POP CULTURE OR THE GOVERNMENT: WHO IS RESPONSIBLE FOR MASS MURDERS?

Aurora, Colorado, twelve killed, 58 injured. Newtown, Connecticut, 27 killed, 1 injured. San Bernardino, California, 14 killed, 21 injured. Blacksburg, Virginia 32 killed, 17 injured. Orlando, Florida 50 killed, 53 injured. These cities and towns in our country will forever be tied to mass murder. Mass Murder is defined as the intentional killing of more than four people in a single incident. These are not casualties of inner city violence or the war on drugs. These acts are domestic terrorism. Terrorism is the use of violence and intimidation in the pursuit of political gains. These killings were committed in places previously thought to be safe, places where such acts were totally unexpected. Or rather, used to be unexpected. These crimes have become so prevalent in today’s society, that it seems one can’t turn on the news without hearing of such atrocities.

Our natural response is to blame someone or something; mental illness, the NRA, video games, bad parenting, music, the media, bullying gone awry. Liberals blame the gun lobby and the 2nd Amendment; Conservatives blame the ACLU and President Obama’s weak stance on terrorism. Once we have someone to “blame”, we set up systems to ensure similar crimes do not happen again and try to go about our lives feeling as if we have done something to protect ourselves from future acts of violence. But they have. Repeatedly.

This process may make us feel safer than looking inward and thinking: ‘There but for the grace of God go I… or my child’ What if the reality lies somewhere in between. What if the cause of these terrorists acts are not an external factor like political or socioeconomic injustice or disagreement but rather something at the root of human instinct and behavior that’s also interwoven into American popular culture? This possibility suggests that, rather than trying to get rid of some offending external agent, a more successful approach might require looking within and our own communities for a solution.

James Fox and Monica DeLateur, criminologists at Northeastern University, published a report last year in Homicide Studies that dispels some myths about mass shootings and calls into question our tendency to blame things outside of ourselves. To begin with, the authors note that ‘mass shootings have not increased in number or death toll, at least not over the past several decades’. They then went on to devalue a number of common assumptions about mass shootings. Contrary to popular opinion after the Columbine High School massacre in 1999, in which two teenage boys, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, murdered 12 fellow students and a teacher, violent entertainment doesn’t seem to be a significant cause of mass murder. In terms of interventions, neither tighter gun control nor arming our schools with alarms, school resource officers and video monitoring are likely to reduce mass shootings. Even expanded efforts at profiling would-be mass murderers or expanding mental health services might be for naught. These conclusions aren’t very encouraging and the authors end by suggesting that we ought to continue ineffective responses in any case because ‘doing something is better than nothing’.

Susan Collins, Republican Senator from Maine unveiled legislation today to prevent terrorists from obtaining guns. Backers say the bill has the possibility of gaining the 60-vote majority needed to pass in the Senate. “Our goal is simple and straightforward”, she said at a Tuesday afternoon press conference. “We want to make America safer”. This legislation comes in the wake of the Senate’s failure to pass four different gun control measures on Monday including two, which attempted to block suspected terrorists from purchasing firearms.

Collins proposal also includes a “look-back” provision” which would alert the FBI should anyone who has been on the Government’s broader Terrorist Screening Database purchases a gun.

Collins stated, “If the purpose is no fly, no by, we have accomplished that purpose”. The proposed legislation would certainly be an improvement over current legislation but would not address those not covered by such lists, those like Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris.