I know I said a couple of weeks ago, after the shootings/stabbings in California, that I was going to wait and show respect for the dead before I wrote any of my opinions on fire arms. And then, there was the pre-teen girls stabbing their friend, a shooting at a college in the Pacific Northwest and the shooting at Las Vegas over the weekend. So, no I can’t just wait.
There are a couple of lines being advanced right now in the media:
- One in the wake of the California shooting: it’s white, heterosexual misogynists that are doing this, and guns.
- The other is that Congress should enact gun control to stop the shootings
Let me take the second one, first, because it’s the easiest. Gun laws will stop the shootings. If that were true then Chicago would have had among the lowest homicide rates in the U.S., at least from 2008 – 2013. Chicago had some of the strictest gun control laws in the U.S. during those years. But at that time, it also had one of the highest homicide rates in the nation.
Let’s compare Chicago to Houston: about the same size, about the same population, similar demographic mix of rich, poor, Anglos and minorities. Houston had a significantly — not drastically, but significantly — lower homicide rate than Chicago for the same period 2008 – 2013. During those years (and still today) Houston also had over 1000 stores and gun ranges where law-abiding citizens could legally purchase and train in the proper and ethical use of fire arms. Chicago in that period had one store/range where citizens could legally purchase and train in the use of firearms.
If keeping firearms out of the hands of the law-abiding citizens was the answer Chicago would have had a lower homicide rate than Houston. Part of the answer is keeping firearms out of the hands of criminals. It is a Federal crime for any citizen who has been convicted of a violent felony to own a firearm. That law has strict penalties. It was under-enforced in Chicago during most of the period from 2008 – 2013. If we sent criminal offenders with prior felony convictions to prison for a long time for possession of firearms, fewer of them would re-offend with firearms.
Now, let’s consider the white, male, heterosexual misogynist offender theory. I’m going off the top of my head here, so my friend Andrew Rohrer can pick me apart in the comments. Let’s go back to the Newtown, Connecticut shooting and consider major killings since then.
Newtown, Connecticut: white male with prior history of mental problems steals his mother’s firearms, murders her and then proceeds to murder over 20 children at the school where she taught. The school of course was a gun-free zone.
Within a day or two of that incident, a man in China killed over 20 with knives.
Next, the Washington Navy Yard shootings: a black man with a prior history of mental illness steals guns from security police at the Navy Yard, and kills several. The Navy Yard is a gun-free zone.
Last summer there was a shooting spree in California, in which a dark-skinned male (of Hispanic and/or African and Anglo descent) shot several people, including law enforcement, in several cities and was stopped in a shoot-out in the mountains. I don’t know if this shooter had a history of mental problems or not, but he had an internet manifesto in which he enthusiastically described his ideal liberal/progressive utopia.
Also last summer, the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado: a young, white male in a PhD program, who also had a history of mental problems shot several in a movie theater that was a gun-free zone.
This past April, at Fort Hood, a Puerto Rican male, under evaluation for possible Post-Traumatic Stress, and under treatment for depression, shot and killed several soldiers. Fort Hood is a gun-free zone.
A few weeks ago a young male college student, whose father was white and whose mother was at least partly Asia, who had a history of psychiatric counseling back to grade school, stabbed three and shot three at a college in Southern California. Another gun-free zone.
A week ago, a young man with a Hispanic name shoot several at a college in Seattle, where not even the campus security had firearms. One news report indicated the shooter spoke of ‘rage inside.’ Another news report said the suspect was armed with a firearm and a hunting knife. Clearly not a well man, this suspect picked a gun-free zone for his attempted killing spree.
This past weekend in Las Vegas, a white man and his white girlfriend shot two police officers and covered their bodies in a Nazi flag. Then the girl shot concealed carry permit holder (white male) who was attempting to apprehend her man. Then the boyfriend and girlfriend shot each other. I don’t know if they had a history of mental problems. There’s a photo of them together with him dressed as the Joker and her dressed as Harley Quinn. But that photo doesn’t matter, because I’ve never heard of any shootings or stabbings at any Comic or Sci-fi convention where nearly everyone is dressed in costume. However, they shot each other at the end. I think she shot him, then herself. A murder – suicide pact of some sort, these killers were clearly not sane, even if they weren’t diagnosed.
The two pre-teen girls who stabbed their friend in Wisconsin don’t count for purposes of my argument, because there was only one victim. I’m talking mass killings.
So, we have nine incidents in which men conducted killing/attempted killing sprees armed with firearms and knives. The woman is an outlier. Let’s look for commonalities and differences. Race: 1 Asian, 2 mixed, 2 Hispanic, 1 Black/African-American, 3 white. Weapons carried or employed: 7 fire arms, 1 knife, 1 both. Prior history of mental problems: 5 definite, 3 probable, and one mass-killing in another country where we don’t know if the killer had a prior history of mental problems. Gun-free zones: 6.
So, 7 of the spree killings/ attempted spree killings used firearms. How many firearms are there in the United States? Millions. So, millions of firearms were not used in spree killings or attempted spree killings. National crime statistics also report that blunt-force trauma is the most common cause of death in murders. And there are more people killed and maimed in car wrecks, than with firearms. So, it isn’t the gun.
We have a cross-section of races among our killers. So, it isn’t just the white guy.
Eight of nine suspects had obvious indications of mental instability or documented history of mental problems.
Six of nine incidents occurred in gun-free zones.
Maybe the problem is gun-free zones.
Maybe the problem is mentally unstable individuals unable to be committed to institutions.
Maybe the problem isn’t white men.
This is only nine incidents and the facts are off the top of my head, except for the one in Seattle. But the problem definitely isn’t guns or weapons, and it isn’t sane people.
So, if we’re going to have a national conversation about mass-killings and attempted mass-killings, we need to have an honest conversation, that looks at more than just race and weapon. We need to look at mental illness and other factors that I didn’t consider here: things like value system of the shooter/stabber, value system of home of origin, role of father, role of mother, role of books, radio, TV, movies and video-games. But we can’t make policy or amend the constitution based on a whim. It needs to be an honest, open conversation that considers all the factors.
Thank you for reading.
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Views and opinions expressed in these writings are my own, unless attributed or documented to someone else, and either way are not necessarily those of my employers.