Two cases of mass murder in one weekend have caused commentators once again to inspect the writings of the murderers for political content. The goal, as always, is to assign blame to one side or the other in our political divide.
In the case of El Paso, the murderer’s writings are anti-immigrant, but also apparently socialist in some respects. In the case of Dayton, the writings reportedly are avowedly socialist, anti-Trump, pro-Elizabeth Warren, and sympathetic to Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez.
Who cares? These are deeply disturbed, evil men. Their political views deserve no attention.
Neither does the left’s claim, articulated in what purports to be a news story on the front page of today’s Washington Post by Trump-hating Philip Rucker, that the El Paso murderer’s writings show President Trump to be partly responsible for the massacre in that city. John dispatched that argument here.
The Post’s pretentious motto is “Democracy dies in darkness.” Yet, I take the Post to be leading the charge to preclude, or at least deter, certain political speech because a mass murderer agreed with some it. Democracy will die in a hurry if, for example, pointing in strong language to the baleful consequences of mass immigration is deemed tantamount to encouraging the murder of immigrants.
Political speech is not causing mass shootings in America. Neither the left nor the right bears responsibility.
The underlying cause is mental disturbance, the same phenomenon that’s causing high suicide rates. Why the seeming epidemic of mental disturbance? I don’t know for sure.
I suspect, though, that the breakdown of the family is one important factor. Another, probably related to the first, is a decline in religious faith.
I also suspect that rapid technological change and the increasing complexity of American life are contributors. One technological change seems very likely to be playing a part — the rise of the internet and social media.
The widespread availability of guns can, I think, be ruled out as a factor causing an increase in the number of mass shootings. Guns, including semi-automatic weapons, have long been widely available.
This doesn’t mean that forms of gun control should be off the table in considering how to limit the number of mass shootings. Guns aren’t causing mass shootings, but they are used to carry them out.
I favor any gun control measure that’s consistent with the Second Amendment and that the evidence shows is likely to prevent mentally disturbed people from obtaining the kinds of weapons used in mass shootings. I imagine there are such measures, but leave it to those who have studied the issue carefully to say what, if any, they are.