Madness and Mass Violence in the Information Age

Two unrelated mass shootings in one weekend. In war against gun violence in America, there are no easy answers.

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Photo by Samantha Sophia on Unsplash

The world looks on in horror today as news of two unrelated mass shootings over the weekend continue to filter through the U.S. news cycle. One happened in El Paso, Texas; one in Dayton, Ohio.

We all say it’s heartbreaking; we agree it’s all terrible; we acknowledge we’re all terrified.

What should we do about it?

The usual suspects are engaging in their usual call for gun control; yes, sensible gun control measures like the closing of gun-show loopholes, universal background checks and a ban on assault rifles are in the interest of public health.

Incidents of mass violence, when compared on balance to other forms of gun violence in America, are statistically rare. Mass shootings account for only a small part of the massive problem. Over 1,500 people have been shot in Chicago so far this year alone. 38,658 people were killed in incidents of gun violence in 2016; of that number 60% were suicides.

Anti-gun control advocates should abandon the slippery slope fallacy, stop reading “sensible gun control measures” as code for “slippery slope to gun confiscation” and be realistic about gun violence in America.

A slippery slope is a slippery slope. Passing intelligent, measured, voter-supported, bi-partisan legislation on divisive issues, after careful debate and expert testimony, in a democracy, is not a slippery slope.

It is the responsibility of good government.

The U.S. cannot afford to let hyper-partisan hysterics stall progress on issues that effect the lives and livelihoods of 330 million Americans. Other countries have mentally ill people, violent video games; they don’t have mass shootings every weekend, let alone twice a weekend.

On the other hand, gun control advocates need to stop pretending that sensible gun control measures, or even banning and confiscating all guns, will magically fix the problem.

You can learn to do anything on the internet: Like how to make napalm, pipe bombs, and other improvised explosive devices.

Soon anyone will be able to learn how to print guns, easily and at home using software from the internet and a 3-D printer available from any friendly neighborhood Amazon drone, delivery within 15 minutes.

In addition, law abiding people will turn in their guns. People willing to kill other people are willing break laws. They will not turn in their guns. What now?

At the heart of the matter, people kill because they are killers.

You can give someone who is not a killer a deadly weapon and everyone will be perfectly fine. We do it everyday; it’s called an automobile and don’t you forget it next time you are tempted to text while driving.

But even if you give someone who is not a killer an AR-15, they won’t turn it on their worst enemy, even if presented the opportunity. Laws, yes. But also most people simply aren’t killers, except in instances of self-defense to save their own lives.

If someone is a killer, they will kill- someone, with whatever is at hand.

Killers usually only kill those closest to them; their domestic partner, their child, their best friend, a romantic rival, a business partner.

But give them an AR-15, a convenient scapegoat, a grudge against the establishment, or expose them to radicalization, and a killer will use it kill as many people as possible. It gets far more attention, inspires far more fear and panic, provides a much greater outlet for inflicting personal rage on the innocent people of the world than common violent crimes of a personal nature.

The attention we lavish on the perpetrators of these horrific crimes, albeit negative, is hardly helping the problem; but the media can scarcely stop covering these terrible events in order to prevent other maniacs getting funny ideas.

What is to become of American society?

The proliferation of guns; the existence of violent, radical material on the internet; incessant news coverage of each successive shooting; the sorry state of mental health care; violent movies and video games: None of these are genies that will easily fit back into their bottles.

Violence has been a plague on humankind from the beginning of recorded history. That it survives into the information age shouldn’t be as surprising as it is disheartening.

People who feel alone in the world, isolated, and betrayed by society are turning to mass violence as a means of suicide. They would take every single one of us with them if they could.

In a world like ours, one that is increasingly without limits on acquisition, knowledge, community, and mobility- in a world of infinite possibility, how do we stop them? And a more terrible question that haunts us all:

What if they can’t be stopped?

(contributing writer, Brooke Bell)

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