Why Tragedies Happen
In my recent letter about gun control and the types of people who commit mass murders, I gave general examples based on known facts about a large number of such criminals (or terrorists; perhaps a better word to use). What I didn't do was cherry-pick examples to make my point. I stated that most of the mass-murderers who have used guns to kill schoolchildren, moviegoers, shopping mall patrons and others were 1) insane, 2) often taking (or failing to take) psychotropic medications that have as unfortunate side effects violent and anti-social thoughts and actions and 3) often motivated by extreme leftist/radical beliefs (in some cases combined with religious beliefs). I will add point 4) the shooters seem to be almost 100 percent male.
Points 1) and 2) should be obvious. Point 3) is based on a survey of the known political beliefs of the last dozen or so mass murderers using firearms. With few exceptions, they were all connected with either the Democratic Party (I doubt that they were "conservative Democrats," however) or other leftist radical beliefs or movements. There are exceptions:
Jared Loughner (who shot Rep. Gabrielle Giffords and others) was apparently apolitical and probably atheistic (check Wikipedia), but mistrusted government and strongly disliked Giffords, in part because he didn't think women should hold positions of power. All in all, maybe he wasn't political, but he sure was nuts.
As for Timothy McVeigh, he was at one point a registered Republican and also a Roman Catholic. He seems to have fallen away from both of these to some extent before he committed his terrorist bombing attack that killed 168 people (including 19 children) and injured 450 others. But however he might have felt about guns, he didn't use any in his attack, so no sort of gun control would have stopped him.
Emil Rechsteiner seems to think I don't have any sympathy for the victims, presumably because I didn't cry all over my sleeve while writing the letter. Better people than I have delivered eulogies for the various victims; I cannot do better than they. However, I might be able to make some clear-headed suggestions as to why these tragedies happened and what we can do to minimize them in the future. To do that, we need to know who these perpetrators are, how they think, whether their thinking is sane and what other influences (drugs, for example) might have affected them.
As for solutions, the NRA suggested the obvious (and admittedly expensive, but how much is the life of your child worth?) solution of stationing armed guards in our schools. All the liberals and progressives screamed that the NRA was being insensitive, but I notice that a number of schools (including in Connecticut) have since instituted some sort of armed security force.
Another idea that I (and many others) have suggested, is that we eliminate "Gun-Free Zones" which are really "Unarmed Target Zones." If teachers and administrators were allowed to keep a gun locked in their desk drawer or a small gun safe in the classroom, and if legitimate school visitors with valid gun licenses were allowed to enter the school property with their (concealed) guns, the uncertainty of encountering an armed person, whether guard, policeman, teacher or visitor would provide far more deterrent effect against an insane person intent on making as big a "statement" as possible before they were stopped than a forlorn, pathetic sign saying "Gun-Free Zone."
Limiting the magazine capacity of guns that look like military rifles (so-called assault weapons) proves nothing, as smaller-capacity magazines can be rapidly changed. Nothing else about these guns is anything but cosmetics; one would prove as much by banning SUVs with "military" features like spare tires mounted externally and square, boxy body styling - and black, of course. Extending the FBI's National Instant Check System to private sales and gun show sales might make a very tiny difference (most crime guns are either stolen, or in many cases of mass shootings, purchased legally with the NICS check passed. The main reason that the NICS isn't applied to private sales is a concern with security, privacy and abuse of the system. Getting around these concerns is a non-trivial problem.
Would part of a solution be to eliminate violent video games that children use? Perhaps, but probably not. Since most gun murders are not mass shootings, but inner-city gang and revenge shootings, getting back to traditional two-parent families would help. So would an emphasis on traditional religion, even (horrors!) prayers in the public schools. Less lionizing of such radical movements as Occupy Wall Street (and it's offshoots) would help. More attention to the effects of psychotropic drugs - particularly when given to children for such reasons as controlling ADHD - would be very helpful. Would more gun control help? Probably not. And, while this may sound callous, if we can't prevent these terrorist attacks, I'd rather they were committed with guns. Consider the results of some nut tossing a gallon jug of gasoline into a crowded classroom, followed by a lit match. God help us all....