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Reflections on the Latest Mass Murderer

Updated on July 25, 2012

The Public Comes First

About a year and a half ago, I wrote a hub in response to the mass shooting in Arizona where Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords was shot. (See the link on the right.) Like that article, this hub is not about gun control. Over the years, I have learned that talking about gun control, along with many other political topics, is essentially a waste of time. There is one thing, after all, that these periodic mass shootings have made clear: they have virtually no impact on people’s attitudes toward guns. As with most things, people tend to interpret circumstances through the filter of their basic worldview. It does not generally work the other way around. And while there may be ways that either restricting or expanding access to guns will reduce the likelihood of these horrible events in the future, we all know that it is impossible to prevent them entirely.

So instead of talking about gun control, I want to talk about the shooter. Truth be told, I know almost nothing about him. But clearly, by definition, he is messed up in the head. This may be the result of neurological issues in his brain, past psychological trauma, drug use, or a combination of various problems. A time may be coming soon, in fact, where we are able to isolate the exact physiological defects in the human brain that can lead to mass murder. And if this happens, it may strengthen the insanity defense, making it easier to prove that a criminal was not responsible for his or her actions. Then, if the criminal is punished, some may view this as a violation of the person’s individual rights. You can’t punish someone, after all, who was not truly responsible for his or her behavior.

Philosophically, I understand the insanity defense. The problem is that I am not particularly concerned with the individual rights of a mass murderer. I am not even particularly interested in the psychological issues that may have led a lunatic to shoot dozens of people. This is not to say that studying the human brain is a waste of time. It can potentially lead to all sorts of interventions that can stop psychologically messed up people from committing horrible crimes. But in the case of a lunatic who has already committed the crime, my sole concern is the safety of the general public, whose right to safety outweighs the individual rights of a confirmed psycho. Sure, there might be ways to cure the Batman shooter of his mental illness. But you can never be sure that he won’t snap again. So whether he spends the remainder of his days in a jail or a mental institution, he must never be allowed to walk the streets again. This is not a call for vengeance or even for justice. It is an appeal for public safety.

I am not a huge fan of the death penalty. Given the long history of justice system screw-ups, I do not generally trust the government enough to grant it the power to kill people. But if an obviously guilty individual such as this shooter were put to death, I doubt that I will feel any sense of outrage. If nothing else, we taxpayers will no longer be responsible for keeping this menace alive. And it will eliminate any possibility that any future mental health or judicial officials will declare him fit to rejoin society.


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    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 5 years ago

      phdast7, thanks once again for dropping by. I wish there was a way to come up with a guaranteed cure for a mentally disturbed mass murderer. But until that day comes, public safety comes first.


      You are probably right, although I'm sure that gun advocates could whip up some statistics from pro-gun web sites to prove you wrong. In my mind, guns do primarily provide a false sense of security, and our country could learn something from other nations that have far fewer mass shootings than we do.

    • peoplepower73 profile image

      Mike Russo 5 years ago from Placentia California

      I believe both sides are fearful. The gun supporters are fearful of any kind of threat. Therefore, they need guns to protect themselves from the threats. The other side is fearful of the mass shooter. The mass shooter has access to what I call Weapons of Mass Destruction, which are High Capacity Magazine, Automatic Assault weapons. I think you will find there have been more mass shooting than shootings were civillians have protected themselves from threats using weapons of mass destruction.

    • phdast7 profile image

      Theresa Ast 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      Freeway - Thank you for speaking up and writing a cogent and important essay. Historically, in America we have prided ourselves on our willingingness to protect and insure individual rights... but we have taken it too far when the rights of the perpetrator far outweigh the rights of the innocent victime ort he rest of the genral public (also innocent).

      Your sentence below is absolutely on the mark and is not a callous or harsh assessment. It simply means you value others and want to protect the innocent majority at least as much as you want the rights of theguilty protected.

      "But in the case of a lunatic who has already committed the crime, my sole concern is the safety of the general public, whose right to safety outweighs the individual rights of a confirmed psycho."

      Well said, I could not agree with you more. Sharing. ~~ Theresa

    • ptosis profile image

      ptosis 5 years ago from Arizona

      Veronica Moser-Sullivan

      Jessica Ghawi

      John Larimer

      Alexander J. Boik

      Sgt. Jesse Childress

      Jonathan Blunk

      Alex Sullivan

      Micayla Medek

      Matthew McQuinn

      Alexander C. Teves,

      Rebecca Ann Wingo

      Gordon Cowden

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 5 years ago

      Some people probably think like that. Of course, many said the same thing after Obama was elected and he was supposedly going to steal their guns. We have seen a few of these mass shootings in recent years, and they have led to no significant new gun regulations that I am aware of. If anything, I have heard more people argue that these mass shootings prove that guns should be more readily available. Supposedly, if the theater was filled with armed people, then someone would have stopped him before he did so much damage.

      So if this was some sort of conspiracy to bring about more gun regulations, it was not a well conceived plan. And recent history should have made that clear.

    • ptosis profile image

      ptosis 5 years ago from Arizona

      One thins a mass murder does is this, create a panic and gun sales spikes - not go down. State of Emergency thinking, buy the guns now while still can before totally banned.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 5 years ago

      I don't either. There may be things that can reduce the prospect of violence, but it is hard to stop a committed mass murderer who does not care about repercussions.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      It is scary to think that anyone can get a gun. And even more frightening to know that it's the seemingly normal people that abuse the use. I don't think that there is a simple solution to the gun control issue.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 5 years ago

      Yes, I have seen more than one person argue over the last few days that this incident proves that guns must be more easily accessible and their use more lightly regulated.

    • Kathleen Cochran profile image

      Kathleen Cochran 5 years ago from Atlanta, Georgia

      I no longer debate the gun issue in America. After observing one horrific incident after the other for the past half century I am more and more convinced that, inspite of other countries' reasonable policies that limit these things from happening in their countries, nothing will ever change in America.

    • Freeway Flyer profile image

      Paul Swendson 5 years ago

      I care about the safety of the general public more. And since judging mental illness is still a tricky business, when in doubt, you judge a man's actions, not his supposed mental state.

    • christopheranton profile image

      Christopher Antony Meade 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

      I am a bit surprised at you for not caring whether this man is ill or not.

      Illness is illness and if that is the case with this man, he should be cured and released like any other patient. That would be the civilised course to adopt.