’t random or irresistible. Look up New Life Church in Colorado and you’ll see that an armed parishioner stopped a mass murder. Literally several hundred crimes are stopped by armed citizens every day but they aren’t news, nobody died. Such crimes don’t make the mass-murder list simply because killers were stopped before crossing the four-murders threshold (wherever that nonsense came from). We don’t measure the INTENT to mass-murder, we only measure the SUCCESS. The difference is your error. Failing in an attempt to kill many people isn’t news though it easily could have been. Neither the attempt nor the failure equates to a flood or hurricane.

        So, we have the nearly perfect record of mass murderers acting in areas where politicians banned lawful citizens from carrying effective weapons compared to your erroneous conclusion that mass murders equate to hurricanes. That’s the problem. We can’t stop hurricanes but we certainly have stopped mass murderers. This problem is neither random nor irresistible.

        Which of the veteran victims at the Navy Yard, or the teachers at Sandy Hook, or the soldiers at Fort Hood, or the young men in Aurora’s theater, etc. etc. etc. would have turned down a gun had you offered it to them in the last minute of their lives? Any? I don’t think so.

  4. I agree with your commentary Michael sadly I do believe it is the future we and our children will face; the comments from Louise and Brenda are right on the mark, what angers me along with these evil random acts are the politicians and media people who use these awful events to try and further push their own agenda, even before the blood is dry, why not let the family and friends mourn in peace before we start talking about ways we arrogantly think will fix the problem. Our society is in trouble and to quote Louise we just don’t “get it”

    1. “Our society is in trouble and to quote Louise we just don’t “get it”

      This won’t be comforting but that’s really not the case. Evil and Crazy are constants in human history. We (Americans) are as safe as any people have ever been. If you’re not in a gang and not dealing drugs, you have little to fear. But we hear more about distant events than ever before.

      Perhaps it’s the hearing rather than the experiencing that leads to your unease?

      1. Ed, in your very last statement, are you saying that we have to experience murderous events to be uneasy? Are you really saying one has to be in a gang or dealing drugs to justify fear? Try telling that to all of the families and loved ones of the innocent bystanders who were killed or injured in the many mass shootings in public places. Mass shootings can and have happened in any one of our neighborhoods and it leaves us with justifiable fear. We should be able to send our kids to school, go to the theaters, places of worship, shopping malls, or any other ordinary public place without having to look over our shoulders for the “evil and crazy constants in human history.” True, evil has always existed, however, it existed on its own without the influences of TV, movies, and the Internet. Add drugs, a void of values, mental illness not being addressed, a lack of parenting, peer pressure, etc., and you have the perfect cocktail for mass shootings.

  5. “Ed, in your very last statement, are you saying that we have to experience murderous events to be uneasy? Are you really saying one has to be in a gang or dealing drugs to justify fear?”

    I’m saying that very low probability fears sometimes manifest far more than high probability fears by comparison. There’s virtually no chance you’ll ever be harmed in a mass shooting. The numbers are infinitesimal. Yet they get so much press that you’d think we were at war.

    Compare the harm from Sandy Hook type events with kids accidentally shooting themselves or, even more common, with teen suicides. There are orders of magnitude between those statistics yet we focus on the sensational while losing far more on the mundane.

    “Mass shootings can and have happened in any one of our neighborhoods …”

    Not true. Go find a mass shooting in a normal middle class suburb and post the link for us.

    Let’s up that example a notch. Go find the worst school attack in American history and tell us what weapon was used. Hint: it wasn’t a semi-automatic gun.

    “We should be able to send our kids to school, go to the theaters, places of worship, shopping malls, or any other ordinary public place without having to look over our shoulders for the “evil and crazy constants in human history.””

    Of course we should and I do. If you want to feel more secure, then avoid those places that prohibit concealed weapons. Bad guys don’t go to places where they might get hurt so you’ll have an even smaller than infinitesimal chance of being harmed.

    So what’s your solution to this constant (evil and crazy) in human history?

  6. I could cite one metro area all within about twenty miles that experienced a mass shooting at a Siek temple, an Azana hair salon, and a church service. I don’t intend to debate the weapons of choice, since acts of violence is the topic, not gun control.
    As for my solution, first of all, let’s not accept that “it is the future we and our children will face.”

    1. Sorry, I took your “…in any one of our neighborhoods…” as believing the problem is random. The Sikh temple and other shootings you cite were targeted. Only the religious who were targets of that bigot’s twisted hate were at risk, for example. The tragedy for those affected is the same, of course, but the fear in non-targeted communities should not be.

      As to George’s point “… it is the future we and our children will face.”, I expect he’s right insofar as the sensationalized results of mental illness (blind hatred counts) are concerned. There’s no more a chance of removing guns from American society as there is of removing illegal immigrants. Calls to do either, or end drug use, or force parents to be responsible, or teens to wise up, etc. are either naive or deceitful. We simply can’t change human behavior across a whole society.

      But we can eliminate the conditions that so very often allow mass shootings. Today, that means resisting a whacko with lots of bullets. That happens but isn’t nearly as widely publicized. Potential resistance is why those whackos choose gun free zones when attacking strangers. With gang attacks such as is common in Chicago, both sides are armed leading to the many bystander shootings. That’s a different problem than the one Michael cited at the top.

      You didn’t address the worst school attack, which turned out to be a bombing in Wisconsin. That would be more difficult now given that explosive purchases are tracked.

      So, are deadly outbursts by the mentally ill inevitable (regardless of the means they choose)?

  7. I do not accept that their is nothing that can be done, but to quote you Louise until their is a “major overhaul of our society’s values, and priorities” than very little will change and for that to happen we need a change in leadership, we need to get back the freedom to say enough!!!! put some teeth into how we deal with criminals and not worry so much about the fact that we might somehow offend someone or that by making them feel the total affect of the law that we might somehow trample on their rights and completely forget about the right to live for all the victims in these awful acts of violence; their voices silenced forever and we who are left behind forget that they were the victim and not the offenders who still walk among us doing their best with all the lawyers money can buy to somehow get off on a mistake by police, sadly that is a reality we face.

  8. Pingback: MEMO From Michael: Youth Violence

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