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American Mass Killings Will Continue Without Wholesale Change

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Another mass killing in the United States, and the country is still shocked that something like this happens, especially on such a large scale. The Binghampton, New York attack erupted after a reportedly recently displaced IBM worker, Jiverly Voong, took out his frustration — after losing his job and being incessantly teased for his lack of culturally accepted English — by shooting up an immigration center, killing 13 before taking his own life.

Of course, people want to know, as they always do, "Why?"

If we've been paying attention to many previous top-story newscasts of killers mowing down many in a single event, the answer is simple. Someone's life goes so terribly wrong, they feel the pain becomes unbearable and then, lacking coping skills, decide not to get help or continue getting help, a volcanic rage develops, and a disassociation with reality becomes the mindset, with blame being assigned to others – anyone but the developing killer.

It's also important to note that even though this was a grown man killing, he was hurt deeply by taunts about his lack of fluent English. Broken down, this was more bullying. Adult bullying. We've seen how this manifests itself sometimes in disenfranchised teens who decide violence and guns are the answer to retaliate for being repeatedly insulted.

At this point, the soon-to-be perpetrator of evil decides others must pay for his pain, that killing will bring attention to his plight and relieve the overwhelming anguish he feels all day, every day. The now anti-social behavior becomes the fuel that drives the person to turn their wrath upon the world and usually on those entirely disconnected from the core issue of the killer's life.

Regardless of the reason the media will convey as to the "why," it always comes back to the real root – anger uncontrolled, and that's all we need to know. It doesn't matter whether it's because someone lost their job, their wife left them, their peers ignored them, they couldn’t get a date or whatever other childish reason for eruption; the trigger always points back to a tantrum without fences.

The reason we'll hear for the ultimate punishment, death, is irrelevant. People died because someone decided to become a killer (think about that moment of acceptance, with all safeguards ignored or denied), because he thought innocent people should suffer like he's suffering, only worse, and they were going to suffer.

He wanted control. Of course, the man's actions were anything but mature control. It was a toddler fit with evil intent. This is anger untamed and without a positive approach to defusing. Where is the mature, civil way of breaking down the pain and finding acceptable societal solutions? 

Throw in the accessibility of a weapon and it all equals potential for human disaster.

The reality is disappointment, frustration, anger, resentment, bitterness and rage will never end. It's part of the DNA of human beings. Those of us who know when to say "when" in our minds when anger grows to a fever pitch choose to control our emotions better than homicidal countrymen.

The solution has to come from outside of reaching out to troubled souls. Many do try. Help is and has always been available, but criminals obviously decide not to accept that help because their pain is, remember, not their own doing. There is no excuse for those who say help is not available. There are churches, there are crisis centers, there are phone books with all this information listed, as well as newspapers and TV news broadcast resources. In the end, the vast majority of killers refuse it all. Even teen killers know there is help. Schools offer it as trusted adults. Assistance is available.

Police can't arrest people before they commit heinous destruction. The onus on stopping this bloody, no-going-back brutality starts with the prospective killer, then moves to all of us, then professionals who do guide tortured souls to healing. 

Human beings are not going to change, violence is not going to end, and guns and other weapons will likely always be available. The answer is, as new age as this will appear, in our perceptive skills.

That's right: perception.

We should actually take closer notice of others we're close to or work or associate with; actually care more for those in pain, use courage in the moment to ask for help, or worst-case scenario, intervene. 

Remember, too, many mass killers eventually commit suicide or die in shootouts with police, which is akin to suicide. These people might kill others first, but they too want to die – to avoid imprisonment and because the pain is the avalanche they feel they can't escape. Suicide prevention centers are yet another resource for us to call on behalf of troubled people for insight and guidance on how to stave off a potential attack.

The government can do its part to help its citizens by immediately crafting empathetic, powerful public service announcements (PSA) showing there are answers, showing there are people willing to help and where specifically to go to get help.

Once deeply troubled souls get to these care centers it would serve this nation well if red tape and rude and dismissive professionals were all absent. Only the most caring of people should be hired to guide and heal potential time bombs. The caregivers might be the last safeguard between life and death for the person in front of them and the rest of the public.

This approach won't stop all attacks, but looking out for one another and standing guard will prevent some future top news story and just might even save you or a loved one. Do nothing, and we all continue to be at the mercy of violence. Offer to help, intervene if necessary, and push PSAs, and there is hope. 

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About Michael Toebe on Behavior, Culture & Relationships

  • Jordan Richardson

    Can the maintenance guy be Bruce Willis? If so, you’ve got a deal, Barger.

  • The only “wholesale change” that is going to stop people from shooting sprees would be a major change in human nature. As the author points out, there are already bunches of crisis counseling centers and such. If someone is badly wired in their own minds to reject that in favor of a mass murder-suicide, do you really think one more PSA is going to change that?

    On the other hand, more guns for the stable would tend to at least minimize the damage. If someone shows up to shoot up a building full of people, and one or two of them are (preferably legally) carrying concealed weapons, there’s at least a fighting chance of taking out the killer before he does the damage – or at least stopping him after shooting one or two people rather than 20 or 30.

    Now this approach does not give one the warm feelings of personal niceness and empathy of trying to understand the bad guy and empathize with his pain and all that. But if your principle concern is stopping killing, a maintenance guy in the building who happens to be carrying a .38 would be far more effective than a worthless PSA.