Monday, February 26, 2018

The Heart of the Mass Shooting Phenomena

Nearly two weeks ago on Valentine’s Day, which ironically was also Ash Wednesday, the students and faculty of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida suffered an assault from a former student, whose name I will not mention, thereby adding to his infamy and notoriety.  The former student seemingly had a long history of mental health issues and 39 documented responses to his home from local authorities due directly to his actions.  Needless to say, this troubled boy should never have been able to legally acquire a firearm of any sort – EVER!

Of course, within hours of this perniciously evil act, where seventeen students and faculty were killed and sixteen more injured, the usual suspects on both sides of the gun control debate began with their typical meme’s, arguments, and finger pointing.  It was all of the exact same things we have all heard before every time this sadly common evil phenomena occurs again and again.  What we Americans seem to be overlooking is the cause of this, while everyone opines on how to merely correct the symptoms.


Why are our young men increasingly seeming to think that arming up and heading off to their school to kill their classmates is the best way to heal their pain?  Why do kids think this is the proper way to teach a bully a lesson, or to get even with a girlfriend that dumped them?  Is it simply to “make a statement” to the world that they will no longer be ignored?

I went to a very typical high school in the early 1980’s and lived in what was then a more remote and rural suburb of Portland, Oregon.  I lived quite a few miles from school and thus often had to take the bus, or if I was lucky, my friend who had his own pickup truck would swing by my house on the way to school and give me a ride.  My friend and I had already developed into knowledgeable outdoorsmen by that time in our lives.  He was a hunter and especially during the Fall months it was not uncommon for him to have his Browning rifle in his gun rack in the back window as we headed off to school.  It never occurred to us that anything was even remotely wrong with this and indeed there never was a problem.

Of course, if a kid were to drive to school with a rifle in his gun rack now, assuming a rack could even be found these days, the local S.W.A.T. team would be called out and the school locked down within minutes of his arrival.  In today’s culture, that would also be the right call to make, sadly.

Again, I ask, what has changed in the ensuing decades since I went to high school?

Spokane, Washington Sheriff Ozzie Knezovich aptly addressed the root of the problem to a bevy of reporters after a school shooting occurred there last September in 2017.

“When I was in high school, every one of those rigs in the high school parking lot had a gun in the gun rack. Why? We went hunting on the way home. None of those guns ever walked into a school, none of those guns ever shot anybody... Did the gun change or did you as a society change? I'll give you odds it was you as a society. Because you started glorifying cultures of violence. You glorified the gang culture, you glorified games that actually gave you points for raping and killing people. The gun didn't change, we changed.”

Yep.  I’d have to agree with the good sheriff on that one.

Our modern “enlightened” culture of moral relativism has glorified violence.  It has championed the killing of the unborn and called it “choice”.  It has embraced the killing of our elderly and terminally ill family members and named it “mercy” and “compassion”.  As St. Pope John Paul II said, we as a post-Christian society have fully embraced a “culture of death” and have called it good.

But it is also more than that.  It isn’t simply our glorification and desensitization to violence that is the genesis of this problem, although that has absolutely been a major component of this.  There is also another aspect that is a primary cause of this problem.

Today many harried parents seldom keep tabs on their teenagers these days, let alone actually talk with them, mentor them, guide them, and PARENT them.  Sadly, we as parents have abdicated our responsibility to raise our young men and women to be of good moral character – to know right from wrong.  We assume that the schools or society in general will raise our kids, because we are too busy trying to make a living and dealing with life’s daily grind.  And indeed schools and society now do.  Unfortunately, in a culture where right and wrong have become morally subjective, our children’s moral compasses may often lead them far astray now.

Add to this all of the typical issues with which a young person must deal these days and sometimes the stress becomes overwhelming.  When parents are too busy, or neglectful of the young person living under their roof to the point that those kids effectively become just a roommate, when they fail to guide, listen, and ultimately love their kids in a healthy manner, how can we not be surprised when some few kids decide to resort to the most horrific of decisions when dealing with their own problems? When a positive male role model is missing in a young man’s life to lead and guide him by example, what do we expect could happen?  Most kids will muddle through their high school years making mistakes and figuring things out on their own without ever resorting to violence against others.  Some, however, will not find a good means to communicate or alleviate their pain and thus resort to far more sinister ways of doing so.

Often times these troubled or mentally ill kids show signs that things are heading in a dangerous direction long before anything deadly occurs.  Most regrettably, in nearly all of the school shootings in recent years, these signs were either ignored by family, friends, classmates, and teachers, or perhaps even more sadly, these good people did inform authorities and little or nothing was done to get help for the troubled person.

Foolishly, or perhaps through ignorance, many folks blame guns for the problem.  They claim that something must be done about “gun violence”, as if it is the inanimate object of the gun that is at fault.  Never mind that more people are killed five times more often by knives every year than they are by guns, and yet we still don’t hear about “knife violence” in the legacy media.

If we want to actually solve the problem, getting rid of guns will not do it.  Instead, we will need to restore a sense of involved family that is rooted in actual parenting.  It will involve rejecting a culture where violence, abortion, and moral relativism are championed.  It will require us teaching a reverence for the gift and majesty of all life.  It will require that we parents actually raise our children, listen to them, and guide them when they have problems.  It will require returning to a moral society, based on Judeo-Christian moral underpinnings where right and wrong are clearly delineated, taught, and reinforced in our families and communities, and most importantly where these values are demonstrated by the examples of parents.  Indeed the best sermons are lived and not preached!

Ironically, in many of these past shootings, some victims have noted that it seemed like God was not there at all to protect the innocent when these shooters were engaged in their evil rampages in their classrooms.  Sadly, it is our society and our schools that have told God that he is no longer welcome there, and being the gentleman He is, He has obliged our wishes.

The bottom line is that we could arm and train willing teachers to better protect our kids in schools, and indeed this has proven to be very effective in Israel, or we could simply try to enact more gun laws in the hopes of preventing the means for these killings, but ultimately, if we do not raise our kids to respect life, and to try to live it by adhering to the golden rule, while denouncing the glorification of violence in our culture, we will continue to see some of our young people lashing out in violence towards others by gun, knife, bomb, or any other means possible.

Ultimately, the gun is only a tool.  It is the evil or good intent behind the person wielding it that determines the difference in how it is used.  It can be used to protect or to murder.  It is our individual moral compass that determines which it is.

Post Script:  For those that have bought into the false rhetoric that mass shootings are a uniquely American problem, let me set the record straight.  It is not.  This linked article showing the results of an academic study provides proof of this fact.  It is a cultural rot problem that has occurred throughout western civilization.  Indeed many European nations with far more restrictive gun control laws than America has have suffered even greater quantities of mass shootings.  Indeed, America is not even in the top ten in the world for this ghoulish phenomenon.  It is not a gun problem.  It is a heart problem.


Jerry Critter said...

Your right. Mass killings in the US, and the rest of the world for that fact, are a cultural problem, not a gun problem, per se.

In the US, AR-15 style assault rifles have recently become the rifle of choice for the mass killers. It is a rifle designed for killing people, not animals. It is not a hunting rifle. It fires a large number of bullets quickly at very high velocity and does a lot of damage to any tissue it hits.

The main thrust of the majority of gun control advocates is to stop the sale of these types and guns. Some advocate also outlawing the ownership of assault rifles.

If you don’t support doing something to control and limit access to AR-15 type rifles, are you not placidly accepting the additional deaths that will occur from the continued use of AR-15 style assault rifles while we wait for our cultural problems to be resolved.

Majormajor said...

Mr. Paine, you hit it on the head with these words "culture of moral relativism". I would add "secular humanism". We live in a time where part of our culture is devoid of any basic standard of right & wrong. It is like in the book of Judges, were each man did according to what they deemed as right

T. Paine said...

Jerry, I think the AR-15 gets a lot of additional attention because the general public thinks that rifle looks "scary" and because they wrongly assume it is an "assault rifle". It is not. The AR-15 is not a fully automatic weapon, like its military cousin the M-16 is. Further, it requires a very extensive background check and a lot of exorbitant fees to be able to acquire a federal license to own a fully automatic weapon. It is a very small fraction of gun owners that go through the hassle and actually have such a license.

There are a lot of "more traditional looking" rifles that are frankly a lot more deadly in caliber and power than an AR-15. The damage one can do with a 30.06 is far greater than the 5.56 mm round from an AR-15. I think the AR-15 is simply the latest target because some of these evil shooters have used them.

I am for not just limiting but completely restricting access to any gun whatsoever to the mentally ill, felons, domestic abusers, and those, like this idiot kid, that had a violent record of 39 visits by the police and suspension from school for violence. This was a failure of the system that he was ever even able to legally get any gun.

T. Paine said...

"It is like in the book of Judges, were each man did according to what they deemed as right." ~ Majormajor

Exactly, my friend! When the ultimate arbiter of what is right and wrong is our own whims, how can we expect anything other than what we are currently seeing? Sadly many people have largely ignored God and his laws and have determined what is right or wrong for each of themselves outside of any greater moral authority than their own desires. This is especially dangerous when we look at the unformed or ill-formed consciences of our troubled teens that then think violence is the best answer to their problems.

Jerry Critter said...

TP, in other words, the answer to my question is yes!

Jerry Critter said...

“...that then think violence is the best answer to their problems.

Given the results of the “Great Flood”, it would appear that none less than God believes that violence is the best answer.

Majormajor said...


Who are you to question God?

Job 38:4-7 New International Version (NIV)

4 “Where were you when I laid the earth’s foundation?
Tell me, if you understand.
5 Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know!
Who stretched a measuring line across it?
6 On what were its footings set,
or who laid its cornerstone—
7 while the morning stars sang together
and all the angels[a] shouted for joy?"

Jerry Critter said...

Hmmm! Interesting response! 😏🙄

T. Paine said...

Jerry, in my humble perspective, I look at it kind of like Majormajor intimated with his scripture passage. God is the creator of the universe... of everything. As such, it is the right of the creator to wipe out his own creation and begin anew if he so chooses. It is not the right of a creature (something God has created) to wipe out more of God's creation. Our lives are a gift from the creator and not something to be abused or eliminated by our own whims, again in my humble opinion.

For the record, I don't necessarily accept the literal interpretation of a global flood caused by God, but rather look to the story more as an allegory and teaching of a concept that scripture wanted us to learn. Catholicism in general does not necessarily take a literalist perspective of everything in scripture, particularly in the Old Testament. (Not that it couldn't have literally happened though.)

Jerry Critter said...

“ Our lives are a gift from the creator and not something to be abused or eliminated by our own whims,...”

You mean like killing each other with readily available weapons whose sole purpose is killing people?

Majormajor said...

But Jerry, you haven't answered the question, who are you to question God?

T. Paine said...

“ Our lives are a gift from the creator and not something to be abused or eliminated by our own whims,...” ~ T. Paine

"You mean like killing each other with readily available weapons whose sole purpose is killing people?" ~ Jerry Critter

Yes actually. I mean like killing anybody with anything should not be condoned. Even in a self-defense situation, the goal should be to stop the other person from killing or gravely harming someone else; sadly sometimes the only way to do so is to kill that other person.

Sometimes it takes a good man with a gun to stop a bad man with a gun. Ask the guy with the AR-15 that stopped the church shooter in Sutherlin Springs about that, sir.

Jerry Critter said...

“Sometimes it takes a good man with a gun to stop a bad man with a gun. Ask the guy with the AR-15 that stopped the church shooter in Sutherlin Springs about that, sir.”

OK, let’s look at that situation. The shooter armed with an assault-style Ruger AR-556 semi-automatic rifle (an AR-15 style gun) killed 26 people and injured 20 more people in a church. He emptied 15 magazines of 30 rounds each during the slaughter. He died about 11 miles away by a self-inflicted head wound.

He was shot twice when he exited the church by a man located across the street behind a truck armed with an AR-15. However, he was able to get into his truck and drive away.

1. The man with the AR-15 did not stop or even reduce the amount of killing in the church.
2. The man with the AR-15 did not stop the shooter when he exited the church although he did wound him twice.
3. The man with the AR-15 did not apprehend the shooter 11 miles away. The shooter killed himself.

The man with the AR-15 actually may have done better if he had a hunting rifle instead of the AR-15. A rifle is more accurate and safer for bystanders than spraying a bunch of bullets around with an assault gun.

The man with the AR-15 was a former NRA firearms instructor. He knew how to use his firearm. He was experienced in the use of firearms. However, the fact that he had an AR-15 did nothing to reduce the slaughter in the church and did not stop the shooter from getting away.

He would have been at least as effective, if not more effective, with a non-assault style rifle.