This thoughtful commentary about gun violence, mass murder, and possible reasons for the uptick in gun massacres comes to us by way of an email exchange I had with my dear friend and mentor, the source of our Cliff Notes series, Cliff Schecter:
I came to my work on guns from studying Criminology in college. I was almost a Crim major. I had no agenda, no hatred for guns (still don't). Hell, for my 40th Birthday my wife surprised me with, among other things, the NRA medals I still had from my days spending summers in New Hampshire doing competitive shooting at a camp.
The fact is what I learned in Criminology made it quite obvious that while there were a number of factors here--but guns were the main culprit. As Michael Moore pointed out we all play these video games, we all watch violent movies. We all have mental illness. [A friend] brought up the virality of certain behavior. I think there is something to that. We are unique, among high income nations, in our willingness to allow hate speech to be broadcast far and wide all day every day on talk radio and Fox, filled with half truths and outright lies, without anyone having equal time to respond. So I have no doubt that these are factors. Look, Richard Poplawski-- the guy who shot and killed three police officers in Pittsburgh-- did it because he thought they were sent by President Obama to "take my guns away."
Ditto the shooter who was headed to the Tides Foundation because Glenn Beck said they were evil and anti-capitalist, etc. He got into a shootout with cops on the freeway. Even when it is not political, it is sociological, and Fox and hate talk play into the worst fears of economically downscale white males.
But again, even with that, there are guns.
What has changed since the 1980s? Most people don't' know this, but concealed carry largely didn't exist before the 1980s. It was only in a handful of states. The NRA's' big project was to normalize the carrying of guns so they could sell more of them. And they have been very successful.
Also, military weaponry--like assault weapons--were not available to most pre-1980s. So, add in the availability of more lethal weaponry and the ability to carry outside your house without anyone blinking an eye, add in President Reagan destroying mental health services with cuts--which has been destroyed many more times since then by more cuts-- and add in that unhinged person, with no institution to go to sitting at home watching Sean Hannity saying Cliven Bundy is a hero. We should stand up to the government! The tyrants! etc. etc.
There are other factors, but to me it is:
1) Gun availability
2) Untreated mental health issues
3) Making hate and fear viral via Fox/Rush, etc.
You combine those 3, with other nations similar to us not possessing any of them on the scale we do, and that gets us there...
Put it all together, you have today's climate.
Thank you, Cliff. Now here's a little Twitter snark to wrap things up: