I don’t understand mass shootings

When it comes down to the nitty-gritty basics, I don’t want to understand mass shootings. But, as a country, I think we need to figure them out. So far, (through March) there have been 146 mass shootings this year, with a death toll of 148 along with 485 wounded. The latest one occurred in South Carolina yesterday when five people, including a doctor, his wife, two grandchildren, and another individual were killed by a shooter who apparently took his own life. No motive has been established.

Do you really need this for self defense? Wikipedia photo.

Many people believe these shootings occur due to easy access to guns, with the emphasis to “access” usually meaning military-style weapons. When I was in high school and junior high school, almost everyone I knew owned guns, as did my family. They were for hunting and target practice. That was 50 years ago, so how we felt about hunting for food is so different from today’s culture, that it would be inaccurate to say, we had easy access to guns and yet there were no mass shootings.

Some people hunted deer, though we never did. These folks used 30-30 and 30-06 rounds in a variety of rifles. Many were bolt action. Some held 3-5 rounds. We owned shotguns for hunting ducks. My grandfather in Illinois hunted pheasants, my wife’s father hunted deer and quail. Almost all of us went fishing. The purpose was always food that wasn’t available at the grocery store.

I cannot compare our access to guns in the 1950s and 1960s with today’s access to guns or with the kinds of guns people are buying, much less the rationale for buying them. So I’m perplexed about the motivation for buying semi-automatic weapons with large magazines. One doesn’t hunt with these. One doesn’t really need them for self-defense.

According to the New Yorker, “The late Chief Justice Warren E. Burger said, in 1991, that the idea that the Second Amendment conferred a right for individuals to bear arms was ‘a fraud on the American public.’ Burger was no liberal, and his view simply reflected the overwhelming consensus on the issue at the time.” This interpretation matches mine, that being that we cannot overlook the part of the Second Amendment that mentions the militia–in today’s terms, the national guard.

The default interpretation today is to overlook the militia component of the amendment and say we all have the right to own all the military-style guns we want. That’s absurd on the face of it. Yet, when solving this problem of mass shootings, I think we need to look more at our culture than simply on access to firearms. Why would anyone bust into that doctor’s house and kill everyone? I’m not sure we know. Perhaps we will never know. If it comes down to, “The doctor pissed me off,” then we’re really not at the core issue of motivation. If you’re the shooter, knowing you will probably end up dead, being pissed off seems very lame as a rationale.

The “why” illudes us. Is it news reporting: copycats who say, “yeah, I want to die like that.” Is it the guns? Is it the fact many people don’t believe in the sanctity of life?

We’re not looking hard enough or deep enough at this problem.


Malcolm R. Campbell

Publisher: Thomas-Jacob Publishing


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