One more mass murder
It’s horrifying to see the faces of children whose lives are over, just because they were at the wrong place at the wrong time. Their families, friends, and schoolmates will be forever traumatized by this horror. It’s becoming such a common occurrence in this American landscape—Sandy Hook, Las Vegas, and now, Florida. Locally, we’ve experienced our own terror, in Marysville and Mukilteo. We’re no strangers to this geography. In 2017, there were 346 mass murders, where four or more individuals were killed.
It’s too easy to blame this on individuals with psychiatric disabilities. It’s too convenient to simply say—they must have been mentally ill, that’s why they committed this awful act. It’s too easy to dismiss this crime by simply pointing to an individual’s long history of misery, anger, or antisocial behavior. Trust me, there are scores of teens and adults with these attributes who never commit mass murder.
It may also be too easy to point the blame to our easy access to weapons of mass destruction—automatic weapons. But it’s also true, that when these weapons were not available, there were knifings and shootings—but not mass murder. In the 1940’s, in West Side Story, Tony was knifed and died. But his entire gang wasn’t mowed down by an AR-15.
I don’t think that there is a single cause of this horror or a single solution. It’s likely that we will see an increase in metal detectors and police at the entrance of schools if they aren’t already there. This may give us a measure of safety, but will certainly highlight the sense of danger and insecurity that our children feel.
I’m not sure that higher walls or more police will change our landscape of violence and division. I’m not sure that our schools are prepared to identify troubled children, ensure that they receive help, and make sure that all children are safe. Our school systems struggle to simply educate youngsters, much less take on all the social, economic, and psychological ills of our time.
What can we do? How can we proceed?
We need to ensure that weapons of mass destruction are not obtainable.
When our constitution was written, the right to bear arms referred to what was available at the time, single shot rifles and pistols. Our founding fathers did not anticipate automatic weapons. Would they have provided for the right to bear weapons of mass destruction?
We need to better understand the social and cultural factors that contribute to mass murder.
There are many factors that go into an individual’s decision to end the lives of innocent children. But what are the social factors that may contribute to these individual’s psychological factors? Social media, violent video games, movies with body counts, and disconnection in our social fabric may contribute to this increase in violence. We need a national public health effort to identify and address some of the social and cultural factors at play.
We need better tools for the prediction of violence.
Unfortunately, it’s very difficult to predict violence in teens or adults. We are far better at predicting violence towards self, which is more common. Because mass violence towards others is relatively rare, it is very difficult to predict. We need to put more resources into this effort.
We need to heal our torn social fabric.
I cannot help but feel that the divisiveness and polarization of our times contribute to an atmosphere of social alienation, anomie, anxiety, and anger, which may be the soil in which this violence grows. We need to find common ground that all of us share and heal the chasms between us.