Friday, July 20, 2012


I'm horrified by the recent theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado. My heart goes out to the victims and their families. Perhaps it's too early for me to ask this question, but one of the arguments against gun control is that potentially someone being fired upon might be able to fire back. Why is it that it never happens though? Or are there instances where some civilian with a gun has shot a mass murderer mid-rampage?
There were hundreds of people in that theater and no one used a gun to shoot back? Do mass murderers pick their crowds to eliminate this possibility? There was the one in the Unitarian Church in Tennessee a few years ago. The hero simply tackled the shooter, more or less exactly what Batman (who generally doesn't use firearms) would have done.
Okay, I decided to look it up and accurate or not Wikipedia has a page on "spree killers". Some really fascinating patterns. The killers are overwhelmingly male. Only 2 were female and one of those was in the company of her boyfriend. There's a huge cluster of these kinds of shootings after the year 2000 and I didn't find any instance where one of the victims to be pulled out a gun and shot the shooter.
fwiw, their list is incomplete. It's missing the big Stockton shooting at Cleveland School in 1989 and the Montreal Ecole Polytechnique shootings also in 1989. I am, however, assuming that it's reasonably representative. The other interesting thing is that these things are clearly not strictly an American phenomenon. In fact, the most horrific ones have been in other countries like Norway and Australia.
The vast majority of the shooter/killers were very clearly mentally ill and showed signs of stress well before they did what they did. Whatever one's thoughts about gun control, it should also raise questions about providing services and treatment for the seriously mentally ill. It's not a waste of taxpayer dollars.


At 7/22/2012 03:59:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The short answer to your question is yes - two, in this article at least.

The West Wing, "In the Shadow Of Two Gunmen, Part II," October 4, 2000: Aaron Sorkin, writing for the fictional Press Secretary CJ Cregg after the fictional President Bartlet was shot after giving a speech:

"This is our 5th press briefing since midnight. Obviously, there's one story that going dominating news around the world for the next few days, and it would be easy to think that President Bartlet, Joshua Lyman, and Stephanie Abbott were the only victims of a gun crime last night. They weren't. Mark Davis and Sheila Evans of Philadelphia were killed by a gun last night. He was a biology teacher and she was a nursing student. Tina Bishop and Linda Larkin were killed with a gun last night. They were 12. There were 36 homicides last night, 480 sexual assaults, 3411 robberies, 3685 aggravated assaults, all at gunpoint. And if anyone thinks those crimes could have been prevented if the victims themselves had been carrying guns, I'd only remind you that the President of the United States himself was shot last night while surrounded by the best trained armed guards in the history of the world. Back to the briefing."

Damn, I miss that show.

There are other opinions, of course. Like Texas Representative Louie Gohmert:

“Well it does make me wonder, you know with all those people in the theater, was there nobody that was carrying that could’ve stopped this guy more quickly?” Gohmert said. “I mean in Tyler, Texas, we had–my hometown–we had a shooter come in over a domestic matter, and just start shooting people. And it was a guy with a concealed carry–he got killed, but his shooting at this guy caused him to run and no doubt saved a lot of lives. He was a real hero.”

Hey, I didn't say they were good opinions…

What do you think the chances are of increasing mental health funding in this political climate? And I'm not 100% sure it's a matter of availability (though I'm all for increasing services) - didn't the VTU guy refuse services? It's really tricky, because it can get into civil rights and locking up people for being depressed or eccentric.

At 7/26/2012 09:59:00 PM, Blogger Chancelucky said...

I think there will always be some individuals who will refuse services, but I also think more readily available services would get help to more people. Nothing will completely eliminate these sorts of killings, at least nothing I can think of.

I have seen so many things change in the last forty years. Now and then they change for the better.


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