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Placing the Blame for Mass Shootings

May 31, 2023
Mike Sampson

Shortly after my May 12 Gun Talk article “A Good Read on Active Shooters” appeared, I received an e-mail from a reader and friend who said the article set him to thinking.

He wrote, “Pondering all of this made me contemplate why the sudden and profound increase in shootings.  Copycat activity for attention?  Is the radical anti-gun agenda fostering this directly somehow to boil the public on the issue? (If so, then how?)”  

“Or is the despair that many people feel about having their livelihoods erode so terribly because of inflation causing blind rage and violence?  Or just the constant leftist hypnosis with the message of nebulous victimism-- how much has that dehumanized the target as well as the shooter?”

I sent him a return note saying, “Lots of factors driving the shootings. News-media coverage gives the shooters a glory sendoff, so part of the problem. I think a lot has to do with societal frustration, but mental health figures strongly. No simple fixes either. What are your recommendations on all this?”

I then decided to look at research on this relevant topic.

Citing statistical information from the FBI 2021 active shooter report, a July 2022 article in Psychology Today mirrored the FBI’s identified causes of such shootings.

The article added with “the very roots of our mass shooting epidemic may be found in our core cultural value of fierce individualism, a belief in vengeance, and the ethic that might makes right.”

“These cultural values have been central to what it means to be an American since our nation’s birth. We have always loved to settle disputes (at the individual and group levels) with violence and guns and we gleefully celebrate vigilantism in our popular culture.”

Additionally, the article noted other “factors include but are not limited to: financial and healthcare fears, a declining belief in the American dream, distrust of the government, racism, xenophobia, religious and gender biases, hate crime, domestic terrorism, and near-constant war since 2001.”

“Political and social divisions fueled by seemingly ubiquitous hate speech across media platforms over the last few years have created an environment where violence is seemingly inevitable.”

I am not a sociologist and took only one undergrad course in psychology, but I see all of these factors somewhat playing into the increase in shootings.

So-called problem solvers, including many politicians, offer an ongoing demand for gun control and to ban “assault rifles” to reduce mass shootings.

However, the article did report that “It is certainly true that assault rifles exacerbate the problem, but their existence and availability are not the cause of it.”

And study after study confirms that so far no active shooter ever has used an “assault rifle.” As we know the definition of such a weapon adjusts to fit a specific political narrative. Semi-autos certainly come into play with some shootings, but not a rifle with full-auto selective-fire capability, which truly defines an assault weapon.

So if the weapon really is not the cause or problem, what is?

I do not have that answer, but I still think societal factors and mental-health issues affecting an individual are key causes. Any weapon is an inanimate object. So whether it be a gun, vehicle, bomb, club, knife, drugs, foot or fist, the person wielding that weapon is the cause to create the problem. Let’s put the blame where it belongs.

A followup note from this Gun Talk reader did offer a potential solution with "Guns don't shoot people; people shoot guns!  Don't blame the gun!"

I sent him another note asking if this solution truly is the final answer to shootings. He simply replied, adding some humor, with “Guns don’t shoot people!  People shoot guns!  Ban people!”

A logical solution, but as with many efforts to reduce active shooters, this ban will not happen. The full picture behind the increase in shootings and ways to help us Stay safe, be prepared continue to be just out of reach. ~ Mike

Mike Sampson
Mike now calls Northwestern Arkansas home, but has lived and worked in several states and internationally. He has been an independent contractor and consultant since 2006 specializing in risk management, emergency management and training. In addition to work as a law-enforcement planner and technical writer with the Boise, Idaho, Police Department, he has experience in journalism, crop and animal agriculture, dryland farming for 20 years in western Kansas, plant and animal diseases, pandemic influenza, agroterrorism, bioterrorism, food safety and healthcare marketing.

He has a journalism degree from the University of Missouri and has newspaper and agency writing and editing experience. At Washington State University in Pullman, he earned a master’s degree emphasizing adult education and communications.

While living in Lander, WY, Mike provided photographic coverage of the One-Shot Antelope Hunt for three years, and got to meet and accompany folks such as Chuck Yeager, Carroll Shelby, Buzz Aldrin, Dale Robertson and Gen. Norman Schwarzkopf on their hunts. He also worked as an outfitter’s guide.

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