Mass Shootings DonC 122315
There have been lots of discussions lately about gun control, especially in light of San Bernadino, Colorado City and several other mass shootings of recent history. While I would argue that mass shootings and gun control are to a degree related, though maybe helpful to think about the two dilemmas from two different frames of reference.
If I were wishing to take a hard look at gun control, I would want to gather the empirical statistics about the value of having a loaded gun in your home or on your person. I would want to know the odds helping in a violent situation vs. the odds of injury to myself or others by possessing such a weapon. There are any number of ways to look at how and when help or harm takes place when guns are added to a given situation. At this point, I choose to set aside these various issues, and focus only on things related to mass shootings. (For the sake of argument, I will define mass shootings as a situation where a person kills or wounds at least four people whom he does not know directly.)
There is a tiny percentage of our population, almost entirely male, who are angry, hurt, vengeful, depressed, mentally ill or disenfranchised in one way or another who choose to consider such an act. They may focus their angst on certain individuals or groups, or they may have some cause or crusade that they obsess over. In decades past, some of these people simply went out and killed themselves. Some processed or out-grew their obsession. I’m guessing if you were to ask school counselors if they new of any that fit this description, all could name a handful that they might be concerned about. Out of this group of many, a tiny handful chooses go over the edge, gather large amounts of weapons and ammunition, and plan a blood bath. While it is a sort of mental health issue, we have always had anger, depression, and other types of mental health problems. Mass shootings are fairly recent phenomena. Countries such as South Africa have lots of guns, lots of crime, but virtually no mass shootings of innocent people.
These shootings seem to involve three ingredients – some type of obsession or mental health issue, access to guns and ammunition and a hyperactive media environment.
As stated earlier, the various clusters of mental health issues have been with us through the ages and exist around the world. Certainly we should do more to address mental health issues, but I have little faith that it might curtail the shootings.
Some argue that gun control could help. I’m inclined to believe that any person who seriously desires weapons and lots of ammunition is going to get them, legally or illegally. Gun control, in a practical sense, will slow them down slightly … at best.
There has been quite a bit of discussion about how the media goes crazy over every last microscope angle that can be pursued related to shooter and shooting. While it is nice to think that media would see that their role is counter-productive, we all have inquiring minds. We drive their ratings. Blood sells. It’s not hard to see how an angry, young man can be drawn to the fantasy of going out in a blaze of glory, inflicting the greatest possible pain on the objects of his anger. His name and face will be noted countless millions of times. In one perverse respect, he knows he will take on immortality. So the First Amendment, protecting freedom of the press, plays a role in this as well. We can’t just tell the press what it will and won’t cover.
It would seem that, of these three ingredients, there is little that we can do about any one of them. Several commentators have stated that if their strategy saves one shooting, it will be worthwhile. This would seem to be trimming the problem around the edges.
Perhaps there is something that we can do. We can develop a strong counter-message. It would be a message that redefines the act. Instead of an act that brings glory and/or revenge in some perverse sense, the message needs to be that it is an act that brings only disdain. Instead of it being an act that brings immortality, the message needs to be that you will be forgotten. This would need to be both tangible and symbolic … and it would need to get strong media attention.
I put forward this idea with ample humility. It is against my nature to see a human life solely with disdain … any human life. It feels like committing this person’s soul to hell. This is something quite beyond my power to do. Yet perhaps this disdain is simply the inherent consequences of their own actions.
The plan would be to try to engrave an image in the minds of all people. To achieve this, the government would find a desolate location and have a well driller place an extremely deep hole in the earth. They would drill until the bit overheats, and can go no further. On top of this would be placed a large, black, stone monument with a hole through the middle of it, giving access to the deeper hole.
After any such shooting and the ensuing forensic work, the body will be confiscated and cremated. 100 days after the shooting, the ashes will be transported by the local sheriff or chief of police to the site of the monument. With minimal ceremony, the ashes will be poured through the monument into the depths of the earth. The media will give the fullest possible coverage of the event. There will be one word engraved on the side of the monument: