Why Mass Shootings? Heavy Political Rhetoric, Psychopaths, and too many Weapons

WASHINGTON – The El Paso slaughter stunned America. It is human nature that when something completely out of the ordinary happens –an immense tragedy in this case—everybody wants to know “why”. And this case the simple “why” seems to be that the young man who went to the Walmart to kill as many Hispanics as he could did so because of his White Supremacist convictions. Apparently, he strongly believes that Latinos and Hispanics are alien enemies, and therefore they must be eliminated.

The hate crime narrative

Putting all
this together, this mass murder episode becomes yet another tragic episode of
violence motivated by racist hatred –another hate crime. And who is fueling
racist hatred in America these days? But, of course, as we all know, it is the
President himself, Donald Trump. Therefore, it is all finally clear.

And here is
the media-sponsored “official” narrative
that explains the roots of the tragedy and the event itself. President Trump,
with his abrasive and openly anti-immigrant and anti-Latino rhetoric, provided
cover to all those who share his beliefs and are also willing to act to enforce
his vision of a White America finally restored to its appropriate position of

Not a good explanation

Of course,
there is a small amount of truth in this “explanation”.
National leaders should never set a bad example by over using inflammatory
language. It is very bad when they publicly and repeatedly disparage ethnic
minorities or any other segment of our society, fingering them as bad,
inferior, criminal or what have you. These messages, coming straight from the
top, are false; and they may give bad ideas to somebody.

Some psychopaths may act

That said, it
takes a psychopath to follow up with a mass shooting of complete strangers
based on the notion that “The President himself
declared that this people are bad news. The clean-up has to start somewhere,
and I may as well do my part”.
If anybody interpreted Trump’s offensive
language against Latinos as a license to get an automatic weapon and start
killing people, it means that they are mentally deranged.

Our national problem

And here is our national conundrum. Sadly, we do have an inflamed political climate –-and no doubt the President has contributed to raising the temperature. But we also have too many non diagnosed psychopaths, or at least mentally disturbed people, many of whom have unhindered access to lethal weapons.

Not to sound too simplistic, here is the thing. When you have extreme ideas that pass for normal political discourse, crazy people who may act on them, and literally millions of legal weapons in circulation, then we cannot be too surprised when one unhinged person does something really horrible. Yes, as the El Paso carnage shows us, just one person armed with a powerful weapon can create an immense human tragedy.

No easy solutions

Fixing all
this will be incredibly complicated. Changing the tone of the national
political debate is difficult enough; but not impossible. Far more complicated
is the effort to identify and place legally binding restrictions on mentally
disturbed people. Finally, limiting access to weapons will be even more
complicated, given the almost religious belief held by millions of Americans in
the absolute right to buy and carry weapons supposedly provided by the Second
Amendment to the US Constitution.

So, here is
the list. Here are the key ingredients for tragedies such as El Paso:  1) crazy ideas that demonize segments of our
society; 2) at least some deranged individuals willing to act to implement them;
3) and plenty of weapons available.

As a society,
we must face the magnitude of the problems confronting us. While it may take a
long time, we must change all this. The penalty for inaction will be more such tragedies. 

President Obama Picked The Zimmerman Case To Talk About Racial Bias In America. A Bad Idea

By Paolo von Schirach

July 20, 2013

WASHINGTON – President Obama felt the need to inject his own presidential and personal perspective as an African American male into the Zimmerman trial not guilty verdict. While on the surface this may appear a nuanced, thoughtful interjection, in reality it was most unhelpful. On the face of it, Obama’s impromptu speech appears  politically motivated. An African American President felt the need to speak to his own audience in terms they would like, even though doing so required a willful distortions. Please remember that Obama is a lawyer.

Willful misrepresentation of the case

While speaking calmly, President Obama essentially endorsed the totally wrong and misleading narrative whereby a grown up white male with a gun killed an innocent Black teen-ager out of racial spite. Adding insult to injury, the wicked White-dominated justice system let him get away with it, endorsing the fanciful defense thesis whereby Zimmerman acted in self-defense. “Well, come on. How can this be? A grown up White person with a gun feared for his life in a street confrontation with an unarmed Black kid?”

It is “obvious” that Zimmerman, a neighborhood watch volunteer, was on a hunt. Because of his racial prejudice, he was looking for Black suspects. When he saw young Trayvon Martin, he pursued him, triggered a confrontation and then killed him. The absurd Florida “stand your ground” law that permits people who feel endangered to react forcefully, and that includes shooting, provides an ugly cover to yet another case of  White on Black violence.

Presidential endorsement

Yes, this is the narrative adopted by most African American leaders. And President Obama, even though he did not openly say that he believes Zimmerman acted out of racial bias, essentially endorsed this totally false version of the story.

Let me back track a moment. To be absolutely clear, I did say well before the trial and after the verdict that this tragedy occurred because the system allows armed amateur detectives like Zimmerman to roam around looking for suspects. I did say and I repeat now that Zimmerman did not belong there. He should not have been patrolling the streets armed with a gun. This is police work. Amateurs not allowed. So, in my judgement this is a real issue; and an issue worth discussing. There is something profoundly wrong with a system that allows almost anybody to act as if they were competent enough to do police work.

The killing was not racially motivated

That said, the long investigation and lengthy trial did not come up with the slightest shred of evidence that Zimmerman, himself half  Hispanic, would fit the “red-neck-racist” profile. There is no evidence that he pursued young Trayvon Martin because he was Black. These are the facts of the case. This was a horrible tragedy. A tragedy that could have been avoided, had Zimmerman, a private citizen, stayed at home instead of venturing out looking for suspects. But this killing in no way fits the narrative now endorsed by President Obama.

This was not a racially motivated killing.

There is racial prejudice in America

President Obama is right in reminding America that racial prejudice is still alive and well. And this is an issue that all people of good will should face and focus on. Racial prejudice is still with us; and it is wrong. However, President Obama did not help the needed national reflection on such weighty matters by using the wrong example, the Zimmerman trial  and not guilty verdict, to stress this point.

The killing of young Trayvon Martin was and is a tragedy. And the state of Florida, along with all the others that have adopted “stay your ground laws” while allowing amateurs to behave like the police, should take notice.

Zimmerman trial is not illustrative of lingering racism

But President Obama should not have endorsed the wrong narrative that describes this sad event as a racially motivated killing. Nobody denies that racist feelings are alive and well across America. However, linking the Trayvon Martin killing with the long but distant past of segregation and White on Black violence is not at all helpful.

Mercifully, Jim Crow laws and lynchings occurring on a daily basis are way behind us. The President should know this. And instead he used the Trayvon Martin killing as evidence that the entire Black community is still a victim of prejudice and violence, and therefore well within its rights to protest against this unending injustice. This is a self-serving narrative pushed by self-appointed “civil rights leaders“. But it is just not true.  To cite just the most obvious fact that contradicts this convenient interpretation of the conditions of Blacks and other minorities in the US, in today’s America most young Black males are killed by other young Black males. Who’s protesting against that? President Obama knows all this. And yet he never properly discussed this sad truth of Black on Black violence.

In addressing the Zimmerman not guilty verdict Obama, himself a lawyer, decided to misrepresent what happened. Regrettably, he willfully manipulated the facts of a real tragedy to say something that would please his political supporters. Perhaps a politically astute move; but not at all presidential.

Legislation To Ban The Sale Of Assault Weapons Will Do Nothing – There Are 300 Million Guns Held By Citizens In America, Way Too Many – Some Of Them Do End Up In The Hands Of Mentally Disturbed People

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By Paolo von Schirach

December 18, 2012

WASHINGTON – California Senator Dianne Feinstein wants to reintroduce a bill that will ban the sale of assault weapons in America. At first glance it seems like a good idea. Even if we want to respect the constitutional right to bear arms, assault weapons are not indispensable. So, assuming that the law will be introduced and passed, is this the proverbial “first step in the good direction”?

Empty gestures

Not really. This is just another empty gesture, well meaning but worthless. America is already awash in weapons of all kinds, including millions of assault weapons. I have heard different numbers from a variety of experts. Some say 250 million fire arms in the hands of private citizens in the US, some say 300 million. These are astonishing numbers.

And consider that if there is any prospect of a new ban on assault weapons, millions of people will rush to buy them before the prohibition will kick in, thus vastly increasing the numbers of weapons already in private hands.

Besides, and this is shows how the effort is just a political empty gesture, a previous ban on the sale of assault weapons (from 1994 to 2004) had no appreciable consequences whatsoever. No impact on their use and/or on the homicide rate.

Too many guns in circulation

But the real issue is that not much can be done with laws partially restricting this or that. There are just way too many weapons in the hands of average Americans. And possessing all sorts of weapons, regardless of numbers and features, according to the prevailing –if preposterous– interpretation of the Second Amendment, is a constitutional right. Without a major cultural transformation, no way to outlaw or severely restrict guns in America.

And quite frankly there is no direct correlation between the number of guns in private hands and the number of homicides. In fact, with all these weapons floating around, homicides are way down in America. True enough, mass slaughters just like the one in Connecticut, are up. Still, even though these are horrible events, such massacres do not occur on a daily basis.

Mentally ill people can get guns

It is obvious that in these cases we have a bad combination of mentally disturbed people and a system that makes it relatively easy for them to acquire weapons, or to use weapons owned by others, as in the case of Adam Lanza, the 20 year old Connecticut shooter who used guns owned by his mother.

Politicians want to show they are doing “something”

President Obama says that he is going to do “something”. Senator Feinstein wants to reintroduce a ban on certain categories of weapons that (as we know from experience) will have no impact. So, this is the moment for politicians to appear serious and look busy.

Still, in the end all this activism will do nothing. In all this, the good news is that, (without any new laws), overall fewer people get killed in America. The bad news is that the system as it exists makes it relatively easy for deranged individuals to plot and execute mass murder because they can easily obtain weapons.

Stop deranged individuals before they act?

Of course, it would be great to be able to spot and apprehend all would be mass killers before they act, but this is clearly impossible. America is a free society. You cannot keep an eye on everybody. You cannot arrest all mentally unstable people on suspicion that some day they may do something really horrible.

This being the case, as deranged individuals and weapons make a terrible combination, realistically we cannot create a large enough shield that will prevent other events like the one in Connecticut.

The Aurora Movie Theatre Massacre Is About A Deranged Individual Who Could Easily Buy Guns – Almost Unrestricted Access To Weapons Is Part Of The American System – So, Let’s Not Act Surprised

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By Paolo von Schirach

July 21, 2012

WASHINGTON – Since in America almost anybody can buy guns and ammunition in a store as if they were purchasing milk, it is no surprise that, at times, mentally disturbed people, just like 24 year old James Holmes, will take advantage of this and use easily obtained guns to plan and execute mass killings, just like Holmes did in the Aurora movie theatre.

Deranged people and easy access to guns, a bad mix

It is very simple. Within a very large society there are some people who, whatever their pathologies, have the desire to do something outrageous on a grand scale. Here in America, they know that the legal and regulatory system allows them to get the guns they need with minimal effort. And so they take advantage of the opportunity and go ahead with their plans.

Given all this, acting surprised after the Aurora movie theatre massacre is a sign of hypocrisy or stupidity. Imagine this. You have a house full of highly combustible material. You have a four year old child. You give your child 10 boxes of matches to play with and then you leave the house to run errands. You come back, the house is burnt down and your child is dead. Are you surprised?

No surprise

This is the same. We have a number of non diagnosed deranged people in our midst. At least some of them do harbor destructive ideas. And we have a system that allows them to freely purchase enough guns and ammunition to start a small war. And then we act surprised when someone takes advantage of what the system allows him to do and does something really bad on a grand scale. No surprise: we have people with motive, and we make it ridiculously easy for them to get the tools they want.

The Aurora, Colorado, movie theatre massacre perpetrated by 24 year old James Holmes has been followed by a predictable flow of pious words of sympathy, some perhaps coming from the heart, and some just expedient blah, blah, intoned by politicians who want you and I to believe that “they do care” because they have a soul.

No gun laws changes

Fine. And then what? Well, then nothing. There will be some more police work, forensic this and that, eventually a trial and some kind of conviction that will send the perpetrator to prison or to a mental hospital.

But nothing –repeat, nothing– will be done regarding the most obvious issue: serious gun control. Americans have a fetish about guns. It goes way beyond having guns for self-defense. It is almost a religion. Alright, if this is the way we want it, if we really want to make it so easy for practically anyone to acquire several guns and mountains of ammunition, then we have to accept that large scale massacres just like this one in Aurora will happen again. And when they do happen, please do not act surprised.