8 August 2012: Limits are needed on gun ownership

Limits needed on gun ownership

What would cause one to go berserk and randomly shoot people in a public way?  This is a relatively recent American phenomenon—the last few decades—that seems destined to continue.

Questions for me deal with the psychology of individuals that commit such heinous crimes without any semblance of remorse and the sociological implications: In this case, why has Colorado experienced a number episodes while other states such as Minnesota and Nebraska remain unscathed?

In the August 6 edition of Newsweek, Columbine author Dave Cullen explores the profiles of recent mass shooters including Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold who perpetrated the Columbine shootings and Seung-Hui Cho who killed 32 at Virginia Tech.

Cullen cautions us to avoid jumping to either of two seemingly obvious conclusions about James Holmes, the accused Aurora shooter: He was “undergoing some sort of psychotic break” or was simply “playing crazy,” given the “little too-cute getup”: hair, eyes, etc.

“You will never understand this man if you leap to either of these conclusions,” he writes

Further, Cullen insists that “there is no unified theory of a mass shooter.”

Cullen explains the three broad categories under which killers are classified: psychopaths, who “kill for their own amusement”; psychotics, who “are driven to slaughter to extinguish their torment”; and severe depressives, who feel “unrelenting despair, hopeless and helpless.”

There are indicators of a mind supposedly ready to snap according to a 2002 Secret Service report: 81 percent warned of their impending rampage, 98 percent had experienced a recent significant loss or failure, and 93 percent planned their attack well in advance, debunking the “mind snapping” theory.

“Hardly a spontaneous combustion,” notes Cullen, but “a long, slow, chilling spiral.”

While the study of such minds might be a source of fascination for experts such as Cullen, for the general public it likely matters not the killer’s diagnosis; the facts are all such individuals pose an imminent threat and any of us who happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time can as easily be a victim as any of the movie-goers were in Aurora.  No one is immune from random acts of violence.

The Aurora shooting, the latest in the history of Colorado mass shootings, gives rise to the question: Why here relatively frequently?

Is it mere coincidence or does the Denver metro/Front Range area provide a special environment for such killers given its isolated locale, wild-west tradition, a place of destination for those dissatisfied with their birth places, and the resulting heterogeneic culture?  In the end, Colorado broadly and Denver specifically are immigrant communities.

Harris and Klebold were essentially natives, but Holmes is a transplant from San Diego, so apparently it does not matter if the killers are homegrown or not.

Taking the lead from Cullen, I propose no “unified theory” about the “Why Denver/Colorado?” question, but simply write to provoke thought about it.  For as surely as it has happened on numerous occasions, I have no doubt it will happen again…first a pizza parlor, then a school, next a church, and now a theater…as long as the resources for committing mass murder—weapons of mass destruction and an unlimited supply of ammunition—are available.

Colorado is far from alone from seeing its peoples’ blood flowing, and I don’t suggest it is ground zero for such horrific events.  Nonetheless, it causes one to wonder, and if we fail to continue to consider all the dynamics, we do so at our own peril.

In Bowling for Columbine Michael Moore, a card-carrying NRA member, points out that Canadians possess more guns per capita than Americans, which on the surface seems to contradict one of my main tenets: the readily available weapons and ammunition.

I argue, however, that they are not the only factors, but more like providing an unlimited supply of matches and wood to pyromaniacs.

I’m not arguing for major restrictions on appropriate gun ownership but for reasonable restrictions such as limiting the size of clips that hold bullets and a ban on assault rifles.

I am sensing the horror of that day two weeks ago is wearing off already as we fall back into our daily routines denying the reality that already there are young men—18 to 24 years of age—plotting the next mass shootings.

For surely the performance will be repeated somewhere, some place, at some time.

Sure as shooting.

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