Mass Murder Isn’t Reasonable

On May 20, 1988, 30 year old Laurie Dann walked into an elementary school in Winnetka, Illinois, an affluent Chicago suburb, shot and killed one student, and wounded several others. She then went into a house across the street and killed herself. One of those wounded died of their wounds. In the aftermath of the attack, school security in Chicago area schools was strenously tightened. School entrances were limited to one, central entrance. Metal detectors were installed. Guards were placed at entrances. Visitors were required to sign in and out. In the years that have followed many of these security measures have been left in place.

When there is a mass murder like the one that took place in Winnetka, like the one that happened at Columbine High School in Colorado, or like this most recent incident in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, normal, feeling people recoil in horror. We try to understand why it happened. We wonder how it might have been prevented.

Some are convinced that gun control will prevent these incidents from happening. The outcry for tightened gun control has already begun in the aftermath of the terrible murders in Sandy Hook.

Violence in motion pictures, television, video games, and maybe even books inures people to violence. Would censorship make murders like these too horrible for their perpetrators to contemplate?

Mental illness frequently plays a part in these horrific incidents. It certainly did in the case of Laurie Dann and I wouldn’t be surprised if the murderer of Sandy Hook was mentally ill. Would aggressive mandatory mental health screening prevent these horrible incidents?

How do we know that gun control or censorship or mental health screening or any of the other measures that we might put into place to prevent future tragedies would be effective? Wouldn’t they stand to reason?

But mass murder isn’t reasonable.

56 comments… add one
  • Jimbino Link

    It is real real dumb to hobble the lives and liberty of Amerikans on account of random killings.

    As we learned in law school, “We want accidents to happen.” Why? – – because prohibiting them costs far more in life and liberty. Unfortunately, Amerikans are allowed to vote without having the slightest clue of science, math, stats, probability or economics.

  • michael reynolds Link

    I don’t call for gun control so much as a hearts and minds campaign. Gun ownership should be stigmatized like cigarette smoking or dog fighting. It should become outré, suspect, creepy.

    The guns used in this mass murder were apparently (and it’s still soon) registered to the shooter’s mother. Perhaps she thought she needed a gun for personal security.

    I’ve fired a number of guns and owned a Colt 45 auto when I was in my early 20’s. I was not insane. I was not a convicted felon. I was not an alcoholic or drug addict. I had purchased it legally when I fired it accidentally in a room with my sister, my girlfriend and my uncle. The round hit the floor. Another few degrees of elevation. . .

    I got rid of the Colt not just because of that incident but because I became a slave to it. At the time I had legitimate reason to be concerned for my safety. I started by keeping the gun in my house. But what if something happened while I was in my car? What if something happened while I was at work? I soon found I couldn’t go anywhere without it.

    So I traded it to a guy for a 35 millimeter camera. That was 36 years ago, give or take, and I’ve never missed it.

    We don’t need guns. The gun cult is a sickness that kills as many people as a crashing jumbo jet every week. Enough.

  • Gun ownership should be stigmatized like cigarette smoking or dog fighting.

    I mentioned social stigma as a countermeasure to my wife earlier this evening. However, I also think we need to recognize that a sizeable group of Americans takes Second Amendment rights just as seriously as another sizeable group of Americans takes First Amendment rights. That’s why I brought up the issue of censorship in the body of my post.

    There are something between 200 and 250 million firearms in the United States today. As a practical matter it’s pretty hard to imagine any level of gun control that would actually prevent somebody who wanted to get guns from doing so.

  • michael reynolds Link

    I agree, I don’t think it’s possible to outlaw guns. But to pick up on your free speech comparison, people are free under the First Amendment to call random strangers, “Fat ugly pig,” but it’s stigmatized. I don’t think stigmatizing gun ownership will solve the problem either completely or quickly, but it might (to borrow a phrase I hear ’round these parts) start to bend the curve.

  • steve Link

    Too many guns for gun control. We have essentially no means to predict who will become violent. These shootings are just part of the price of liberty.


  • PD Shaw Link

    I hugged my gradeschooler when I got home.

  • Jimbino Link

    I feel as beleaguered as the folks of the Polish Ghetto or the Warsaw Uprising. Or the Swiss or Israelis. Guns are needed to protect ourselves against aggressive foreign or domestic gummints. Our own gummint seems to be our greatest actual threat.

  • Andy Link

    I hugged both of mine too, PD. Long ago I learned not to click and read news stories about the death of children by violence. The scale of this is impossible to ignore and makes me sick to my stomach.

  • I’m in for getting children working in the home.

    A five year old can dust. She can also do a good job of ruining your mahogany furniture with Comet. I did it. Mama was very clean.

  • But through all that, she did teach me how to read, and cook and sew, and make a bed with a hospital corner.

    She was a drill sergeant. Had to be. Seven kids is a large load to rear.

  • None of us are are dead, and none of us have been in prison. On a carpenter’s wage, what more can you ask?

  • We couldn’t keep guns in the house, because I’m pretty sure we’d kill each other. And Daddy was sort of an Aticus Finch.

  • Loud and obnoxius as Mockingbirds can be, they’re not as hateful as Bluejays.

  • Bluejays are mean.

  • Yeah, yeah, I’m an animal behaviorist.

  • What you get for going to Reed. I don’t recommend it.

  • It’s not for everyone.

  • Men, such animals.

  • Might as well confess here, too, since I did it before the congregation at my husband’s service. Maybe a hundred in attendance. I’d alreadyy talked to the siblings I cared about.

    I was prostitute in NYC 1980-82. Had to pay rent and electricity. Cost about $700 a month. Made about a $100 an hour. But that was rarely the case. You’d get about $200 and maybe a $50 a day.

    It was a house. The linen bills were outrageous. Not to mention condoms.

    So at 55, I say, pretty much, “Fuck off.”

  • What’s to hide anymore, when you tell your neighbors? Or your lover?

  • Don’t pity me.

  • I used you men.

  • Silly sons a bitches.

  • Y’all okay with that? I got a Ruger in my back pocket that says you are.

  • And I still couldn’t stand up to a South Louisiana girl.

  • Y’all get it, snotwad Republicans?

  • Hey, TB.

  • You know killers when you see them.

  • So my suggestion is that the snotwads in Washington get off the dime, if you know what I mean.

  • August to f*****g December. That’s a long time, Sunoco.

    If you haven’t noticed, I’m still pissed off.

    May you lose another $700 mil next year.

  • But the Christmas Cabaret was really good. Well-staged, imaginative, good voices, and I sat with Dr. Ball (Sally’s daddy) and his wife. She’s very pretty. And used to be a singer herself.

  • Can’t help myself, can I? I have the heart of a promoter.

  • By God, a sleeve of Ritz crackers came free with the ticket because they knew we’d been drinking. They sold the drink tickets.

  • Dewar’s on the rock’s, if you want know. Glenlivet straight makes me mean.

  • There’s that insidious apostrophe in the plural. This place (the Internet) is dumbing us down.

  • That’s your Joyce for today.

  • Get on with it.

  • Again, can’t help myself:

  • Why in the world do I inflict myself upon you? I have perfectly good blog of my own.

  • Its the damned Fortran, I’m sure. You’ll suffer for that for a long time.

  • Andy Link

    We don’t need guns. The gun cult is a sickness that kills as many people as a crashing jumbo jet every week. Enough.

    What is this “gun cult?” People who are “gun nuts” very rarely commit gun crimes. The mass murderers typically become interested in guns only after they’ve already decided kill. How, exactly, has this “cult” culture influenced the people who commit these murders?

    I don’t think the problem has much to do with any “gun cult” or “fetish.” I think the that theory is about as valid as the video game theory as an explanation for violence.

    Ultimately, I think the problem is us. IMO American society is breaking down and becoming increasingly atomized thanks, in part, to the breakdown of rational political ideology in this country. Here’s how it was put by a noted Clausewitzian scholar over at another blog where I spend a lot of time:

    The second set concerns specific American problems which are closely tied with changes in American society and especially imo with the collapse of both Liberalism/Progressivism and Conservativism as political ideologies. From the “Left”, a lot of the good intentions of mass education or more broadly, the Square, New and Fair “Deals” as well as the “Great Society” coupled with modern notions of “progress” have eroded traditional authority – be it parents, churches, teachers and communities, and replaced it with . . . well nothing really. The state as in bureaucratic control, be it education or social services or whatever, has been unable to fill the void.

    The less said about what has become of Conservativism in America the better. Any practical view of politics or of state responsibility has been sunk in a morass of corruption, self-interest, racism and blind ideology which sees the state as simply the steel fist of the elite to enforce their version of “order” or as a milk cow for their narrow interests.

    Consider how the collapse of language as a means of communication and sharing ideas fits in with the growing polarization in America, it is as if we are operating in different dimensions since the ability for rational thought seems to have been lost.

    As the rest of the world stumbles forward, the US sinks in its own little swamp of delusional self-interest and money-drenched corruption. We have become our own worst enemies, our own dynamic for self-destruction . . .

    Notice how the “debate” over these mass killing plays out in the context of the these two ideologies and the “solutions” offered by each fit with that description.

    As I think most here know, I grew up in Colorado. When I was in High School, Columbine was one of our rivals. Columbine was the “rich, stuck up kid” HS in the mid-late 1980’s – at least that’s what we thought. My closest friend growing up (who is still in Denver and still a very close friend) had a family member killed at Columbine who I knew (though not well). I encourage you to re-read the timeline for that. The murderers mocked and terrorized their victims. The so-call “gun cult” had nothing to do with their motivations. I think it’s ludicrous to think that making guns “creepy” would have any effect on the Columbine murderers or the reportedly disturbed individual responsible for the Sand Hook massacre.

    That’s the biggest issue, IMO, but I do think access to guns is a contributing factor since it’s easier, at least in principle, for those who choose to murder to obtain the tools to carry out their crimes. Of course when looking at events in hindsight, it’s not always straightforward to come up with a programmatic gun control policy that, had it been in place, would have prevented the tragedy. Therefore, I think the problem of access is a problem without a real solution. Weapons can’t be banned, much less confiscated while the 2nd amendment is in place and there is little support to repeal it. There is basically no chance we could, for example, get down to Japan levels in terms of firearms. Even if it were possible, banning would have all sorts of pernicious secondary effects and I’m not confident that such a “cure” would be better than the “disease.”

  • PD Shaw Link

    I’ll just note that the neighborhood diagnosis of the killer as having had some form of aspergers would appear to indicate that at least in wealthy areas knowledge of the spectrum disorders is highly prevalent, but without concommitant knowledge of what the disorders entail or of any other personality disorders (like avoidance personality disorders, antisocial personality disorders and paranoid schizophrenia)

  • I still don’t know what Lyman’s son was doing with two guns in the house, lying around in broad daylight, in a house that was often unlocked with no one at home.

    The people who like and care about guns care about safety, too. That’s the mantra of responsible gun ownership.

  • His father was a hunter, and dealt exclusively with long guns.

  • Of course there is my gay brother — he was strictly Howitzers.

  • And people wonder why I’m “eccentric.”

  • sam Link

    “Consider how the collapse of language as a means of communication and sharing ideas fits in with the growing polarization in America, it is as if we are operating in different dimensions since the ability for rational thought seems to have been lost.”

    Words had to change their ordinary meaning and to take that which was now given them. Reckless audacity came to be considered the courage of a loyal ally; prudent hesitation, specious cowardice; moderation was held to be a cloak for unmanliness; ability to see all sides of a question, inaptness to act on any. Frantic violence became the attribute of manliness; cautious plotting, a justifiable means of self-defence. The advocate of extreme measures was always trustworthy; his opponent a man to be suspected. To succeed in a plot was to have a shrewd head, to divine a plot a still shrewder; but to try to provide against having to do either was to break up your party and to be afraid of your adversaries. In fine, to forestall an intending criminal, or to suggest the idea of a crime where it was wanting, was equally commended until even blood became a weaker tie than party, from the superior readiness of those united by the latter to dare everything without reserve; for such associations had not in view the blessings derivable from established institutions but were formed by ambition for their overthrow; and the confidence of their members in each other rested less on any religious sanction than upon complicity in crime. The fair proposals of an adversary were met with jealous precautions by the stronger of the two, and not with a generous confidence. Revenge also was held of more account than self-preservation. Oaths of reconciliation, being only proffered on either side to meet an immediate difficulty, only held good so long as no other weapon was at hand; but when opportunity offered, he who first ventured to seize it and to take his enemy off his guard, thought this perfidious vengeance sweeter than an open one, since, considerations of safety apart, success by treachery won him the palm of superior intelligence. Indeed it is generally the case that men are readier to call rogues clever than simpletons honest, and are as ashamed of being the second as they are proud of being the first. The cause of all these evils was the lust for power arising from greed and ambition; and from these passions proceeded the violence of parties once engaged in contention. The leaders in the cities, each provided with the fairest professions, on the one side with the cry of political equality of the people, on the other of a moderate aristocracy, sought prizes for themselves in those public interests which they pretended to cherish, and, recoiling from no means in their struggles for ascendancy engaged in the direst excesses; in their acts of vengeance they went to even greater lengths, not stopping at what justice or the good of the state demanded, but making the party caprice of the moment their only standard, and invoking with equal readiness the condemnation of an unjust verdict or the authority of the strong arm to glut the animosities of the hour. Thus religion was in honour with neither party; but the use of fair phrases to arrive at guilty ends was in high reputation. Meanwhile the moderate part of the citizens perished between the two, either for not joining in the quarrel, or because envy would not suffer them to escape.

    Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, III 69-85: The Civil War at Corcyra

  • Andy Link

    That’s awesome Sam, thanks.

  • That is a great selection, sam.

    As for weaponry, I’ve nought but the slings and arrows of outrageous fortune.

  • And 10″ chef’s knife, which scared the men in my house — those would be my husband and his father.

  • TastyBits Link

    At one time losers knew they were losers. By instilling esteem into a loser’s self, he no longer understands his place.

  • TastyBits Link

    @Janis Gore

    Yeah, yeah, I’m an animal behaviorist.

    I study the human animals. All animals are the same, but some of us are a little more conceited than others.

  • I mean it. Get your house in order.

  • Fat bottomed girls make the rockin’ world go ‘ round:

  • TastyBits Link

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