Monday, July 23, 2012

Why There Will Be More Mass Shootings Like the Batman Movie Massacre

The guy on the right? He's special (perhaps even unique). The guy on
the left? He's not special at all. You should expect more like him.

I'm not going to go out on a limb at all by predicting that there are going to be more mass shootings like the one that happened in Colorado in the wee hours of July 20, 2012. In fact, back in January, I said that shootings like this are inevitable in the United States due to the combination of two simple facts:
  • the mental health system in this country sucks. Though this kid was not as obviously mentally unbalanced as Jared Lee Loughner was (the kid behind the 2011 Tuscon shooting), there were serious warning signs that he was coming apart at the seams, but for some reason, he didn't get the help he needed.
  • as a country, we have decided that citizens should have access to practically unlimited quantities of assault weapons and ammunition. We don't even regulate guns as seriously as we regulate toys.
If you combine those two facts, it is not hard to conclude that massacres like the Batman Movie Massacre, Tuscon, etc. are inevitable. We are a big country with lots of people, and a tiny fraction of those people are batsh*t crazy. If you give batsh*t crazy people access to assault weapons, this country will occasionally face massacres like that in Aurora - it's a statistical inevitability. So, unless the U.S. wants to completely change its approach to mental health and/or assault weapons in the hands of citizens, we are just going to have to get used to paying the price of the semi-regular massacre. Since the U.S. is a pretty violent society, I'm guessing that we'll just stick with the status quo and act "shocked, shocked I tell you" when things like this happen, even though a quick statistical analysis demonstrates that massacres like this are inevitable.

The shooting in Aurora, Colorado, was a definitely a senseless tragedy, but I'm not shocked now, and I'm not going to be shocked when this happens again somewhere else in the U.S. Neither Jared Lee Loughner nor James Eagan Holmes are special or unique - I'm sure there are many (hundreds? thousands?) of people alarmingly similar to them out there. Not surprisingly, mass shootings are becoming horrifically banal - the U.S. has averaged at least one high-profile mass shooting each year since 2005, while the U.S. actually experiences about 20 mass shootings EACH YEAR - it's just that only one per year usually becomes a media sensation. In fact, the Batman Movie Massacre was the SIXTH mass shooting in the U.S. in just THIS JULY ALONE:
The Aurora incident is already the sixth mass shooting in the month of July alone.
Only three days earlier, 17 people were injured in Tuscaloosa, Alabama after a gunman opened fire in a downtown bar. One week prior, three people were killed and two were injured after another rampage erupted during a Dover, Delaware soccer tournament.
In Chicago, Illinois, where the homicide rate for June 2012 was 50 percent higher than just a year earlier, three separate outbursts in only the last 20 days have left four people dead and at least another 13 seriously hurt. So far in 2012, more people have been killed in the metropolitan Midwest city than the number of US servicemen in Afghanistan.
Earlier this month, two suspects fired at least 61 bullets in an outburst in Queens, NY that, while yielded no fatalities, left several people injured — including children. At the time, the Wall Street Journal reported that the NYPD recorded 730 shooting incidents this year alone, showing a 12 percent increase from the same time in 2011.
You heard it here first, folks - more mass shootings are coming. They're a statistical inevitability, unless the U.S. decides that it wants to do something about preventing its citizens from owning semiautomatic assault weapons and about providing effective mental health care to all its citizens. So, to all you future mass murders out there - you're not going to shock and surprise me, as sad as that sounds.

I just hope that neither I nor anyone I know have the rotten luck to be caught in any of your upcoming massacres.

Lighter-hearted P.S. After a rather dark post, here we have a hilarious (if somewhat impractical) suggestion on preventing gun violence from Chris Rock (vulgar language warning applies):

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