…Or Is It Not Just About Guns…?

Angelina Packing

I didn’t feel like posting yesterday about the shootings, except for just one, wishing the shooter was in Hell.  Like, if Hell had a condemned basement that Satan wouldn’t enter because it was so f***ed up, that’s where this guy should reside.

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I was debating just staying in Friday night, but pushed out instead as it felt like a little conversation, some dinner, a few drinks might get me out of the funk.

Didn’t work.

Something’s been bothering me about this issue since it went down (aside from the obvious).  I’m a guy that likes to understand “the why.”  I always liked the Merovingian’s dialogue in the second Matrix film about “causality” when Neo and crew ask him about the reason why they are meeting with him:

“But do you? You think you do, but you do not. You are here because you were sent here, you were told to come here and then you obeyed. [chuckles] It is of course the way of all things. You see, there is only one constant, one universal, it is the only real truth: causality. Action, reaction. Cause, effect…Causality. There is no escape from it, we are forever slaves to it. Our only hope, our only peace is to understand it, to understand the `why.’ `Why’ is what separates us from them, you from me. `Why’ is the only real source of power, without it you are powerless. And this is how you come to me, without `why,’ without power. Another link in the chain.”

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And something’s been bothering me on the “why” here.

We’ve seen the pattern before, and it’s sure to come out now:  young adult alone/somewhat friendless/anti-social, mild (or severe) mental illness, parents with problems communicating with them, etc.  It’s a pattern of these killers that’s become commonplace at this point:  a lack of control over their own lives leading them to want to exert the ultimate control over others.  It does not take a “Clarice Starling” to dissect one of these creatures.

But there must be endless numbers of these individuals in America (hell, the world):  unbalanced people with an axe to grind and easy access to either firearms, explosives, or other deadly weapons.  Yet, for some reason, they don’t all feel the urge to pop off and commit one of the most heinous domestic crimes in recent history.

One thing I can guarantee you is that it’s not just “guns.”  This kid did not decide to do this because he had a gun.  He was driven to do this for another reason.  So, while banning assault rifles, increasing background checks on potential firearm buyers, and even upping the penalties on registered weapons involved in criminal acts are all good things that I believe wholeheartedly in, it is not—in this instance—the entire “why.”

Any laws that now get passed, even tomorrow, will not keep this exact event from repeating itself:  a sane US citizen (his mother) purchasing a weapon, likely going through a background check, and taking those weapons home with her.  If we’re advocating that she shouldn’t have been able to purchase a handgun, then I’m off your train:  the right to bear arms IS a right under the second amendment, and a handgun is certainly on the spectrum of “appropriate for private ownership.”  And anyone that’s used a handgun can tell you, the level of damage you can do with one is considerable.  As much as an assault rifle?  Probably not.  In a school full of young children?  Yes.

So we’re back to “the why.”  This kid didn’t think “I have an assault weapon…I should go use it.”  Something else compelled him to take that drive and commit mass murder.

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A quote that someone posted on Facebook, attributed to Morgan Freeman (not confirmed, so take it with a grain of salt as to the source) sums it up for me (for the most part) nicely:

“You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem.”

The only place where the statement and I diverge is the “gun control” part:  no one needs assault rifles unless you’re in the “people hunting” business, aka “law enforcement” or “army.”  Aside from that, let’s just agree that it’s hard to find another use for them.  If you want to shoot recreationally, let’s have them rentable at specific sites, but personal ownership should just be banned.  If you like them, sorry.  I like lions, but I can’t own one.

Lion Gun Camping

Otherwise, it hits the nail on the head.  The reality is this kid was driven to do this whether he had a truck full of fertilizer, poor bombs, dynamite, whatever.  The statement above is right:  the discussion, obsession, dissection, whatever, of this person’s life is what is planting the seed of an idea into the next nutjob’s crazyfarm.

But identifying that problem opens up the really, really hard one.  The one that we all have to look in the mirror to figure out how to fix:  we, as a country, are going to continue to want answers so that this “doesn’t happen again.”  But our investigation into it immortalizes him further and lays the groundwork for the next one.

How do you report on a criminal act without discussing the cause?  And, in the very act of discussing the cause, how to do you avoid focusing on the criminal?  Because understanding the criminal is what our own human nature is telling us we need to do so we can identify similar threats, and keep our own children safe from harm.  Yet the more we dig and strive to understand, the more we discuss him and plant the seed to duplicate or—God help us all—outdo the act by the next lunatic.

And I actually have no clue (or even a suggestion of one) as to how to fix THAT problem.  It’s a problem that ends up feeding itself.

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But we need to figure it out, and fast.

And while we’re figuring it out, give your kids a hug if you haven’t already.

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