Reports of the new horror in Florida contain an underlying assumption that mass shootings are somehow “normal,” or of long standing. This is not true; these ghastly crimes are grossly abnormal and recent. These massacres began in the 1960s and were quite rare until the late 1990s. This is a long time in the life of an individual, but a short time in the evolution of a society, and our society is evolving in an ugly direction. Even our teenage suicide rates have increased in step with the incidence of mass murders. This is a social sickness and every bit as much of a public health problem as an epidemic of TB or SARS.
“Things” did not cause this sickness. Prior to 1968, semi-automatic firearms could be legally and cheaply purchased through the mails with no ID required, and they were not used in mass murders. More “things” will not solve the problem; gun bans, metal detectors and armed guards will just drive the perps to use bombs, automobiles or fire. The only, fruitful thing we can do is to try and identify the source and nature of whatever evil meme is driving this societal change affecting a significant minority of our young people.
Stated bluntly, we must understand how death has become more attractive than life for that significant minority. We need to understand how the problems that older generations considered the normal stresses of growing up became motives for suicide and mass murder. It seems unlikely that the usual suspects of violent video games, TV shows glorifying suicide and psychoactive drugs like Ritalin are the root cause. More likely, they are symptoms.
I don’t have the answer, but I don’t hear many voices even asking the question. And we must find an answer more productive than blaming a tool or turning our schools into prison camps.