Let me make one thing clear.
As of May 2014 there have been at least 70 mass shootings or shooting sprees with legally purchased guns, according to Rolling Stone.
As Ezra Klein reported in 2012, while violence in general declines, more episodes of a lone individual, or team, involved in killing sprees or mass murders increase.
Why? And, as Tim Kreider recently wrote, do we really care?
No one answer can solve this problem.
Is it even worth trying? Do we have an obligation to murdered children, youths and adults? To their families?
Do we even owe it to ourselves because any of us or our families or our kids could be next?
Pundits, politicians, the NRA reach for the simple answers. Yet, no one explanation moves us forward to stopping this crazy epidemic of young men going wild upon the world around them.
Mental illness alone doesn’t cause a person to buy a gun and shoot a bunch people.
Access to guns makes violent crime easier to commit but they don’t motivate the shooter.
Exposure to violence can impact how people process information, but individuals vary widely in how they internalize violent imagery. Most violent gamers don’t become mass murderers.
Overstimulation in general can alter how a person perceives others. Yet, many people with even the most sensitive temperaments or the propensity toward reactive anger don’t decide to kill.
The confluence, however, of persons with unregulated temperaments, who have learned violent pathways to manage emotions, and who have easy access to guns enables more people than ever to enact this complicated call from within their psyches.
So while calling for more mental health treatment, legislating new gun safety rules and placing limits on kids’ access to violent imagery, also ask this question: how come so many people with the above described profile have emerged in the past thirty years or so?
Perhaps these individuals with a particular skew toward vulnerability enact exactly what they have been taught by the world in which we live: rush to do violence.
Children around the world have this in common: suicide bombings, acts of terrorism, exposure to the effects of nuclear arms and chemical weapons, savage treatment of animals in the production of food, obliteration of the world’s beauty and environmental health, sexual aggression towards women and children, pornographic representation of said violence, idolatry of gang culture, and massive overexposure, albeit fantasized, to destructive acts between humans.
Of course these behaviors have always existed. And yes, people have always killed. Mass murders and killing sprees punctuate all of history.
The beauty of the modern world, however, resides in our exquisite technology. The violence we can commit is so much grander. The vulnerable and confused children who grow up under its shadow can enact their vehemence with far greater power.
So limit guns and enhance mental health. In the meantime, think about this: are these troubled lone gunmen with easy access to weapons behaving any differently than that which the world reflects back to them?