This is a difficult subject to write on, and get to the bottom of.
Far from perfect or truly answering any questions, this is being left uncategorized.
No one can completely understand what gets someone to go on a shooting rampage.
No one besides the shooters themselves can.
But we can scratch the surface, and find common traits.
“Maybe if he was just loved a little more.”
It’s never that simple. And nothing with any complexity is a matter of magnitude.
“They say there is a fine line between intelligence and insanity.”
This expression, by itself, fails to define much of anything of actual use.
For all murderers, the capacity for empathy has been overtaken.
And that subversion happens well before any kind of decision to take a life.
No one suddenly becomes a psychopath.
- Psychopathy: fear and empathy have been overtaken with strategy. Most psychopaths are high-functioning and more-or-less law-abiding. Many of them are police officers—utilizing the ‘fearless’ part for good. Others can be like Gordon Gecko.
And no one suddenly lives a double-life or any kind life with a mission to kill people.
And for rampage shooters, it’s far beyond that low capacity for empathy.
Psychologists go to work, and profiles are made, but the results are specific.
With little to go on, we can try to identify mental illness by identifying warning signs:
- Withdrawn: not getting what’s felt as needed, the person eventually shuts down; the disconnect can be a downward spiral, as it can become more difficult to reconnect.
- Schizophrenia: literally means, “split brain”; failure of the left and right brain to communicate properly promotes a wide range of problems, including visual, auditory and/or emotional hallucinations; it can easily impair the ability to function in society.
- Dementia: typically identified under the form of Alzheimer’s (not a normal part of aging), the brain declines to clear certain debris, particularly protein debris. Metal and alcohol poisoning have been linked to this disease.
Under dementia (what the Virginia Tech student supposedly had, acting out violent anime), mental faculties break down. Dementia, the disease, however, is more known to disable a person— not get them to double-arm and start firing down the hallways.
Every single one of these cases have their yellow and red flags:
- Tucson, Arizona—January 7-8, 2011: Jared L. Loughner, then-22, is a paranoid-schizophrenic; he would easily get red in the face; in his “MAYHEMFEST!!!!” comic, death was ‘the only solution’ to a problem. He was tackled before he could reload.
- Aurora, Colorado—July 20, 2012: James E. Holmes, 24, was an honors student and Dark Knight fanatic (as a resort or cover). Selective and spiteful, he socialized, going out with friends the night(s) before the well-planned-out apartment booby-trapping, 1986 issue-style shooting and surrender as “the Joker.”
- Newtown, Connecticut—December 14, 2012: Adam Lanza, 20, was an extremely withdrawn honors student, appearing on the Newtown Bee honor roll; choosing electronics over people, his photo is absent in the Newtown Nighthawk yearbook. Diagnosed with “personality disorder,” he killed his mother first.
One factor sticks out: Lanza saw little value in himself. He committed suicide.
The Common Trait
An extension of this pattern emerges, listing more complex cases:
- Oslo, Norway—July 22, 2011: Anders B. Breivik, now 33, happily details a bomb and gun rampage; uses a thick, unoriginal manifesto with a red cross as cover.
- Oakland U., California—early April, 2012: South Korean national One L. Goh, 43; arrested at the mall; he deliberately targeted mostly women.
- Oregon mall shooting: Jacob T. Roberts, 22, said he was giving up everything he owns because he was suddenly “moving to Hawaii.”
What do all of these cases have in common?
The shooters base total worth on human life on their own (mis-)characterizations.
There is a perceived sense of constant-worthlessness, internal or external.
A tension builds up until a final break, and a vacuum must be filled.
The ones that are already criminal and blame others for their rejection start planning ahead, and the ones that naturally reflect immediately show that “strange behavior.”
There is one other common trait for that break in recent decades: pharmaceuticals.
Suddenly coming off anti-depressants are known to cause a psychotic break.
But, as most people are not severely mentally ill, the ones that are account for only three to five percent of violent crimes overall, according to Scientific American.
These rampage cases are rare enough that mental illness alone is regarded as a personal factor first and foremost. Most people dealing with an illness can still tell right from wrong no matter the environmental factors. And some would argue that James Holmes, a former neuroscience medical student, has been faking psychosis.
Either way, those that have chosen to become killers will always find a way to get arms.
Bans really only disable the law-abiding. In the U.K., handgun bans have made people defenseless, multiplying shooting death rates. Gun laws don’t eliminate illegal guns, but the practice of clearing areas of them have reduced gun fatality rates.
We must to be genuine and patient in our approach toward these violent situations. Otherwise, we become corrupted ourselves.
As difficult as things can be, sometimes we just have to accept what we can get.
Only in nature are things simple. Or visibly so.
I didn’t at all want to do a post on the recent tragedy, or any others; what had happened was disgusting enough. I had already written my take on the coverage elsewhere, and didn’t want to press further. And then I was alone again…
I have my own ‘worthlessness,’ but also a barrier that says “murder doesn’t work.”
The original version of this was more sentimental than realistic/cinical.
Directly related content:
- Yahoo!/Atlantic Wire: a complete list of names, ages & donation links for those murdered at Sandy Hook Elementary.
- News: July, 2012 — The mainly-young that died in Colorado (complete list).
- Cristian Mihai: Art and violence (starts with Roger Ebert’s take).
- Creative Liar: Pop Goes the World (starts with Emilie Parker, 6).