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“It’s Not About The Motive, It’s About The Gun. Again”: Enacting Gun Control Dramatically Reduces The Problem

One of the challenges in writing about gun violence in the United States is the repetitive nature of it. Every time one of these preventable massacres occurs, writers of reasonable political intelligence point out some basic obvious and commonsense truths. Then nothing is done. Then the next entirely predictable massacre takes place, and the Right trots out all the usual inane defenses of American gun culture, and we have the same stupid debates as if it all hadn’t happened the previous time, and the time before that and the time before that.

In that vein, I’ve said this before, but that doesn’t mean I don’t need to say it again: we need to stop focusing on the motives of the killers, and start focusing on the gun.

After each of these mass killings–I refuse to call them tragedies because tragedies tend to be inevitable and unstoppable, which these killings are not–Americans always want to know why. What was going through the mind of the killer? Can we learn the signs in advance? Who was to blame? (Besides the gun, since everyone knows we won’t do anything about that.)

So in the wake of the Isla Vista shootings by a sexually frustrated and entitled young man, we had a discussion of misogyny and male entitlement. After the Fort Hood shootings conservatives had a field day attacking Islam. After the Charleston shootings liberals had an effective punching bag to talk about race.

Now we see each side attempting to use the latest shootings for its own political advantage. Those on the left are pointing to the shooter’s self-described conservative Republican views and his misogynist sexual entitlement syndrome. Those on the right are working themselves into a frenzy over his atheism and his alleged targeting of Christians, going so far as to suggest that Christians start arming themselves in response. And so it goes.

But all of this needs to stop, because it’s pointless. Almost by definition, people who intentionally walk into a public space and indiscriminately kill large numbers of people don’t tend to be sane or have clearly thought out motives. More importantly, other industralized democracies also have angry, lonely, crazy people from all over the political spectrum.

Other countries have mental illness, instant celebrity culture, sexually entitled men, radical theocrats, radical atheists and violent movies/video games. But they don’t have this problem.

Further, we know that no matter what cultural elements may be present, enacting gun control dramatically reduces the problem. We already know this to be true from the experience of Australia, which has libertarian frontier culture and demography quite similar to our own.

Trying to focus on the motives of a mass shooter is a fool’s errand that plays into the hands of those who like the status quo. Focus on the gun, because that’s the common denominator and the ultimate cause of the problem.


By: David Atkins, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly , October 4, 2015

October 6, 2015 Posted by | Gun Control, Gun Lobby, Gun Violence | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“It’s Not The Motive, It’s The Gun”: Those With Political Axes To Grind Want To Shoehorn The Killer’s Motive Into Their Own Political Agenda

Every time there’s another mass or campus shooting people always want to know why the killer did it. What was the motive? What could lead to such evil? More often than not, those with political axes to grind want to shoehorn the killer’s motive into their own political agenda.

After an Islamist extremist went on a murderous rampage at Fort Hood, the Right used it for weeks as a club against Islam itself–just as they did with the DC sniper years earlier. After a angry misogynist opened fire in Santa Barbara, the shooting immediately became a touchstone for women’s groups to discuss sexual entitlement. When a conspiracy theorist couple killed a police officer recently in Nevada, the left had a field day over their recent stay at the Bundy Ranch, while many on the right attempted to call the shooters leftists.

Yesterday brought news of yet another new motive–this time in a school shooting in Oregon earlier this week:

The 15-year-old freshman who opened fire on his Oregon high school Tuesday wanted to kill “sinners,” the teen wrote in his diary.

Jared Padgett, an active member of an Gresham, Ore., Mormon church, shot and killed a student and injured a teacher during the attack on Reynolds High School before turning the gun on himself, police said.

It would be easy to turn this into an attack on conservative values. Certainly, it makes a mockery of claims by some on the far right that mass shooters aren’t conservatives–this kid certainly was.

But as I have noted before, the common denominator is always the gun. The Oregon shooter was even more obsessed with firearms than with religion. There will always be crazy, unbalanced people in this world with strange obsessions. The difference between the ones in other countries and the ones in America is simply the gun. We all play the same video games, we watch the same movies, we have the same neurology, we suffer from the same pathologies, and we worship (or don’t) similar gods.

Without a mass killing device, a pathetic misogynist is just a pathetic misogynist. Without a mass killing device, an angry theocrat is just an angry theocrat, be it Christian or Muslim. Without a mass killing device, paranoid conspiracy theorists and trenchcoat-wearning kids are just disaffected outsiders.

It’s not the motive. It’s never about the motive. It’s always about the gun.


By: David Atkins, Washington Monthly Political Animal, June 15, 2014

June 16, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, Guns, Mass Shootings | , , , , , | Leave a comment

“It’s A Whole Different Issue”: John Boehner, Willfull Ignorance Or Willful Lying?

The day after this week’s mass shooting at Fort Hood, Army Secretary John McHugh said the gunman lived off post and was therefore not required to register his weapon with the military.

McHugh told senators yesterday, “We try to do everything we can to encourage soldiers to register their personal weapons, even when they live off post. We are not legally able to compel them to register weapons when they reside off post.”

Soon after, during House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) press conference, a reporter noted McHugh’s comments and asked the House leader whether this is an issue Congress should address. Boehner replied:

“Well, there’s no question that those with mental health issues should be prevented from owning weapons or being able to purchase weapons. In the so-called ‘doc fix’ that passed here, there was funding for a pilot project dealing with mental health issues and weapons from both the Senate side and the House side. There are two programs that are being funded in there. The bill went to the president yesterday. This issue we need to continue to look at to find a way to keep weapons out of the hands of people who should not have them.”

The “doc fix” bill related to Medicare reimbursement rates for physicians, but it’s always a pretty big bill with plenty of unrelated provisions. This year, there was quite a bit of controversy surrounding how the bill passed – House GOP leaders played a fast one on their own members and conservatives were right to be annoyed – but I never heard a word about funding for a pilot project dealing with mental health issues and firearms.

And that’s surprising. Usually, any federal measure related in any way to gun ownership is the subject of considerable scrutiny. But there was the House Speaker yesterday, assuring the public in the wake of another mass shooting that lawmakers just acted on a policy related to gun violence and mental health.

It’s enough to make one wonder: does the provision Boehner referenced actually exist?

Roll Call reports this morning that according to the lawmaker who wrote the measure, no, it doesn’t.

Speaker John A. Boehner Thursday morning said that Congress had recently passed a provision to address whether people with mental health issues have access to weapons, but the measure’s Republican author said his bill actually does nothing of the sort.

Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Pa., told CQ-Roll Call that despite Boehner’s assertion, his measure to incentivize outpatient treatment for mental health issues has nothing to do with keeping guns out of the hands of the severely mentally ill.

“Not our bill, no. It’s a whole different issue,” Murphy told Roll Call. “I think he confused that. When he said that it dealt with it, I think he confused that.”

I checked the text of the legislation itself and it includes no references to gun, weapons, or firearms.

Murphy went on to say, “What this provision that I had in there allows in states is an outpatient treatment for patients who have a risk of past incarceration or past multiple hospitalizations where they were a safety risk, to work to say, ‘We need to get you back in treatment, get your life back together.’ That does not necessarily preclude or affect anything about a person’s ability to own a gun, unless they also have a history of being put in against their will.”

When Boehner says Congress just approved a project “dealing with mental health issues and weapons,” he appears to be wrong.


By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, April 3, 2014

April 5, 2014 Posted by | Gun Violence, John Boehner, Mental Health | , , , , , | 1 Comment


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