Whenever a series of seemingly “non-random” acts of violence are perpetrated, everyone’s obsessed with finding “the cause”, as if somehow that will make us safer. “Mass shootings”—where one perpetrator, typically armed with multiple firearms, kills four or more (the baseline death toll for meeting the definition of mass shooting)—have so many bogus patterns theorized that they really have none. Every agenda seems to spawn it’s own set of explanations and theories plumbing the dark recesses of the perpetrators’ minds.
So, mass shootings. We have easy access to guns. We have a “frontier mentality.” We have a media that only censors when it self-censors (if our press wants to tell a story, it can). We’re a huge country with a huge population, and a far less obedient, “pacified” attitude than our neutered Canadian and Western European pals. Even our poorest denizens have access to mood-altering meds for mental illness, but at the same time, we have a system that places freedom for the mentally unstable above forced institutionalization, so mental cases who choose to go unmedicated can wander freely among us. To make matters murkier, publicity-seeking gurus try to tag every act with a greater agenda, like terrorism or white nationalism. Back in 2002, ancient history, sniper-style attacks all but paralyzed the nation’s capital, as people were shot at random while going about their everyday life — pumping gas, buying groceries, and for one young boy, as he went to school. The shooters—John Allen Muhammad and Lee Malvo, used a high-powered rifle, firing from the trunk of a modified Chevy Caprice until they were tracked down at a Maryland rest stop. Muhammad was executed in Virginia in 2009. Even CNN simply reported the circumstances of his execution without pontificating or blaming racism or some other ism. Ancient history indeed.
The Virginia legislature had passed an anti terrorism law after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, envisioning al Qaeda-style terrorism. The law defines terrorism as a crime committed with “the intent to intimidate or coerce a civilian population or influence the policy, conduct or activities of the government … through intimidation or coercion.” Prosecutors said the circumstances of the October 2002 sniper spree fit that definition of terrorism like a glove. Muhammad and Malvo demanded a $10 million payment from the government to stop the shootings and left notes at shooting scenes promising “more body bags” if their demands weren’t met. That’s before white nationalism or supremacy became a thing. Both Muhammad and Malvo were black, but so were some of their victims. There were various theories, including Gulf War Syndrome, Islamic terrorism (Muhammad had joined the Nation of Islam previously), but the $10 million “ransom” demanded loomed larger than the theories.
Most mass shooters are nonideological, and among those who do possess some type of political agenda, you’ll find far-leftists (Colin Ferguson, James Hodgkinson, Micah Johnson), far-rightists (Dylann Roof, Buford Furrow, Robert Bowers), jihadis (Omar Mateen, Nidal Hasan, Hesham Hadayet), and even a bicyclists’ rights activist (failed congressional candidate Alan Winterbourne, who killed three government bureaucrats and a cop after years of railing against traffic tickets for cyclists who run stop signs). Sometimes people do terrible things because they’re rebelling against their instruction (the whole “most Satanists were raised Christian” thing). The Columbine kids embraced Hitler because they knew society disapproved. Regarding religion, Sutherland church shooter Devin Kelley and Amish schoolhouse shooter Charles Roberts had both been deeply religious at one time. Roberts, in fact, framed his massacre as an act of rebellion against a God he absolutely believed in. They had not lacked moral instruction. They’d had plenty of it, and they chose to rebel.
Consider the following questions: 1- From the perspective of a resident of Washington DC, what’s scarier, a person out in the open, killing 10 people in the course of two minutes, or a hidden sniper, using a bolt action hunting rifle to kill 10 people seemingly at random over a period of a month? I think the latter is much more frightening. 2- If you were in a restaurant or schoolroom, and a shooter entered, brandishing an automatic rifle, what would be preferable, an armed citizen who was immediately able to dispatch the killer with a headshot, or waiting 10 for S.W.A.T. to show up with overwhelming firepower? 3- Whether fearing a sniper or the shooter in question 2, what is uppermost in your mind, “what is his motivation” or “how do I save lives, including my own?” 4- What are the families of shooting victims more outraged about, the sniper who demands $10 million or the ideological idiot who penned a manifesto? Are these purely theoretical questions? If you say yes, then you either don’t think you’re in any danger from “mass shooters”, or you think those acts are rare enough that they aren’t something to give much thought to. If you say no, and are really taking those questions seriously, then how useful are the “more gun control” arguments or the half-baked theories of motivation?
In 2019, it seems that just about any “non-random act of violence” becomes the “crisis” du jour, a vessel to fill with useless theories that promote someone’s agenda. As I write this, an email came in discussing stabbings in Sydney, Australia, in which a man absconded from a mental hospital killed a 21 year old woman and injured a 41 year old man. Of course as soon as something like this happens the news goes worldwide and is added to on social media. People have already speculated that this was an Islamist attack because the attacker was shouting Allahu Akbar and had material about the New Zealand mosque massacre and the recent mass shootings in the US. It turns out the woman was a prostitute he was “visiting.” Neither logic nor facts will deter the publicity-seeking theorists.
There’s something that CAN give comfort. I SUGGEST YOU WATCH THE MOVIE, The 15:17 to Paris, in which three American friends-Alek Skarlatos, Anthony Sadler, Spencer Stone-and another traveler subdue a lone wolf terrorist armed with automatic weapons, before he can get many shots off. It may not be a great movie, especially because the actual three friends play themselves, but their bravery saved a lot of lives. They were ready to sacrifice themselves to save lives. Would that the rest of us contemplate heroism rather than speculation!