Thursday, June 16, 2022

Civil Rights, Gun Laws & Why Shooters Kill Kids




Life and civil rights aren’t simple but we have to simplify in order to first understand and then study and rehearse. We memorize safe and effective movements. Then we are more likely to live efficiently and well. 
Since this blog speaks very directly on the topic of gun control, you may wonder whether I actually know anything about guns. My dad instructed me about guns and safety. I had mandatory training when I acquired my concealed carry license. And while I’m not an NRA member, I had excellent training several years ago in the NRA handgun course. The thoroughness of NRA course and the impressive quality of the instructor motivated me to further my concealed carry knowledge by watching lots of online videos. 
I always felt comfortable around guns until an accidental discharge while hunting. My rifle was pointed toward the ground as I quietly stalked deer. My finger was on the trigger, ready in case I saw a target. Then Boom! I did not shoot myself in the foot but I sheepishly realized I had failed to be safe.
Only years later in NRA training was I required to memorize how to absolutely keep my finger off trigger and my index finger aligned straight along the side of the barrel. Each trainee had to individually recite the following ”ALWAYS” pledge. 
  • I will always keep the gun pointed in a safe direction.
  • I will always keep my finger off the trigger until ready to shoot.
  • I will always keep the gun unloaded until ready to use.
Notice that when this memorized procedure is ALWAYS followed—then there are three things preventing accidental discharge. Before I took the NRA training, when I’d see men with their index finger stretched straight on the barrel of a handgun, I thought, “That’s awkward. Why are they doing that finger thing.” Now I understand!


The 2ND Amendment, of the Bill of Rights in the Constitution is one sentence long:
“A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.”
For more background on the 2nd Amendment, read the article from the Brennan Center for Justice at Politico:
The statement of the 2nd Amendment has never been changed from the original of 1791. However, society and guns have changed. 
But in 2008 there was a single, significant Supreme Court re-interpretation Finding that: there is an individual right to possess firearms and to use firearms for traditionally lawful purposes, including self-defense in the home.

As we can see from the 2nd Amendment wording, it mentions militia and did not specifically say individuals could possess firearms. So now, the new interpretation of the 2nd Amendment is official. Americans as individuals can possess guns. 
This Supreme Court finding was not unanimous. It was a 5 – 4 decision. Justice Antoni Scalia wrote the Court’s majority Finding. At the same time he wrote that:
“Like most rights, the right secured by the Second Amendment is not unlimited. From Blackstone through the 19th-century cases, commentators and courts routinely explained that the right was not a right to keep and carry any weapon whatsoever in any manner whatsoever and for whatever purpose…Nothing in our opinion should be taken to cast doubt on longstanding prohibitions on the possession of firearms by felons and the mentally ill, or laws forbidding the carrying of firearms in sensitive places such as schools and government buildings, or laws imposing conditions and qualifications on the commercial scale of arms” as found in Gallagher (2020).


There is an impressive book of research with a credible theory of the causes for mass shootings. Louis Klarevas, PhD is the author of Rampage Nation: Securing America From Mass Shootings (Klarevas, 2016). He thoroughly evaluates relevant scientific research and debunks theories and political statements which are false and misleading. My opinion is that his findings are the most promising guide so far towards supporting the needed changes to reduce mass shootings. 
This book is very readable, it gives the stories of many mass shootings to illustrate his theory of causes and it adds important knowledge by which to seek solutions. For in depth understanding of his theory, read the whole book—Amazon has it for $25 and the book is probably available at your local library. 
Additionally, he tells the story of John Lott, once one of the most sought after “experts” on mass shootings who advised newsmen, politicians, and the public. Sadly, Lott was found to have made up data to support his conclusions, he was not using professional research methods, and went so far as to use a false name to defend his own work. His most published “solutions” were not based on acceptable research methods (Klarevas, 2016). Public media spread his misinformation and baseless statistics. Even well regarded media outlets passed on misinformation! 
Here are the three parts Dr. Klarevas’ Theory of What Causes a Mass Shootings:
Klarevas asserts that three factors motivate mass shootings. These are causes—not just correlations. Importantly, he also asserts that when one of the three causes is absent, the mass shooting is unlikely to occur. I view his work as important and credible. But, predicting people is a difficult scientific task. As more research gets done, as new and multifaceted law and interventions occur, I think Klarevas’ theory will continue to progress. 
Factor 1. Some men have a PREDISPOSITION:
-- They have some pre-offense indicators of mental instability. They might not have been diagnosed with a condition, but others who knew them well had observed problems. Mental illness per se should not be considered a cause because on it’s own it doesn’t bring about the shooting.
They tend to have a higher than average self-esteem. But their self-esteem is fragile and makes them overly sensitive to criticism or ridicule. Research shows that when self-esteem falls, some people are more prone to violence. Those who fail to lower their false sense of self-esteem (or remedy it through positive methods) tend to become more aggressive.
Perpetrators tend to hold onto their resentment and anger for a long period of time. The research shows that mass shooters don’t just “snap.” They plan their attack; they make preparations; they contemplate when they will execute their attack.
Factor 2. They suffer a PROVOCATION and blame, not themselves, but other persons and/or groups:
Seung Hui Cho was in college, wanting to be a famous writer, but suffered a rejection from an editor, and was not finding success impressing his college instructors. He did not seek professional help and rejected advise from others, and he nursed his resentments. He continued to hold himself in high esteem along with feeling others were responsible for his lack of writing success.
They project onto others the responsibility for their low self-esteem and mental pain. They tend to feel broadly taken advantage of, not just by specific individuals, but by groups of people. [While writing this, I’m reminded of how Nazi dictator Hitler and Communist theoretician Lenin ordered other subordinates to kill groups of citizens without any cause other than to get public attention, create fear, and intimidate the opposition.]
They believe they can get some revenge by killing others. Mass killings are a statement rather than the typical criminal motive of a subduing a victim to steal and/or to eliminate a witness.
Factor 3. PRIMING, wherein the perpetrator’s weapon of choice accelerates fantasies, and aggressive action:
Klarevas describes this best in his own words. He wrote, “First, mass shootings are communicative acts. Their purpose isn’t just to hurt. They send a message. Violence in such a context is a form of symbolic dominance. It ‘affirms’ one’s esteem to the extent of being superior to the victim[s].” 
Second, Klarevas points out that mass killers use their assets to reach their goal. Whatever they have access to for the job: guns, more powerful guns, airplanes, available victim types (soldier victims, children, Jews, Blacks, Caucasians, or a mixture of people in a theater excited about a new movie).
Klarevas discusses research consistent with the very handling of weapons increasing testosterone and aggression. He discusses the case histories of mass shooters who have revealed there pre-offense thinking and fantasies. Statistical data shows that states with more private firearm ownership have greater incidence of violent crimes. He experienced researchers sometimes comment that “the gun helps pull the trigger” (Klarevas, 2016).


Immediately after the Columbine book came out, the psychology of mass shootings became one of my strong areas of interest. As the number of mass shootings increased, I broadened my reading to include all types of serous violence and against innocent victims. Since COVID-19 quality statistics and just reading the online news makes unmistakable the increase of violence in American CULTURE. 
CULTURE is often spoken about as if it were a single variable, a single thing which could be influenced or corrected by some experts implementing recommended solutions. But nothing could be further from the truth. Culture can be broadly described but not rigorously broken into pieces to be changed. 
To impact mass shootings, no worthwhile legislation to inhibit gun violence will succeed. UNLESS….. masses of voters, our two polarized political parties, liberals and conservatives, see and talk about reality rather than self-serving political fantasies. Politics is where groups of people are pledged to honorably work on tough compromises to make progress. 
Voters need to get the facts on gun violence from reliable sources and track each politician’s votes on gun violence related legislation.


Here are three recent books I’ve read on mass school shootings. Each tells the same overall story and presents the information.

Louis Klarevas, PhD is the author of Rampage Nation: Securing America From Mass Shootings (Klarevas, 2016). A professional book but not a hard read. It’s the thickest book but the main book is 278 pages. The notes and bibliography are 118 pages; his notes and extra commentary could be useful to a professional.

McCann, Michelle Roehm. Enough Is Enough: How Students Can Join the Fight for Gun Safety. New York: Simon & Schuster, 2019. The main part of this book is 246 pages but lots of it is worthwhile graphics. Additionally, there are additional resources and bibliography. THIS IS A GREAT BOOK TO BEGIN GETTING REAL FACTUAL STUFF THAT’S EASY TO GRASP AND WELL ILLUSTRATED.
  • Packed with easily understood, important information. Content is extensive.
  • It's written by a very experienced children's book author and professional art director.
  • It is highly illustrated with graphics to make it interesting for a wide age range of students.

Gallagher, Jim. Gun Control: Contemporary Issues. Broomall, PA: Mason Crest, 2020. This is a half inch thick book with good gun violence information to get you started.


         For references, see the relevant page on the website.
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