Senseless violence. As perpetrated by human beings, there is no such thing as senseless violence. The only senseless violence is that done by nature. A hurricane is senseless. A volcano is senseless. A tornado creates random and senseless violence leaving human devastation with no reason whatsoever. Human beings are never senseless - they do things with purpose. Murder is purposeful, never senseless. Every man who aims a gun has a purpose, and a reason. I would hope that anyone who wants to debate the fate of shooters in America never makes this mistake of using the term 'senseless violence'.
I cannot address this unique murder except through the context of two ideas, one which is certain and the other which is not so certain.
The uncertainty stems from the probable lack of any good data on the incidence of mass murder in other countries. Here in America, we have 17,000 murders (or so) per year, the overwhelming majority are done one at a time to people known by the assailant. So ordinary murder is not such a big deal as far as press stories with political legs, but this sort has gotten up and walked around the block a couple times. How many mass murders are there in the world? Or is America exceptional?
The United States experienced 645 mass-murder events — killings with at least four victims — between 1976 and 2010, according to Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. When graphed, these incidents show no obvious trend. The numbers go up and down and up again. The total body count: 2,949.
For the sake of reference, Los Angeles in 2008 showed 384 homicides.
I always begin and end with the premise that all men are created equal. This means I have a very difficult time with criticisms of American society that don't have some baseline outside of American society. And I look at the political activism of reasonable people with history in mind. What are the possibilities that the ideas tossed around among the American chatting class this month can actually hold water against everything that has gone before? Or are people just convinced?
I write this essay in the context of obligatory seriousness because it is something that in light of the first idea, I cannot be certain how ultimately serious it should be taken. Is it more important than any other sort of mass murder in the world? I have heard many people express outrage directed against what they percieve to be an unusual defect unique to America. My bias is not to believe the defect is so unusual. Perhaps it is self-evident that Americans have access to a higher quality of manufactured goods than any other population - our guns kill better, but I don't think that's really the problem. Is there something about America that produces more psychopathic killers? Or do our psychopaths merely have access to better technology? Does America have more psychopaths per capita, or are they just more free to move about unimpeded in society? These questions have not been answered to my satisfaction.
The certain idea is actually the more disturbing one, because what is certain is that the end game of gun control is disarmament. Disarmament is never universal, it is always directed at a certain party. Disarmament is selective and compelled. The effect of gun control is to disarm certain Americans. Well, which? The answer, more often than not, begins and ends with political bias. Try 'gun-nuts'. Try 'NRA supporters'.
I suppose that I am as guilty as Jason Alexander in ranting over this story. Consider the difference between the reactions of the Left and Right in response to the matter of of the Fort Hood shooter Nidal Malik Hasan. Or of Arizona shooter Jared Lee Loughner. Or of Virginia Tech shooter Seung-Hui Cho. Jason Alexander and others are quick to explain out that the Aurora shooting should prove that there is no defensible logic for the support of publicly available assault rifles. That claim invokes rather complicated proofs, not the least of which is an explanation of how Cho killed more than twice as many people with a couple of pistols.
At any rate, I find myself at a particular loss to get excited over this except to guage the energy and logic of those motivated to hang their disarmament hats on this particular peg. Or as I expressed it more passionately:
It's not a gun-nut problem, it is a matter of law applied to the public because of the acts of one. What I'm more interested here is how your political lot can agitate to remove +Eric Raymond 's freedom because of one lunatic. Suddenly in your eyes, we all become 'gun-nuts'. How can you not see that prejudicial bias working against the principles of liberty?