Fighting Mass Killings

In a recent edition of our local newspaper there was an article by Megan McArdle, a Washington Post columnist, in which she addressed some familiar “solutions” related to gun control in the U.S.  The entire article can be found at the Washington Post website under the title of “How to Fight Mass Killings.” However, be warned. WP restricts people to a limited number of visits, so you may have to find alternate ways to access the article.

In any case, following are some highlights.

Ms. McArdle asks, Why are so many mass shootings happening now? Why not decades ago, when the United States had plenty of guns, alienated youth, dysfunctional families, economically distressed communities, sexism and almost every other factor commonly blamed for these tragedies?

Surprisingly, mass public shootings used to be rare, freak events. They spiked in the late 1990s,  then abruptly fell in 2000 and stayed low for years. What changed? She points out that in 2000-2004, the dot-com bubble burst. Then there was a hotly contested election, followed by the 9/11 terrorist attacks and the Iraq War. All these events distracted the media and this, in turn, had an effect on those who follow wall-to-wall coverage of massacres.

In her opinion, mass shootings seem to be a “social contagion, a behavioral epidemic.” In fact, she feels they are almost like a disease triggered by media coverage.

Preventing Mass Killings

As we all know, much discussion has taken place on how to stop mass killings. Ms. McArdle provides what she calls two “obvious” policies:

  • Ban private gun ownership
  • Ban extensive coverage of mass shootings

Unfortunately, both violate the Constitution … even though they could radically reduce (if not entirely eliminate) mass killing sprees.

She goes on to say that mental health treatment isn’t the answer since not all shooters have shown any signs of mental unbalance before they strike. She also dismisses violent video games and entertainment. And background checks won’t work because many mass shooters buy guns legally. Or they borrow. Or steal what they can’t borrow.

She points out that a high capacity magazine ban enacted in 1994 proved useless because it’s the high velocity power of the gun that’s the problem, not how many bullets it can hold.

She then asks: “What part of the Bill of Rights do we want to amend, read out of the Constitution or simply violate outright? The First Amendment or the Second?”

She ends her commentary by indicating she will point out a better way in her next column. I hope to be able to access it and report accordingly. However, if it’s not provided by our local newspaper, I encourage readers to research on their own and share her solutions via comments on this post.

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Image by Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay

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26 thoughts on “Fighting Mass Killings

  1. She goes on to say that mental health treatment isn’t the answer since not all shooters have shown any signs of mental unbalance before they strike.

    Since I’ve exhausted all of my Washington Post free-views many many months ago, I couldn’t read the article Nan, sorry. So I am going with my feedback based on your paraphrasing. 🙂

    I am fine and in agreement with most of Megan McArdle’s points (thru your lens Nan). However, I will take exception to her brush-off of America’s mental-illness stigma or more accurately its lack of mental-illness education/awareness and of inadequate affordable options for over 3.5 million Americans with severe psychiatric disorders that end up on the streets and become a bigger long-term issue/problem FOR EVERYBODY! This has been tracked for the last 20-years! Source:

    https://mentalillnesspolicy.org/consequences/percentage-mentally-ill-untreated.html

    Since you likely have Spamming enabled on your comments Nan, I will post my remaining two source-links in two following comments. Apologies for WordPress and internet monitoring/policing features we often must tolerate, huh? :/ 😉

    Liked by 1 person

    • Anxiety and Depression are a LOT MORE common than many Americans want to believe. Both are indeed, unequivocally mental-disorders or illness. There are various degrees/levels of anxiety/depression for every single patient or person that may or may not effect our daily routines and functioning. HOWEVER, most Americans have stigmatized these illness and behavioral disorders and so too many ignore the writings on the walls! From the Pew Research Center… Most U.S. Teens See Anxiety and Depression as a Major Problem Among Their Peers:

      https://www.pewsocialtrends.org/2019/02/20/most-u-s-teens-see-anxiety-and-depression-as-a-major-problem-among-their-peers/

      Liked by 1 person

    • Allow me to expand on exactly what she wrote …

      More and better mental-health treatment isn’t the answer, because not all mass shooters have shown signs of needing it before they strike and many who need help wouldn’t seek it. Nor would family or friends necessarily recognize the problem, or report it if they did.

      I understand your position on mental health and its treatment since you’ve been intimately involved with it. But her perspective has been presented many times and, IMO, it’s difficult to argue against. Having said that, I do agree/support that more attention needs to be paid to mental health among the populace, but unfortunately, it’s pretty far down the list of those who could do something about it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Ahh, thanks for that McArdle quote Nan. 🙂 That is a bit better for my liking. She’s absolutely correct about mentally unstable (white men?) when they are not managing their anger/fury appropriately — 90% of clinical cases reveal that their snapping point, the psychotic or semi-psychotic break had been building for many months, sometimes years. What compounds this problem are indeed family members and/or friends A) don’t recognize the risks from all the symptoms/signs, and B) don’t learn about them from experienced, licensed professionals and how to intervene or what their possible legal choices might be to intervene. All of this should be addressed BEFORE the extreme language/opinions turn into extreme manifestations! CERTAINLY before being forced to involve law-enforcement! This fear and procrastination too often leads to “too little, too late.” 😦

        Yes, thank you Nan. My years working in Psych/A&D therapy/rehab included not only the clinical side, but the financial side as well; insurances.

        Mental-health has been way down the list of distant, secondary priorities IF there’s funding and time to address it. The biggest problem with mental-health, i.e. treating mental-illnesses with proper programs with quality staff, support, and facilities is not only taken serious by lawmakers, but since the general public and our state/federal officials are incompetent about it (crudely basic in its awareness/education)… then insurance corporations and employers in conjunction (psych leave like medical leaves) don’t take it serious enough. 😦

        On a final note, mental-health/illness however, is NOT the single cause to this national epidemic… rising epidemic. The crisis involves at least 3-5 additional components on the individual and macro-social levels as well as labor/employer collaboration, and our state/federal government involved primarily as the protector and monitor of full human health for American laborers, the people. If mental-health is completely left up to corporations or business owners with insurance companies who hate paying out benefits in the first place, it doesn’t take an Einstein to figure out what happens… or has been happening the last 3-5 decades.

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  2. The dramatic spike in mass shootings also shows one other thing. There are quite obviously people directing some of these events who want to spread terror, fear and chaos. Their agenda goes by the name divide and conquer.

    Liked by 2 people

  3. Ban private gun ownership
    Ban extensive coverage of mass shootings

    Unfortunately, both violate the Constitution …

    Not only that, the first would result in a second civil war likely bloodier than the first one, while the second would mean the end of both our free society and the mass media — any government empowered to impose that kind of control over the media would quickly destroy freedom of the press entirely, while real news reporting would migrate to underground net-based organizations technologically immune from any sort of government control, mostly with dubious agendas of their own.

    A voluntary agreement among the media to minimize coverage of shooters, (not mentioning their names, for example) might help, but seems unlikely to happen.

    Any talk of Constitutional amendments is fatuous. Passing an amendment takes a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate and the agreement of 38 state legislatures. In other words, in the present political climate, it’s impossible.

    I’ve concluded that there’s actually very little we can do about this problem. Mass disarmament of the people is physically impossible with 100 million gun owners holding at least 400 million guns and willing to use them to fight back against confiscation. Lesser gun-control measures would probably have little effect. The wingnut efforts to blame violent video games and movies are absurd since the whole developed world has those things and doesn’t suffer from the same kind of violence, while the Middle East has the kind of censorship of mass entertainment that the wingnuts advocate, yet suffers from mass killings in public places roughly as often as we do (by car bombs or suicide bombs, not guns).

    McArdle’s “social epidemic” view seems accurate to me. It wouldn’t be the first time a particular form of violence took epidemic form. Anarchist terrorism was epidemic in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, but stopped with World War I — perhaps another example of the “distraction” effect.

    Alienated young white males with dead-end lives filled with hateful crackpot ideas about the world from reading crank websites will be with us in considerable numbers for a long time. If only one in every hundred thousand of them decides to commit mass murder, that’s enough to sustain the “epidemic”. Europe has had a lot of success in fighting Islamist terrorism by building close relationships between police and Muslim communities, since people within those communities are likely to pick up on clues that an attack is being planned which others would miss. Perhaps something similar would work with disaffected white rural communities here. But no system is foolproof.

    Liked by 4 people

    • I read somewhere on these here innertubes that there were 1900 bombings in the early 1970s at the end of the Vietnam War in the United States. And you mention the anarchist era. In some ways, we are going through a period of relative social peace. Believe it or not.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Overall, we are. Even murder is has been decreasing since the eighties, even when mass shootings are taken into account. They’re dramatic, newsworthy events in a way that individuals being killed during muggings or house break-ins aren’t. But overall people are actually safer now than they were a few decades ago.

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        • Statistically, you’re probably correct in the level of safety. But try and tell that to the survivors.

          I think McArdle has a valid point in the media attention factor. It’s hard not to imagine that some of these individuals have probably been looked down upon, made fun of, ignored, etc. throughout their lives. The question is … why do they then commit suicide? Why wouldn’t they want to revel in all the attention heaped upon them? Perhaps over time they have been convinced of their unworthiness and decide to stop the pain?

          Naturally it’s all speculation. But I do wish someone would come up with some kind of (at least partial) solution so people don’t have to visit malls or drop their kids off at school or go to events without wondering if some “crazy” is going to appear and end lives.

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          • But try and tell that to the survivors.

            The survivors of non-mass killings count too. The victims of mass shootings are far outnumbered by the people who are still alive because murders in general have become less common, who would not be alive if murder was still as common as it was thirty years ago. They and their relatives count just as much. I’m not disputing the seriousness of the murders that still do happen, just pointing out that the overall diminishment of human death and suffering is real, not just a matter of dry statistics.

            A professor I knew long ago pointed out that one of the fundamental flaws in American thinking is the “problem and solution” model we use to interpret the world. Any situation we don’t like is defined as a “problem”, which therefore is assumed to have a “solution” if we could just figure out what it is, after which the problem will be gone and we can move on to something else. A lot of reality just doesn’t work like that. A lot of bad things are simply conditions of the environment which can be alleviated or changed to some extent, often with unintended consequences, but there isn’t some “solution” waiting to be discovered which would “solve” the “problem” if we could just identify it. Unfortunately mass shootings are probably in that category for the foreseeable future.

            Liked by 1 person

  4. Arm everyone from age 3 on up with automatic weapons and all gun violence will stop. Period. Also, please remember that thoughts and prayers do work, but only when used together, simultaneously. Remember, it’s thoughts AND prayers that will cure America from the tragedy of gun violence. Alone, they don’t work. So, arm everyone from age 3 on up, and use thoughts and prayers together at the same time and America will be a friggin’ peace-filled utopia. $Amen$

    Liked by 4 people

  5. I have a huge problem with blaming people with mental health problems for mass shooting. We assume the shooters are crazy, I had a bit of a conversation with a young man who belueves it is “un-human” to shoot another person. I wish it were.
    But it’s not! Most people with mental illnesses or personality disorders are incapable of planning a mass shooting, and these do not happen without planning. From picking a spot to getting the weapons and the ammunition, there is a process. Not all, but most such people do not have the mental capacity to sustain the process. They might think about it, but usually those are spur-of-the-moment fantasies and are gone soon after they arrive.
    That holds true even for most people with unidentified mental illnesses.
    People with problems, however, are capable of such processes or planning. They are still sane when they do this, although warped by something they have encountered or experienced. Are they temporarily insane when they carry such plans out? Few survive for us to study, to apply science to their acts. IMO, we have to stop shooting to kill if we want to get a handle on these events, or episodes.
    We must also keep guns or other weapons out of their hands, but there is no profit in that, so…
    Let’s stop making everyone paranoid of mental illness, and those who have such illnesses. Let’s make it about bad parenting, access to firearms, bullying, hunting, hatred, and lack of respect for life. Some combination of those are the main parts of mass shootings. Oh, and one more thing, glorifying the bad guys.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Can I express my skepticism that many people can be “fixed”, if we even know what “fixed” or “normal” really is? People like the Good Professor above dedicate their lives, but our understanding of human psychology seems as prone to fantasies and bad theories as any “religion”. I am not saying we should stop trying or that people can never be “fixed”. But let’s be realistic.

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    • I too was involved in the alcoholism/addiction services, with a world famous organization, but being government run its funding depended on good results, and without naming the organization or where it was, I know numbers were fudged to make it look more successful than it was. In fact, successes were few, but if you stop following the person two weeks after they exit a program, the numbers look great. Recidivists were counted as new patients instead of failures. What does that tell you?

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