Unfortunately, mass murder is so commonplace that we can develop standard reactions to it. One thing we should learn is that understanding the psyche of a shooter mere hours after the shooting is difficult at best, and often subject to later revision. While Saturday’s horrific shooting at UC Santa Barbara seems to involve a disgusting amount of misogyny, it’s also worth noting that every gun he had was purchased legally–and that the weapon used was a handgun. Moreover, his family called the authorities and the police even investigated (though they seem to have neglected an online ‘background check’)–there was an attempt to intervene. But without a gun, Rogers is just another asshole (and, verily, they do walk among us). With a gun, he’s a murderer.
If we view mass murders like these as public health problems, this is both predictable and predicted:
Given that we are an exceptionally violent society, the obvious solution would be to limit access to guns, especially those guns that whose primary purpose is to kill people.
Yes, the overwhelming percentage of guns are not used to kill people. But if you have enough guns, and enough violent people with access to those guns, massacres are inevitable. To deny otherwise would be like arguing that even if people don’t get their pertussis shots, we won’t have whooping cough outbreaks. We’ve tried that. Hasn’t worked so well.
What will be infuriating during the next week is that there will be no explicit statements by Very Serious People that we have decided that the occasional murder spree is an acceptable component of U.S. life…
We make it far too easy for people filled with rage–which too often is based in misogyny or racism–to acquire instruments of mass murder.
It goes without saying something like this will happen again soon.
Related: David Atkins writes (boldface mine):
But it’s also important not to focus too much on this one man’s motive. The motive is less important than the common denominator between this crime and all the other massacres that have become a dull roar in America: easy access to guns….
The single common denominator in all of these incidents is the gun. It’s that simple. Most of the shooters either obtained the firearms legally (as the Isla Vista shooter did), or had easy access to them by living in a household with someone who had obtained them legally.
Without the gun, these killing sprees would have been far less deadly. Yes, the Isla Vista shooter killed his first three with a knife, but it would not have gone much farther than that had it started at all. Knife sprees are extremely rare and extremely difficult to accomplish. Guns depersonalize killing, embolden deranged killers who might otherwise be on the fence, and make their jobs infinitely easier once they decide to go through with the grim task. They also provide an easy blaze-of-glory suicide mechanism for them, when otherwise they might be looking at the possibility of a far less glamorous lifetime in prison.