Why does someone go and shoot people? Randomly. For sport. Ending up being killed himself.
I’m not trying to excuse their behavior in any way, what they do is clearly wrong, but I want to try and understand. So here are:
Just my two cents.
The US and the world in general is a deeply unequal place to be in. These mass shootings are not done by rich individuals, or powerful individuals, nobody from the top rung of the hierarchical ladder. They are done by what lots of people would be quick to label ‘losers’. Often relatives claim they never saw it coming. Well, no, of course not, these people are under so much pressure, they are ticking time bombs. They can’t hack it, can’t keep up, they break.
And that’s why they do it, I think. They fail, they feel like failures. Every person has an incredible drive to feel significant. In our society being ‘significant’ almost means being materially succesful in some way. Look at Donald Trump and other politicians that have recently risen to power, those are our favorite role models apparently. Tough talking, rich and powerful, very narcissistic. If you fail to get a position that gives you a taste of that, if you are low in the pecking order, am pretty sure your happiness hormones go down dramatically. Maybe you crack, you become mentally ill. What’s the fastest way to feel very significant and powerful? Pick up a gun and play God, take some people’s lives. Even if you get killed in the end, at least for while you can feel like the most powerful, most significant dude in the room. And they’ll write about you. They will take notice.
There’s also an inflated sense of what one individual is capable of in western, and especially American society. I believe the entire culture reinforces the exhausting idea that one individual can do some incredibly heroic feat. Lots of movies practically worship individual heroes, outliers, people who seemingly singlehandedly do something impossible. And how many action movies do not revolve around one tough guy or woman saving the entire civilized world? This just has to leave some people with a huge longing to be that powerful, to have so much impact. Something like a hero complex.
I think that’s why these mass shootings happen. Inequality and an emphasis on sick values, a toxic culture, leading to some people becoming twisted, deeply longing for something they can’t have, and then taking the bloodiest and fastest route to a ‘significant’ exit.
If you can’t get attention for positive behavior, you might try to get attention through negative behavior.
It’s indeed not so much the guns that are the problem. It’s the toxic culture that make lots of people feel totally insignificant while they are being bombarded with media images of the happy few taking all the cake. Most people don’t snap and most suffer in silence, and try to make something out of life, even if they are at the bottom rung, but some individuals, a tiny minority, probably with more ambition -fueled by a culture that worships a very narrow idea of ‘success’ -than talent go berserk and start shooting. And it just so happens that you can easily get very sophisticated weaponry in the US.
Some people will say that the best way is: more guns!! If everyone carries a gun, there’s a chance one of those killers will be gunned down himself before much damage is done…
According to me the US needs to work to reduce equality and to go through a values shift that no longer makes an abnormally high number of people dangerously sick, in a system that fails to take care of people who are ‘losing it’.
I got these ideas from books like The New Human Rights Movement: Reinventing the Economy to End Oppression by Peter Joseph, and The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger, by Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett.
And also this one: Violence, reflections on a national epidemic, by James Gilligan.