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We will not end mass shootings until we deal with the mind of the shooter

We will not end mass shootings until we deal with the mind of the shooter

While the headline refers to “the gun issue,” what we really need to address is “the crime issue.”  Understandably, a mass shooting draws a lot of media attention.  They result in multiple deaths – usually, but not always, of innocent people in a single event.

Conversely, individual murders that happen on a daily basis account for many times more people being killed in acts of violence.  On any weekend – every weekend — in America, more people will be murdered than in the worst of the mass shootings.  Most will die from gunshots, but many more from other means – knives, bludgeons, poison, vehicles, or bare hands.

Guns get the most attention because they are involved in most of the killings – especially those that take down innocent people for no apparent reason.  And it is not just mass shooters.  We have an entire other category labeled “serial killers.”  They were the rage in a past era.

In many ways, murder is like cancer.  There are many types – and each must be diagnosed and treated differently.  We have to address the specific incidents and take a deeper dive when patterns appear.

While the political debate centers on the gun, that is likely the least productive approach to reducing mass shootings.  In addressing the issue, however, we should recognize that it is NOT the primary CAUSE.  These crimes are committed by people.  Somewhere at the foundation is a cultural explanation for mass shootings that have evolved in America in the past 50 years.

In investigating crimes, the first concern is … motivation.  Why did that person commit that crime?  Find motivation and you have a killer.  Does a gun have the motivation?  Does a gun have the ability to act independently?  Do guns get indicted and incarcerated in any crime in which they are involved?  Of course not.

There are two facets to the gun/murder/crime issue in America – enforcement and prevention.  Crimes flourish when there is a lack of enforcement.  At Uvalde and Parkland, we saw tragic failures of enforcement and prevention on a grand scale.  But we see evergreen enforcement failures thousands of times every day in America – as police, prosecutors and judges do not apply the full force of the law.

Enforcement is what we do – or do not do – at the time of the crime and the legal actions that follow.  In terms of this commentary, that is an issue for a later time.  So, what about prevention.  That is the issue of the day no matter if you are focused on guns or mental health.

Recognizing that mass killings have become part of our nature, we need to take direct action to mitigate the problem.  That includes – but is not exclusive to — the use of guns or any other weapon of choice.  We also need to understand that the problem goes well beyond mass shootings.

So, what remedial steps are needed to address the current crimes?

The first step is hardening the targets, especially schools because they have become the target of choice in the most senseless and depraved killings – and because we owe a heightened level of protection to the most innocent and the most vulnerable.  

Banks maintain guards, alarm systems, and even chemical countermeasure because they are natural targets for crime.   After 9/11, government and private buildings, airports, and entertainment venues installed all kinds of defensive measures – barriers, metal detectors, armed guards, body searches, bomb-sniffing dogs, no-fly lists, mandatory photo IDs, and others.

We have also added protection to our schools.  Locked doors, resource officers (that we dare not call “armed guards” for political reasons).  They have proven to be insufficient because school unions and Democrat politicians beholding to school unions refuse to take additional security procedures – such as allowing “resource officers” to have so-called assault weapons.  They say it looks bad.  Worse than 19 dead children huddled in a bloody corner?  The school unions protest having armed teachers, but, then again, they have never been a positive force in education.

Those who focus on guns complain that the deranged killers often have more firepower than the security forces.  That should make amping up the firepower of security forces a no-brainer.  Schools may need more than one “resource person” on duty at strategic locations at all times.  Not some guy or gal who moseys around and goes out on a coffee.  Arming teachers would increase the defensive fire power.

The most important preventative measure is to identify and stop those planning or potential planning a senseless mass killing – for whatever reason.  Obviously, we have failed to do that – or we would not have this horrific history of mass shootings.

We have made initial steps in that direction with so called “red flag laws” that enable people to report persons who show evidence of potential murder – most give strong indications of their intentions to family, and friends, and most importantly on social media can see their malignant intents and mindsets.

The problem with new regulations, procedures, and restrictions is that they are well intentioned and even good ideas, but they will not do diddly-squat in changing the culture – in getting to the bottom of why America stands out in mass murders – at least if you do not include in the calculation the mass murder culture of Islamic terrorists.

Ironically, there may not be much more that we can do since most of these horrific crimes occur when current rules and procedures are not followed.  People do not say something when they see something – or worse, authorities do not respond when they are informed.  

Red flag laws that are designed to interdict the potential shooter are not triggered.  Shooters who should not have a gun – felons and mental patients – are able to obtain guns illegally. Doors that should be locked are not.  “Resource persons” are not on campus or do not do their job.  Parkland and Uvalde are both examples of those failures.

Doors should be locked, but the rule was bent by a teacher who left the door unlocked in order to return from the parking lot.  I attended school more than 70 years ago.  At the time, my elementary school – and later high school –had doors that automatically locked from the outside when they closed.  We had what was called “panic bars” on the inside to exit.  And that was before mass shootings.  I have been in buildings in which one-way emergency exits are equipped with alarms – silent and public.

There is still room to improve protective and preventative measures.  

There are reasonable gun laws that could be enacted.  Of course.   have previously called for a ban on bump stocks that turn a legal semi-automatic rifle into an illegal automatic rifle.  That should be a no-brainer.

Universal background checks are a no-brainer – although how they are administered and implemented can be debatable in terms of both First and Second Amendment rights.  

You cannot identify the felon or the mentally ill unless you can check a database.  I have supported a three-day “cooling off” period between the purchase and receipt of the gun while databases are checked.  That might have made a difference in Uvalde.

But database checking is only as good as the data it contains and the willingness to check it out.  Many states have laws that forbid ownership of guns by people who have spent in treatment for mental illness.

Large volume magazines should require a special permit, if not outlawed altogether.  But even that puts only a small impediment in the way of mass shootings.  Magazines can be changed in just a couple of seconds.  However, those hospital records are not always provided to the database – and states do not have a common national database.  A ban on gun ownership that was applied in one state is not seen on the database of another state.

Banning the so-called “assault rifle” is relatively meaningless since it mechanically operates like any other semi-automatic weapon.  You must pull the trigger for each bullet – and you can do that in a fraction of a second for each shot.  The essential difference between a “regular” rifle and the so-called “assault rifle” is how they look.  Even the old assault rifle ban dealt with features, not the basic operation of the gun itself.

Age restrictions are also problematic – although they are constitutional.  My state of Florida currently has a restriction on the purchase until the age of 21.

The problem lies in the fact that owning a gun is a constitutional right.  Driver licenses and the consumption of alcohol are not rights.  They are what are legally known as “privileges.”  They can be regulated.  Unlike cars, guns are legally used by youngsters of almost any age – sports shooting and hunting with mom or dad.  

Age restrictions in terms of purchasing a gun are not as effective as people might think since POSSESSION by youngsters is perfectly legal.  A child who may not be able to purchase a gun can get one as a birthday gift.  But having an age restriction on the purchase of guns and ammunition may be a good idea – although the benefit in fighting crime or stopping mass shootings is questionable.

Hardening the targets and placing more restrictions on guns are not the only remedial things we can do.  Stricter enforcement can play a role.  While mass shooters never get away with it.  They often die at the scene or face the harshest punishments American justice can hand out – live in prison or be sentenced to death.

But the vast majority of murders are not committed by mass killers, they are committed by individuals – sometimes premeditated or the result of sudden passion.  They are committed by warring gangs killing each other – and too often innocent bystanders.

Rather than defund and restrict police action, we should enlarge the on-the-ground police force in high crime areas – oust prosecutors who do not prosecute and judges who do not sentence.  In Chicago, I had proposed a law that would increase penalties for malicious illegal ownership of a gun – excluding technical violations of ownership.  One would be a criminal charge and the other a civil matter.

These are just a few of what I consider common sense remedial actions – hardening targets, tweaking gun laws and enhancing law enforcement   HOWEVER … the bad news is that none of these will demonstrably change the culture that is underlying the never-ending mass shootings.  It may derail a nutcase shooter or two, but until we divine and address the fundamental underlying cultural causes the rampages will go on … and on.  Mass shootings are caused by a sick mind … period.  Most of the remedial proposals are more likely to make us feel better than do better.

So, there ‘tis.

About The Author

Larry Horist

So,there‘tis… The opinions, perspectives and analyses of Larry HoristLarry Horist is a businessman, conservative writer and political strategist with an extensive background in economics and public policy. Clients of his consulting firm have included such conservative icons as Steve Forbes and Milton Friedman. He has served as a consultant to the Nixon White House and travelled the country as a spokesman for President Reagan’s economic reforms. He has testified as an expert witness before numerous legislative bodies, including the U. S. Congress. Horist has lectured and taught courses at numerous colleges and universities, including Harvard, Northwestern, DePaul universities, Hope College and his alma mater, Knox College. He has been a guest on hundreds of public affairs talk shows, and hosted his own program, “Chicago In Sight,” on WIND radio. Horist was a one-time candidate for mayor of Chicago and served as Executive Director of the City Club of Chicago, where he led a successful two-year campaign to save the historic Chicago Theatre from the wrecking ball. An award-winning debater, his insightful and sometimes controversial commentaries appear frequently on the editorial pages of newspapers across the nation. He is praised by readers for his style, substance and sense of humor. According to one reader, Horist is the “new Charles Krauthammer.” He is actively semi-retired in Boca Raton, Florida where he devotes his time to writing. So, there ‘tis is Horist’s signature sign off.

33 Comments

  1. Bruce

    Most of the shooters have shown lots of signs of mental illness before the crimes. Focus should be on that. And yes, it would require cooperation from relatives and friends. People posting crap about violence and, in the case of the Texas shooter also rape. No guns should be banned. I hate that word and would never comply. But the issue here is that so many people show signs of mental illness and nobody does anything. But the idiots on the left start squawking about gun grabbing before the bodies cool off. I’m not ashamed of my gun ownership but I don’t flaunt it. And the reason is I don’t go around telling my business. Unfortunately we could be on the verge of civil war. I pray that it won’t happen. Take the guns and the murder and crime rate will not decrease. But Mitch McConnell and the republicans should hold the line. We need to get involved and not let liberals call the shots. No pun intended.

  2. JoeyP

    We as a SOCIETY have WALKED AWAY from GOD . . . It’s TIME for a REVIVAL. Time to Bring on JESUS. Until we do THAT, our EFFORTS are FUTILE. LAWS only WORK for a Law Abiding Society. One Enlightened Patriot.

    • Florida Phil

      As one of no religious affiliation, I do take exception that such lack of faith is responsible for these incidents. I have never felt even an inkling or an urge to use firearms or other weapons to settle a dispute or to show force. I’ve tried several times to understand and/or become a Christian, but thus far into my 70s, nothing has drawn me into it. I’m certainly not going to pretend that I am something or someone that is not true. Of course, I really don’t reflect the attitudes of most people, but my beliefs on right and wrong are most closely aligned with Judeo-Christian mores. I do know of others who share similar attitudes, beliefs and behaviors. We do exist, but live somewhat in the margins of society.

      • Andy

        Florida Phil we are all sinners. But Jesus died on the cross and resurrected from the dead so that His blood could erase our sins. Just simply pray and ask Jesus Christ to save you from your sins. He will. Read St. John in the Bible. Let me know. And we don’t have a gun problem. We have a sin problem

      • larry Horist

        Florida Phil. I do believe that proper devotion to religious moral values would inhibit evil conduct, but I also believe that there is secular morality. I do believe that our society is filled with most people on one side or the other — religion-based morality or secular-based morality are both important. I think both JoeyP and you work for the better angels in different ways.

    • Rat Wrangler

      Then what do you do with those who refuse to accept Christ and choose to ignore the laws? God cannot make them do anything, as then He would violate His gift of Free Will. Those who violate the law must be dealt with in such a way that they can do no harm to society or its members again, and those who refuse Christ may face eternal damnation, but that is a personal matter, not a concern of society’s.

      • Alvin

        People who reject Christ are condemned already and the wrath of God abides upon them as per the 5th chapter of St. John in the Bible. And many people that aren’t Christian don’t harm others but the Bible says that if we are guilty of the least we are guilty of all. In other words we have all sinned. But Jesus is waiting and ready to save. Save from what? That question gets asked frequently. Saved from the fire of hell. Jesus spoke more about hell than He did about Heaven. But through His death on the cross and his resurrection all that believes and receives Him is safe from hell forever. Politicians can’t fix the stain of sin and lawless actions in our society. Only the blood of Christ which was offered to erase our sins. I’m so glad that I have a home in heaven that I can’t lose. Before coming to Christ I was a low life scumbag and an embarrassment to my family. I had people out to kill me when I was 13 years old. The police knew me by my name. But now my name is written in the Lamb’s Book Of Life. The lamb is Jesus. He allowed himself to be crucified, being God in a human body, to offer his blood for our salvation. If someone who reads this becomes a born again Christian please post so we will know and can pray for you to become stronger in your faith

  3. Rat Wrangler

    Prior to firearms, we had axe murderers. According to USA Today, nearly a quarter of mass killings from 2006 to 2017 did not involve a gun. All arsons resulting in deaths did not involve firearms. I have written to my elected officials more than once asking what they plan to do about the “broken people” in our society. Most, if not all, of the mass killers in recent decades were shown to have some serious mental aberrations at some time shortly before they committed the murders, but many of those aberrations were missed or ignored by the authorities. At least a sixth of our prison population has serious mental issues, according to studies, and a third of our homeless have such problems. What are we doing about it? Virtually nothing. At best, we just warehouse them if we have to.

    • larry Horist

      Rat Wrangler … We may myopically focus on the so-called assault rifles, but the vast majority of murders … and the vast majority of mass shootings …are committed with hand guns.

  4. Tom

    I am going to respond as a retired teacher. There is much research on drugs such as marijuana and SSRI, and their interaction with the human brain. Specifically SSRIs have a side effect of agitation and agressive behavior. Both can alter minds, thoughts, and numb thoughts. When we mix drugs with the ease of getting guns, bingo, we have a big problem that just as you said, plays itself out on soft targets such as schools, libraries, movie houses, mall parking lots, grocery stores, etc. Our legislators need to stop thinking party line and come together to realize both are correct but that the view is larger than any singular party, thus they must melt the two views together to solve the problem of mixing medications ( most often legally prescribed) and ease of purchasing weapons that kill massively. I personally think this is an easy problem to solve, such as delisting certain types of guns and banning their sale, combined with robust background checks, OR control the ammunition under the ATF just like TNT, pills, alchohol, etc are all controlled, and add a psychological safety number into the license number and force renewal every two to four years.

    As a teacher, arming teachers is a verb bad idea that goes well beyond advocate’s reasoning of “destroying the education environment”. 1) Arming teachers makes them the first target. Teachers who get their classrooms invaded will be taken by surprise because we are not wearing flak vests, helmets and face shields when we teach. Thus we will be caught by surprise almost every time. 2) We are not given weapons training, and, school district funding has never been allocated for teacher weapons training, and most likely will not be allocated in the age of American woke-ism. Schools will expect teachers to do this training on their own time, and I know this because of all of the times this was expected of me. Yes no pay but you must go for the training. 3) No indemnity or other legal backing. What happens when your great grand child is accidentally killed by a bullet from my teacher gun as I respond to a terror threat in my classroom. Are you going to think that its ok because at least it was the teacher trying to do something? No, you will sue. 4) A teacher contract is for teaching, not quasi-security services. Discipline and management of the education facility is a management job, so let the administrators be trained in weaponry and anti-terrorism procedures. Most schools have at least 2, often 3 administrators, with some already having Military Police background and other military backgrounds. Let them get this training and pay them hazardous duty pay in addition to their normal salaries.

    • larry Horist

      Tom … Aren’t the teachers already the first target of a classroom shooter? I am not a gun owner, but if I were a teacher these days, i would be the first to volunteer to get the necessary training to carry a concealed gun in my classroom. Without that, me and the kids have no chance.

      • Tom

        No not necessarily but if you arm them they will most certainly be. It makes much more sense to have admin do this job if they wish. I do find it incomprehensible that a side door was opened and there was no alarm! That would never have happened in any of the schools I taught mathematics in. Most teachers do not wish to carry guns. Now let me ask you a question. Had your grandson died by my bullet shot to protect others in the classroom rather than an enemy bullet in Afghanistan, would you have sued me? What would you have demanded of the school? Are you in favor of indemnifying all teachers who carry guns to protect their classroom? And who do you think should own those guns, school or owned by teacher? If teacher, will you support buying them guns as part of your taxes?

        • Noonby

          Yes. Buy them with tax dollars. Save lives and stop shooters

          • Josh

            That’s why we should make the schools very difficult to get in and have trained armed people standing by when the students arrive or leave after their day is over. Check out how they guard the schools In Israel

  5. frank stetson

    Did we even have axes before firearms?

    “According to USA Today, nearly a quarter of mass killings from 2006 to 2017 did not involve a gun.” Do you think we wouldn’t jfgi to find out USA Today said 77% by gun, 23% other means. That’s a spin to which you add: “All arsons resulting in deaths did not involve firearms” which while seems intuitively obvious to the casual observer, is totally wrong. Every one of those arsonists might have been packing and would not have set the fire unless they could shoot their way out. Not bloody likely, but as valid as your claim.

    As to what we are doing for the mentally ill in prison, isn’t that a question with 50 answers? Plus one more for the Federal prison system? And how many mass murderers were in prison, much less deemed crazy while in prison?

    You spin and make some bold assumptions here that you haven’t actually supported with facts.

    Not BUSTED, but not validated either.

    • larry Horist

      Frank Stetson. The vast majority of mass shootings — as officially defined — are committed with hand guns.

      • frank stetson

        Larry, first let me say you are a brave man not only to take this on, but to have a few restrictions in mind that no doubt should put you on the target list, with me, we agree on a number of common sense gun laws. I have some more that will blow your dress up, but in time.

        I have not returned to this topic in over a decade; people on both sides are really closed minded, ignorant, and unwilling to listen. Both sides.

        One thing I learned about gunnie culture is these folks really get pissed if you don’t know your hardware, processes, and what the fuck is a well-regulated militia. If you say an 12 gauge rifle, you are in for a long night of being dismissed summarily. I am the same way, but databases are my hardware and processes are my light sabre’s.

        That said…….I will get into your article, some good stuff, some misguided notions, but a great start.

        That said….but first, a very good school shooting mitigation plan: school uniforms made from kevlar with special bullet-stopping covid masks. Death will be diminished. The five nine’s solution: 100% remote schooling. Now there will be zero school shootings: mission accomplished. (the former comments are not FS sanctioned :>)

        That said, you said: “The vast majority of mass shootings — as officially defined — are committed with hand guns.” Pretty funny since the FBI, the official definers, don’t define a mass shooting. I believe you mean mass murder. That’s as of 4/21. I will flash some of these definitions later, it’s all part of the game.

        A little history: in the beginning, there was the FBI, and their definition of mass murder — four dead, same location, one killer. Anything less was just murder. Anything spread out in time, distance or both was something else. And life, or death, was good.

        Then a little research team said, wait —- is that the whole story, is that the crux of the biscuit?

        Well Larry, they knew they had an idea but how to get the data, the FBI really owns murder. So they constructed a process with multiple sources, media, for to document each shooting. In the first database I used, it was any number of shooting victims, not all dead, single location. Really opened the world because the numbers, as compared to mass murders, were astronomical. I mean 4 people shot, not all dead, is a much yuger number than mass murder. Plus you could sort so you could pull all the kids shot, but not killed. Another surprisingly large number.

        Today there are a number of these databases out there, here’s one: https://www.theviolenceproject.org/methodology/

        This is the one I used, it started in 2013 and was revolutionary then: https://www.gunviolencearchive.org/about

        But sadly Larry, there is no official definition, but the keepers of death data, the FBI, for mass shooting. Wish there was but don’t think they are ready for self-service databases.

        Back to your comment, who cares? I am not sure why you even mentioned it.

        And fyi, everyone makes the term mistake, even the experts call them mass shootings as they rep out the FBI definition for mass murder….. Here’s RAND to explain it all: https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/essays/mass-shootings.html

      • frank stetson

        Think either I fat fingered this response or I’m in the timeout box for awhile. Everyone, even the pro’s, make this mistake, but the Official FBI term is mass murder. There is no as of 2021, formal definition for mass shooting, although a number of iternet research databases use the term for their own database, usually defined differently than the FBI’s mass murder.

        https://www.rand.org/research/gun-policy/analysis/essays/mass-shootings.html

        “The U.S. government has never defined mass shooting as a separate category of crime, and there is not yet a broadly accepted definition of the term. In the 1980s, the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) defined mass murderer as someone who “kills four or more people in a single incident (not including himself), typically in a single location” (Krouse and Richardson, 2015). In 2013, Congress defined mass killing as a single incident that leaves three or more people dead (Pub. L. 112-265, 2013). However, both definitions include many incidents that would not be considered mass shootings. Furthermore, neither definition was established for the purpose of data collection or statistical analyses. The FBI classification of mass murderer was established primarily with the aim of clarifying criminal profiling procedures (Ressler, Burgess, and Douglas, 1988), and the congressional definition was intended to clarify statutory authority for the provision of U.S. Department of Justice investigatory assistance requested by state and local agencies (Pub. L. 112-265, 2013). Thus, various news outlets, researchers, and law enforcement agencies often use different definitions when reporting on mass shootings, which can complicate our understanding of mass shooting trends and their relationship to gun policy.[2] Table 1 provides examples of the variation in the criteria set by some of the existing data sources on mass shootings in the United States. Depending on which data source is referenced, there were somewhere between six and 503 mass shootings and between 60 and 628 mass shooting fatalities in 2019.”

        • frank stetson

          Sorry Larry, the first post appeared AFTER I posted the second…….weird.

        • Kevin

          Do you mean like Biden fat fingered Tara Reade?

          • frank stetson

            What would ever lead you to that conclusion? A warped mind indeed. I like that :>)

      • Ben

        That’s why I love handguns

        • Ben

          You just love having hands put on your gun.

          • Ben

            Hell yes

  6. john thomas

    Mr Horist You should learn more about the weapons you discuss in your commentary. No the assault-type weapons are not the same as other rifles, with “the only difference being their appearance”. These are military grade weapons who fire power is far greater and far more lethal. The bullet travels more than twice as fast as most rifles and tears up anything it hits; it also travels long distances and penetrates most walls. This weapon was designed and intended to kill humans.

    • Rick

      I love em. If, God forbid, I must defend my home and family I want something that’s as lethal as possible.

    • larry Horist

      John Thomas … You are not talking about the feature of the gun, but of the type of ammunition. That can be — and has been — handled by separate legislation. Some laws ban piercing-penetrating bullets or dum dum shells that spread on impact. The later were first banned in 1899. The AR 15, itself, will not shoot any more efficiently than regular semi-automatic rifles. The speed of the ejection is dependent on how fast you can pull the trigger. The speed and power of the bullet depends on the type of bullet. Laws can ban components and style feature, but the AR 15 operationally is no different than any other semi-automatic rifle. I know the weapon You are confusing the weapon and ammunition. All the characteristics you attribute to the weapon are the characteristics of the ammunition. All that can be regulated without banning the gun, itself.

  7. Mike

    Larry, You start off by discussing hardening of targets, which in this day and age may be required (but unlike your school, there were no locked doors on my elementary, junior high or high school during the day). That may be helpful for schools, but there are a lot of other “soft” targets where mass shootings have been carried out-it really is impossible to harden all these targets, and as has been repeatedly shown, “shit happens” and shooters get in anyway. You don’t feel that a ban on assault weapons would be effective because they are basically the same as a regular rifle, except for looking cool. That is not the case, they do far more soft tissue damage than a regular rifle. All of these comments seem typical of you, however at the end of your article you appear to have had someone else ghost write for you, as you say you are in favor of most of the restrictions that Chuck Schumer is trying to get passed in Congress, which are currently being blocked. So what gives???

    • Perry

      What gives? The 2nd amendment is to be guaranteed and guarded with everything that we have. Yes, the constitution is absolute. So pay no attention to the retard in the White House. I’m damned tired of being judged by what others do. We as free Americans must let the Washington crowd know that we aren’t going to comply with anymore gun control. Come on readers. Make the calls and send the emails. Like the line in the song by kris kristofferson said, “ freedom’s just another word for nothing left to lose “” And I’m not giving my freedoms away.

    • Mike

      Larry, I really do think that in a gesture towards fairness, you should give credit to the ghost writer who finished your article. I would like to congratulate him….

  8. frank stetson

    Larry,
    Interesting piece, I think we may agree on a few things here. Just doing the beginning, you have penned a lot to think about. At some point, I will dredge out my ideas as well, may take a while, haven’t done this in over a decade.

    As is the nature of the beast, you ramble around from murder to mass murder, tools to man, and back again, but so do your commentors. It’s a broad, terrible subject, where, as you note, mass murders don’t account for many numbers, but you totally leave out the psychological toll on the wounded, friends, family and neighborhood not to mention the nation as a whole. There is a real cost for the living too. We are a nation wounded by itself and to say we are not all in this together is a lie. We console ourselves by saying they were bat shit crazy, but in truth WE are crazy too. It’s America with a 2nd amendment in full bloom. And even there, there are numerous reasons to hold guns from target shooting to hunting, to self-defense to protection against invasion, foreign and domestic. Different reasons call for different guns. After all, there is a season….

    Yes, I agree, the facts tell us that mass murders are a very small number against total number of murders, or murder by gun. But your statement: “Most will die from gunshots, but many more from other means – knives, bludgeons, poison, vehicles, or bare hands.” is spin at best. FBI UCR for 2019 factually reports guns as the tool of choice in over 74% of all murders, including mass. “Other means” are tools of choice in only 26% of the murders, about ¼.

    Types of murder are vast and the picture painted changes depending how you look. A non-exhaustive list might include: mass murder (4 or more), spree murder (mass with multiple perps), murder (3 or less), rampage murder (one man spree across a geographic area), and serial (oh my, so many types). And then there’s suicide which is often aided by the gun. And don’t forget foreign terrorist attacks, they generally are not included in the other definitions. Each definition has its own statistics and characteristics. More death by gun here than almost anywhere else in the developed world on a per capita basis. But that number doesn’t even matter if we start rolling mass shootings (4 or more shot, not all four killed), or shootings with less than 4 shot, not necessarily killed, the total rise exponentially and the statistics change the profiles once again. It’s a big problem, those numbers are really huge. We have so many gun murders, suicides, accidents, old folks, babies, so many gun deaths that we have a plethora of defined terms to put them into buckets, or kick-the-buckets.

    Numerically, mass murder is a small number, both in occurrence, and total quantity dead. No matter what we do to stop it, the statistical effect on death-by-gun will be miniscule and not ever statistically valid.

    Larry’s conclusion is spot on IMO: “In many ways, murder is like cancer. There are many types – and each must be diagnosed and treated differently. We have to address the specific incidents and take a deeper dive when patterns appear.”

    “While the political debate centers on the gun, that is likely the least productive approach to reducing mass shootings.” IMO, this is not true. Yes, the gun is just a tool. Tools can be made to be much more productive. The pc was more productive than the tools it replaced. And then it too was enhanced, many times to become even more productive. Tools can also be enhanced and made safer. Some tool features that cause harm can be left on the factory floor. Once the nation decided that cars, tools, which are used much more on a daily basis than guns, had a problem. The tool needed help. The nation decided that the car was involved, like guns, in a whole lot of death, so we made the car safer. Who cares how deadly, we decided it was TOO deadly. That fix cost money, people gave up freedoms to be lashed down to their seats with belts, age limitations were set, seat belt laws passed, tests needed to be passed, tools needed to be inspected, and the death count dropped even though not one motivation was changed. No mental health needed to be cured to save lives here. There were seat-belt protests, ban the belt. Not a perfect comparison, but tools can be made to be safer. In 2019, you were 50% less likely to die in an auto accident than in 1980. The human element was not improved this much in that time.

    Then “While the political debate centers on the gun, that is likely the least productive approach to reducing mass shootings. In addressing the issue, however, we should recognize that it is NOT the primary CAUSE. These crimes are committed by people. Somewhere at the foundation is a cultural explanation for mass shootings that have evolved in America in the past 50 years. In investigating crimes, the first concern is … motivation.” Here, I come a bit off the rails. While I agree that the entirety of death-by-gun might be helped via understanding of motivations, you are kidding yourself on the viability of this helping find solutions for mass murder.

    First — you said it yourself — the numbers are small so you are talking a tiny sample set that will be separated by vast amounts of time. So how you gonna find motivations in a sample set that will never be statistically valid.

    Second, over 50% of these jerk wads get offed so the best you can do is second hand anecdotal research into the motivations of the dead, again, putting real doubt as to the statistical validity of anything you think you learn. (maybe only the unmotivated survive….)

    It’s just impossible to do what you say must be done. To curtail mass murder, if you are to do something, you will need to do it another way.

    For murder-by-gun, sure, you have a valid point. There is scads of research that has not made one bit of difference in half a century. However, be clear in what you are asking since the NRA has block most requests for research if funded by the State. It is there way to support their cause.

    You also leave out the true cost of mass murder carnage. It’s the cost to the living. What do schoolkids think about today? We had 1950’s duck n cover, that was pretty mind-bending. But it’s nothing to the drills our youngest do. They are drilling for something they know is really happening. Not often, but enough to know it’s real. They see it on TV. They talk about it with their friends. Those kids on the cell phones seem to have a good handle on what they are going through. That’s a tragedy in itself. What of the effects on family, relatives, even those stand-down police that might as well move to another state at this point? And the teacher that propped the door open may even kill themselves over the grief. It’s that effecting. Even us, a zillion miles away can be affected. At any public setting, I always plan my exit, escape, and locate myself accordingly. I always place my family on the aisle. It’s just prudent behavior for me based on everyday life now in America. That’s tragic too.

    I will come back to your rec’s later, some of which are mine too, but rest assured, while your points via guns versus man may be valid for everyday murders, assaults, and such, IMO, for mass murders, you need to look both at the tool as well as the target. IMO, it’s the best chance you have to improve the situation which, while low in number, is large in its effect on the national psyche.

    • Buck

      So much talk about woulda coulda shoulda. The gun owners are being vilified by commie shitheads but it makes me more determined than ever to keep my guns. Fuck Biden and his stupid comrades

  9. frank stetson

    Larry, sorry for all the posts on this. You choose to cover the waterfront from mass murder to guns for fun, it’s a broad topic. This tome addresses my thoughts on mass murder and the gun: tool or tragic harbinger of death.

    First some terms: mass murder, FBI definition, should be used to describe cases like Uvalde, if for no other reason, the database is constructed to support it. Other definitions do not. The US government formally accepts no other terms for crimes like Uvalde than the term mass murder, using the FBI definition of four dead, one site, one murderer. However, the FBI uses the term “mass shooting” quite often, but not for describing the formal database for mass murder. When they do, it is often the wrong term. Other researchers, using public information data sources like media, have constructed user-populated databases with different definitions, they like the term mass shootings, because mass murder is already defined, but they use mass shooter to depict multiple victims shot, but not necessarily dead. But the US formal term mass murder, FBI definition. I don’t like mass shooting because it sounds like it highlights only gun deaths, and it points to the gun — “shooting,” which I would think tweaks most avid gun lovers. Murder covers all tools. Mass shootings as a term has some spin to it and absolutely no formal FBI definition so that each researcher defines what THEY think the term, mass shooting, means. Just my bugaboo, but some use the terms interchangeably to create confusion and more spin. Others just because they don’t know. It’s a bigger issue because the underlying databases can be radically different from FBI formal databases tied into State and Local sources, to homespun self-populated media-sourced databases. All can be good, relevant, but they are different sources and methodologies.

    Larry, let me be clear. I understand the 2nd amendment. I also understand there are restrictions on almost every right in the Bill of Rights. I do not want people’s guns. But:

    1. more guns = more gun death. It’s just a statistical truth. Not judging, not saying ban the gun, but it’s a statistical truth.
    2. We have too much gun death in America. We also have too many guns. But that’s just one problem, one that won’t be fixed.
    3. There are many things that can be addressed; many are supported by a large percentage of gunnies too.

    The gun “it’s-a-tool” descriptor is both a truth and a myth. It’s a tool that features one of the highest index rankings for lethality of all tools. Point, click, dead. Suicide has a low recidivism for failures, one out of 9 failed attempts have a repeat performance. Poison, pills, hanging, even jumping off a tall building all have more implementation failures than guns. If guns are magically erased as a choice, there will be less suicide successes. Murder too. Knives kill, but not as easily as guns. Bats, axes, you name it. Some say, “well, bombs kill more,” but you have to make a bomb, often fail catastrophically in the attempt. You have to procure bomb materials, many of which are controlled more closely than the gun. You go buy 500lbs of fertilizer and see what happens. Experts who study lethality conclude; the gun ranks at the top of the list for death, at least for suicide, and close to the top for murders. Yes, it’s a tool. A more lethal tool than most and that feature, lethality, makes the issue more than just a human failure.

    Here’s a Harvard piece on lethality in suicide that talks about these points. It may not be a perfect fit, statistically, to describe tool lethality for murder based on suicide, but it’s easy to extend this theory to murder, accidents, as well. For suicide, an Australian study statistically confirmed less death in total after their gun ban. Again, I am not suggesting a ban, just examining the lethality of the gun, which is superior in terms of efficiency, effectiveness, and ease-of-use, which makes the gun a little more than “just a tool, you must look to the human.” No, it’s so lethal that it’s a little more than just the human’s mental defect driving America’s issues with the gun. You have to tab through this, but it’s fascinating: https://www.hsph.harvard.edu/means-matter/means-matter/survival/

    Looking at Larry’s solutions, I agree with Larry’s “Mass shootings are caused by a sick mind … period. Most of the remedial proposals are more likely to make us feel better than do better.” You can attempt to thwart via mental health support but that takes someone talking, someone listening, and someone turning them in. And even red flag laws require intervention by the court. And, of course, as Larry mentions, if the State does not get the data to the Federal System, then it’s just a moot point. That happens a lot in America.

    You can also attempt to limit mass murder carnage when it occurs. Location hardening combined with restrictions on specific tool features that have little purpose besides mass killing may help. LCM magazine capacity would be the prime gun feature candidate to perhaps limit the number of dead in a mass murder. Enhanced incarceration might help, but doubtful. Since the sample size is too small, you will never get a statistical validation of success or failure for any of this. It’s the nature of mass murder rarity. You can raise the age for purchase and possession, that can help in mass murder, at least slow them down a bit. And you can strengthen the background check system.

    For mass murder though, the bottom line is that statistically, one can’t say any solution will work, and once deployed, that any solution succeeded or failed —- for mass murder.
    Next, I think one needs to understand the landscape, means, motivations, and methods of gun ownership as well as death by gun before one can really put solutions in place. The solution for a gang-banger murder by gun problem might be different than the one that stops little Bobby from killing little Billy which might be different than one that curtails Dad killing Mom, his buddy, a fellow commuter, or a total stranger cuz they dissed someone. Likewise, ownership can be for a variety of reasons: sport, protection, and defense of the nation are just three examples of why people own guns. Ownership rationales can also show why folks need different guns in some amount of quantity.

    Without understanding these, trying to offer enhanced solutions to reduce murder-by-gun, death-by-gun, beyond mass murder difficult to rationalize. It’s easy to say: “it’s mostly gangbanger with hand guns,” but that is only a portion of the problem, and a portion that requires a different potential solution than say, little Bobby shooting little Billy. Next piece I will skip the mass, and go for smaller targets :>)

    Great piece Larry, you really covered the waterfront in a mostly non-partisan, objective manner if we avoid letting your misplaced blame(s) sink in :>O.