It’s Not Guns or Mental Illness. The Problem Is Deeper Than That.

“These are empty, numb, detached people slaughtering their fellow humans because they are bored and frustrated with their meaningless lives.” - Matt Walsh

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Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Interesting analysis. He goes "deeper," but then goes shallower again...

If it is detachment and desensitization causing these attacks, the next question is, what causes the detachment and desensitization? The culprits here are manifold, but the internet has to be one of the first places we look. Though it has of course existed for several decades, the internet has only been ubiquitous for the past two. The rise of social media is even more recent than that. As with any massive societal shift, we will not fully understand its effects until we are a good distance from it. But it's already fairly clear that our cyber space obsession causes us to be increasingly detached from the physical world and each other. It's a cliche to point out that our connectedness has made us disconnected, yet there's truth to most cliches, and this one is no different.

It could be that recent technologies are bringing an underlying meaninglessness more sharply into focus. I don't personally see how it's about connectedness or lack thereof. But the ugliness of social media does expose the deeper problems more.

Some of the deeper problems are obvious, but they don't explain why cultures with the same deeper problems don't have the same sort of mass violence. The deep problem is mainly that the west mostly abandoned any coherent view of truth or right and wrong and embraced an origin-of-life story that logically requires meaninglessness.

But we don't see mass shootings everywhere in "the West." I hate to say it, but it may be that controlling guns is one of the few ways to reduce mass violence in a society that no longer really believes in right and wrong or sees any enduring meaning in life. The drafters of the 2nd amendment certainly didn't have a profoundly virtue-lacking society like ours in mind when they enshrined the right to be armed. They thought it was a good idea for good people to have guns.

TylerR's picture

Editor

The Dayton killer used an AR-15 pistol with a 100 round drum magazine (WSJ article this morning). I'm quite sure the framers of the Bill of Rights had that in mind when they drafted the 2nd Amendment ... 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

GregH's picture

The homicide rate in the US has been in a freefall almost from the inception of the country. I can only imagine how worse it might have been back then if they had AR-15s and AK-47s. Remember, these are the days when people thought it was honorable to kill each other in a duel over a slight insult. Imagine how many duels would have been fought here on SI if we sill believed that. Some in Rajesh's music threads would either be a mass murderer or dead 18 times....

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

TylerR wrote:

The Dayton killer used an AR-15 pistol with a 100 round drum magazine (WSJ article this morning). I'm quite sure the framers of the Bill of Rights had that in mind when they drafted the 2nd Amendment ... 

Just like they had religious terrorism and Twitter mobs in view when they drafted the 1st...

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

When a society gets to the point when mass shootings happen on a too frequent basis, it may be time that we the people (through our representative government) limit the easy availability of the types of firearms most commonly used in these shootings. I own firearms. I value the second amendment. But sadly, our society seems unable to address the issues that keep people from using certain firearms to inflict mass carnage.

A fundamental change has occurred in our culture. Whatever restraints prevented people in the past from going to their local shopping center and blowing people away are no longer in place. We must respond accordingly.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

FAIRFAX, Va.–   Our deepest sympathies are with the families and victims of these tragedies, as well as the entire communities of El Paso and Dayton. On behalf of our millions of members, we salute the courage of the first responders and others offering their services during this time.

The NRA is committed to the safe and lawful use of firearms by those exercising their Second Amendment freedoms. We will not participate in the politicizing of these tragedies but, as always, we will work in good faith to pursue real solutions that protect us all from people who commit these horrific acts.  -NRA

https://home.nra.org/nra-statement-on-texas-ohio-tragedies/

David R. Brumbelow

TylerR's picture

Editor

Churches need to speak out forcefully and aggressively against white nationalist evil, particularly in areas where this toxic ideology flourishes. For what its worth, here is my imprecatory prayer against the two gunmen from church this past Sunday.

For that matter, how many pastors speak out directly and clearly against the moral madness we're seeing in our society? After considering the cost of not addressing these issues head on, I'm in the middle of a multi-part series on identity, feelings, homosexuality and trangenderism and what true justice is. I'm doing one sermon a month on this series. We plan to begin advertising and pushing back against these destructive, sad ideologies.

In Olympia, WA this isn't happening. Churches tuck themselves into a shell and don't touch it. We can't do that, brothers!

The Gospel is the only vehicle for true recolcilation, purpose and meaning. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

David R. Brumbelow's picture

One of the 10 Commandments, that are not supposed to be displayed on public property, just happens to say,

You Shall Not Murder.”  Exodus 20:13 NKJV

Maybe we can post it in our public schools?  No, it will not solve all problems and murders, but it could help a little. 

I think I’ll put it on our church sign.  Maybe it will help someone... 

David R. Brumbelow

Bert Perry's picture

Worth noting is that in the Founding era, the right to keep and bear arms included cannon, and merchant ships routinely had cannon on board.  Also worth noting is that the Mormons took two cannon west with them when my ancestors chased them out of Nauvoo.

I would dare suggest that a cannon loaded with grapeshot or hot shot (to light buildings on fire) would be far more lethal than an AR-15, especially in light of the medical practices of the time.  It's also worth noting that large drum magazines are notorious for jamming--the Army and Marines used stick magazines for their Thompsons for a reason during WWII.  We don't have the play by play from Dayton, but it wouldn't surprise me if a jam saved a few lives there.  

We also need to be aware of the political narrative here.  Before the bodies were cold, and before anyone knew squat about the shooters or their weapons, the Democrats were demanding universal background checks and assault weapons bans.  It turns out that both shooters passed a Brady check, and when I watched video of the police response in Dayton, most of the officers were holding a pistol, not an assault rifle, as they charged the shooter.  The old proverb "act in haste, repent at leisure" comes to mind.   The wrong solution can be worse than nothing at all, and let's remember the worst mass killings in our history did not involve guns.  They--9/11, OKC, Bath MI--involved bombs and planes used as projectiles.  

I am guessing that as investigators interview the acquaintances of the shooters, what they're going to find is that a lot of people had clear signs that there was something very wrong with the shooters, but did not take action.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dgszweda's picture

GregH wrote:

The homicide rate in the US has been in a freefall almost from the inception of the country. I can only imagine how worse it might have been back then if they had AR-15s and AK-47s. Remember, these are the days when people thought it was honorable to kill each other in a duel over a slight insult. Imagine how many duels would have been fought here on SI if we sill believed that. Some in Rajesh's music threads would either be a mass murderer or dead 18 times....

It is really high capacity magazines that are the problem.  An AR-15 is just a normal hunting rifle, with a bunch of rails to attach things to.

On a side note, I do not see any reason why a 100 round magazine should be sold.  If the shooter did get an AR-15 pistol (i.e. short barrel), that requires an ATF license to purchase and they are not legal to sell without one.  The license is expensive, requires a lot of background information and takes 6-12 months to get.  I know the news has reported on this shortened barrel, but I am not sure that is what he really had.

Guns is definitely the vehicle these guys are using today.  In the 1980's and 1990's it was bombs (Unabomber, Oklahoma Federal Building, World Trade Center...).  If we only focus on limiting the weapons (which I think is a good idea), we miss the real issue, which is the internet allowing extremism to flourish and us as a society not addressing extremism and mental health issues.  Most of these shooters show issues prior to shooting.  With the taking away of guns, they will resort to other mechanisms.  With the country awash in guns I am not sure if limiting them will have a major impact since almost everyone has one or has access to one in the US.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

dgszweda wrote:

It is really high capacity magazines that are the problem.  An AR-15 is just a normal hunting rifle, with a bunch of rails to attach things to.

On a side note, I do not see any reason why a 100 round magazine should be sold.  If the shooter did get an AR-15 pistol (i.e. short barrel), that requires an ATF license to purchase and they are not legal to sell without one.  The license is expensive, requires a lot of background information and takes 6-12 months to get.  I know the news has reported on this shortened barrel, but I am not sure that is what he really had.

Guns is definitely the vehicle these guys are using today.  In the 1980's and 1990's it was bombs (Unabomber, Oklahoma Federal Building, World Trade Center...).  If we only focus on limiting the weapons (which I think is a good idea), we miss the real issue, which is the internet allowing extremism to flourish and us as a society not addressing extremism and mental health issues.  Most of these shooters show issues prior to shooting.  With the taking away of guns, they will resort to other mechanisms.  With the country awash in guns I am not sure if limiting them will have a major impact since almost everyone has one or has access to one in the US.

Good reminder.  I just ordered 5 more AK mags and 5 more AR mags before they become difficult or impossible to get.

As to AR pistol builds, they can be done without the whole NFA processing if done properly (e.g. no stock, no vertical foregrip, but you can have the short barrel).  If the shooter knew what he was doing, he could have done it legally in most states without the extra ATF license, and it would still have been fairly concealable.  But that's beside the point.  You're correct that limiting firearms now will have little effect.  Anyone planning to murder people will use whatever they can get hold of, legal or not.  He's not going to care whether a gun is illegal or not if he can get one (and plenty will -- it's only us who want to stay on the right side of the law who won't be willing to use illegitimate sources).  In this particular case, where there's no confusion as to the actual guilt, he should have a swift trial, and if guilty, execution, his name kept out of the press and his body secretly cremated and disposed of so there is no remembrance, no notoriety, and no pilgrimmages.

I'm not sure what the right way to handle this problem is, but if people think that evil and murder will not flourish if tools are made illegal, they have another (unpleasant) think coming.

Dave Barnhart

Bert Perry's picture

....David, guns are what they're using here, but other nations have mass killings with knives and bombs.  China's mass killings with knives are killing dozens at a time at places like subway stations, and ISIS bombings in Syria and elsewhere do the same.  And the Boston Marathon bombing isn't that long ago, no?  You've got to look to "what could be" as well as "what is", economic alternatives and all.  

In that light, gun bans, or even large capacity magazine bans, are merely a start to a game of "whack-a-mole" that could end up with the results being even more lethal.  The "nice" thing about gun violence is that not only do guns jam, especially with monster magazines, but they also (even with silencers) have an unmistakable sound that allows first responders to know precisely what's going on.  Imagine, for example, if instead of smuggling his rifles into a casino hotel, the Las Vegas shooter had smuggled that weight in a bomb by the stage.  Or the Orlando shooter.

Also worth noting is that civilian ownership of guns is banned in Mexico and Venezuela, and murder rates there make Baltimore and St. Louis look safe in comparison. 

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Bert Perry wrote:

It's also worth noting that large drum magazines are notorious for jamming--the Army and Marines used stick magazines for their Thompsons for a reason during WWII.  We don't have the play by play from Dayton, but it wouldn't surprise me if a jam saved a few lives there. 

I haven't had the drum magazine on my Thompson jam yet, but they are heavy, noisy, unwieldy, and difficult to load (both adding bullets and inserting into the gun) quickly.  I'm sure those problems (except for weight) are easy to solve on a modern firearm, but as you point out, stick mags are dead simple, and easy to make fairly large (long) without making them too difficult to conceal.

No matter what type of magazine he used, the police were able in the Dayton case to respond quickly.  If the shooter's weapon jammed, all the better.  Personally, I think that if AR mags are hard to get in large sizes, what will happen is that people will just carry multiple pistols if they can't get illegal magazines.  Someone will find a way to kill if they really want to.  We have to dig much deeper to solve this issue.

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

I understand that particular weapon bans will not solve the (heart / mental illness) problem, but banning certain firearms / accessories that have a higher lethality rate may help reduce the mass casualties. Yes, people can shoot canons, build bombs, or stab people, but most people can't carry a canon into a school, bomb building (I imagine) takes significantly more effort than pulling a trigger, and people have a better chance of running away / defending themselves against a knife attack than an AR-15 attack.

 I would not be in favor of a total gun ban, and that would be unconstitutional. But, I am in favor of banning certain types of firearms / accessories and making them less accessible to the general population.

TylerR's picture

Editor

Not saying we should ban guns. Just making observation! America's culture of outdoors and sportsman recreational hobbies, and the 2nd Amendment, make this unwinnable and impractical from a policy standpoint. 

Tyler is a pastor in Olympia, WA and an Investigations Manager with a Washington State agency. He's the author of the book What's It Mean to Be a Baptist?

Bert Perry's picture

Tom, regarding the difficulty of a mass killing with a bomb, the Boston Marathon criminals simply carried the pressure cooker in a backpack.  20-30 lbs, maybe, and it's well known that terrorists in the Middle East simply use spare artillery rounds and land mines connected to a cell phone with not much more weight.  Ugly reality is that killing a bunch of people is, at least from a physical standpoint, not that hard whether you have available guns or not, as the British are learning--they're actually starting to pass laws banning knives with points, which will not do much to help the English reputation for culinary excellence.  

(my apologies to Englishmen and Anglophiles for repeating the stereotype that ignores their very real culinary achievements, BTW)

Overall, though, if you can wield a sword or machete, pour powder into a pressure cooker and attach a fuse, or drive a motor vehicle, the ugly reality is that you can kill a lot of people.  Thank God it's emotionally and psychologically more difficult!

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

T Howard's picture

Bert Perry wrote:

Tom, regarding the difficulty of a mass killing with a bomb, the Boston Marathon criminals simply carried the pressure cooker in a backpack.  20-30 lbs, maybe, and it's well known that terrorists in the Middle East simply use spare artillery rounds and land mines connected to a cell phone with not much more weight.

When's the last time someone in the US was killed with a spare artillery round or land mine connected to a cell phone? Why? How many pressure-cooker bombs have been used in the US?

Quote:
Overall, though, if you can wield a sword or machete, pour powder into a pressure cooker and attach a fuse, or drive a motor vehicle, the ugly reality is that you can kill a lot of people. 

Yep, banning weapons doesn't change the heart. My point is that we can take steps to make it more difficult for people to inflict mass casualties, or at least give victims a fighting chance to defend themselves.

David R. Brumbelow's picture

Apparently, the El Paso, TX murderer was Right Wing; the Dayton, OH murderer was Left Wing. 

Just shows evil, hate, extremism can come from the Right, or the Left.  Let’s all watch out. 

David R. Brumbelow

dgszweda's picture

Well I am for some form of gun control.  What I think will happen is that the NRA will continue to hold their ground, politicians will refuse to do something and then what will eventually happen is that instead of logically gun control, there will be large bans of weapons.  If the NRA was smart they would start putting together smart legislation around gun control (close loopholds, ban high capacity magazines, complete background checks and an integrated federal/state system...) . None of these would infringe on people who legitimately can have a firearm have a firearm.  I don't think an assault weapons ban will do anything at the end of the day.  Except for the high capacity magazine element, they really are just an average firearm.  The previous ban was shown not to really have an affect.  The reason why everyone is using them is just that they are a popular gun, therefore they are the most sold.  They can also be very cheap (as cheap as $500 new).

Mark_Smith's picture

dcbii wrote:

 I just ordered 5 more AK and 5 more AR mags before they become difficult or impossible to get.

Wow... given that AK's are something like at least $600 a piece, and can be $1600 +, you had at least $3000 sitting around and spent it on semi-automatic rifles. I must be in the wrong profession!

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

Mark_Smith wrote:

Wow... given that AK's are something like at least $600 a piece, and can be $1600 +, you had at least $3000 sitting around and spent it on semi-automatic rifles. I must be in the wrong profession!

I think my grammar was unclear.  I just ordered 5 AK magazines and 5 AR magazines.  I already owned the AK and the AR.

Yeah, I think it would be nice too if I could afford to buy 5 rifles at a pop!  Not likely on a software engineer's salary! Smile

(And to be quite honest, if I were really spending that kind of money that easily on a hobby, I might have to rethink my priorities!)

Dave Barnhart

Barry L.'s picture

None of these kids have a fear of an Almighty God and eternal consequences of their actions.

Mark_Smith's picture

Great! I'd be glad if you had the money to do it... but I wasn't sure that anyone needs 5 AK's!

Bert Perry's picture

My take, again, is you need to answer whether it would, indeed, help.  For example, the Democrats respond to every atrocity with a plea for universal background checks.  Ugly fact; all of the recent mass murderers have bought their weapons with a background check, save the kid who killed his mom and stole her rifles.  So universal background checks would do precisely nothing to alleviate these crimes.

The left/gun control advocates are on better ground when they suggest a semi-auto ban, but again, the ugly fact is that when the government examined the results of the 1994 ban, they concluded it had no overall effect on crime.  In fact, the BATFE notes that out of ~ 17000 murders each year, only a few hundred are committed using long guns of all sorts.  You then have the task of figuring out what measures will actually reduce the even smaller portion which are mass shootings using AR platform weapons.  

Take the AR out of the perp's hands in these two cases, and odds are that he simply chooses another weapon that is just as lethal.  It might be a pistol or two with extra magazines, a truck, a pressure cooker bomb, sarin gas, or a good stout knife or sword.  Keep in mind here that the average mass shooter is trying to make a scene, and he's going to do what it takes to do that--the tool matters only as much as it makes the scene.

That's why the NRA stands against the current proposals, with the exception (at times) of red flag laws.  The data simply do not indicate that crime rates will be reduced.  You also have the very ugly fact that all of the nastiest genocides of the 20th century were preceded by gun confiscation, for the intuitive reason that the secret police have the same allergy to copper clad lead that you and I do. 

So a lot of gun owners, myself included, stand strongly against anything that would create a registry of gun owners that the government could use for confiscation.  There are simply too many graves filled with the victims of governments--over 100 million due to the Holocaust, Cultural Revolution, Killing Fields, Soviet atrocities, etc..--to ignore this reality.  And if you doubt it could happen here, just talk to a Native American or African-American.  

Aspiring to be a stick in the mud.

Aaron Blumer's picture

EditorAdmin

Barry L. wrote:

None of these kids have a fear of an Almighty God and eternal consequences of their actions.

To put the same truth positively, none had a knowledge of God and of what a priceless opportunity this life is to do things that will matter forever -- by serving Him.

Meaning, morality, and true joy all derive from recognizing that life is stewardship. 

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

I grew up with guns. I was taught to respect them, how to safely use them, and to enjoy them. I hunted in my teens and enjoyed going to the range with my dad. I still love going to the range. I am a responsible, law abiding gun owner.

The end game here for most advocating for further gun restrictions is gun confiscation. Biden said nearly as much: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/joe-biden-says-he-%E2%80%98going-.... Think of what he is proposing. He is advocating for forced possession of private property by  the government. Even if they institute a forced "buy-back" program, the cost alone would be prohibitive. On the lower side, there are an estimated 5,000,000 AR-15s owned by the general public. Lets assume a market rate of $500 (which is really low, actually). That's $2.5 billion just to buy back one type of weapon. That doesn't even include AK-47s or any other of the number of different styles and manufacturers of "assault style" rifles. And these are rifles that are already made and in private hands. Politicians know that a new assault rifle ban would really do little, following their logic, because so many exist pre-ban and would, therefore, be grandfathered in. This is why confiscation is the ultimate endgame for them. And why stop at "assult rifles"? Why not also have a forced government confiscation of handguns, which are responsible for the vast majority of gun violence in the US?

I also worry about "red flag" laws. They are ripe for vindictive abuse. All someone needs to do is watch Judge Judy and see that people file frivolous PFAs all the time. The bill of rights is there to protect individuals from losing those rights without due process. Red Flag laws seemingly sidestep due process. And I also worry about how those laws would be enforced regarding "mental health." If someone ever took an anti-depressant, would they be banned from gun ownership? Who is determining what mental health issues rise to the level of triggering a red flag?

The reality is that there is no legislative answer for this. As long as sin exists, violence will exist. If the goal is to stop violence, then, ultimately, the only answer is the gospel.

Phil Golden

GregH's picture

It is so weird to me that the pro-gun crowd takes this anti-law approach to guns saying that because people are sinners, laws would not work. It is ironic because they are normally conservative and pro-law on everything else. I don't see them applying the same principles to abortion for example. Or car theft. Or for that matter, nuclear bombs.

It is also really hard to understand why people that probably as a rule do not hunt or shoot recreationally are so passionate about this. Maybe it is about the whole idea of having guns to stand up to the government. If so, here is a newsflash: no one is going to keep the government out of their home with a handgun or even an assault rifle. Maybe that would have worked in 1776 but not now.

 

Philip Golden Jr.'s picture

Those who advocate for gun owners rights are not anti-law. We are against laws that infringe on freedom without cause. The reality is that no proposal being floated by anyone will really do anything to curb the majority of gun violence in America. Yes, there are a minority of people who do terrible things with guns. The answer is not found in laws that take away freedoms from the majority of gun owners who lawfully own and use their guns.

And, if we are going to talk about being anti-law, those who seek to restrict or... ahem.... infringe on gun rights are the ones who are actually anti-law since the 2nd amendment is part of the supreme legal document of the US.

Phil Golden

dcbii's picture

EditorModerator

GregH wrote:

Maybe it is about the whole idea of having guns to stand up to the government. If so, here is a newsflash: no one is going to keep the government out of their home with a handgun or even an assault rifle. Maybe that would have worked in 1776 but not now.

Greg, I think that view is looking at it wrong.  If one family wanted to rebel against the government, that wouldn't have worked even in 1776.  Yes, back then citizens could privately own cannons, but the town militia would easily have been able to deal with one family or even a small group of them.

I have no preconception that my limited amount of firepower could stand up against the police, let alone national guard, even if I were to join with some of my neighbors.  The idea is that if there are a large enough number of people that own guns, it wouldn't be that simple to just start tyrannizing the populace large-scale.  But even the American war of independence had to start somewhere, whether Lexington or Concord, or anywhere else.  I'm sure those few citizens had no thought that alone they could stand up to Britain.  But they could get something started.  And you know what -- it might have failed.  But it didn't.

I rather doubt that unless the goal is extinction, US nuclear or biological weapons would be used against the U.S. populace.  Plus, there would be a significant faction of the police and national guard that would question using that type of deadly force against the populace if enough of them were to stand up to tyranny.  In other words, the idea of an armed populace being useful against a tyrannical government only works if it's bought into by everyone or at least a significant fraction of the populace.  I agree with you that a few crazy "preppers" are not going to make any dent on their own.  It has to be the American people in general.

Given the way people seem to be willing to take the rights of others in the name of their ideology, I'm actually happy that there are somewhere near 300 million weapons in this country in the hands of private citizens that at least would give pause to someone thinking they could seize power easily outside of the mechanisms our government has in place.  Are weapons what I put my hope in as a Christian?  Hardly.  But since I can legally own them, and since I do agree with the founders that an unarmed populace is more likely to end up subjects than citizens, I'm going to own them as long as I can.  I may eventually have to give them up to be in proper Christian subjection to the "higher powers" that are ordained of God.  In the mean time, I'll do whatever I can to not be placed in that position.  In that I believe I'm no different than the apostle Paul using his rights as a Roman citizen to appeal against his unjust imprisonment.

Dave Barnhart

T Howard's picture

Quote:
The end game here for most advocating for further gun restrictions is gun confiscation. Biden said nearly as much: https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/joe-biden-says-he-%E2%80%98going-.... Think of what he is proposing. He is advocating for forced possession of private property by  the government.

I would advocate banning AR-15 and similar types of firearms / accessories, but I wouldn't advocate confiscating them. I would make them very hard to acquire, like fully automatic firearms are now.

What does this accomplish? First, for someone who wants to buy this type of firearm with the intent to inflict mass casualties, it takes these types of options off the table. Case in point, a guy couldn't walk into a gun shop, buy an AR-15 with multiple 100 round magazines, and use it later to inflict mass casualties. Yes, he could steal one. Yes, he could find an alternative (knife, shotgun, handgun).  However, shotguns and handguns are not as accurate and lethal at distance as long rifles.

I am focused primarily on helping to prevent mass shootings. These could be hindered / prevented if we take away the tools most commonly used to perpetrate them.

As for standing up to government with your "well-armed militia," good luck with that.