President Obama raced to his soapbox last night to lecture the American people about our collective responsibility for mass shootings. If Republicans in Congress would only permit common sense gun control, he admonished, shootings like that in Roseburg, Oregon would not happen. He then instructed the press to compare deaths from gun violence to deaths by terrorism and place the charts side by side. Some in the media were happy to oblige. But the comparison is a non sequitur. Who is arguing that terrorism causes more deaths than guns?
There is something to consider, though, about mass shootings that the president ignores, namely the role of the media and even social media in encouraging these gun massacres. Here’s a different chart, showing that gun homicides have declined by 49 percent since 1993. Some, like Mother Jones, argue that mass shootings such as those we’ve seen in so often in recent years, are increasing. Others dispute those data.
But consider the words of the latest killer, as quoted by David French:
On an interesting note, I have noticed that so many people like him are all alone and unknown, yet when they spill a little blood, the whole world knows who they are. A man who was known by no one, is now known by everyone.
Obviously a phenomenon like mass shootings is difficult to understand or explain. The monsters may have mixed motives. It would be simplistic to pin it on one factor alone. Still, the rage for fame can be a powerful incentive. This is not the first mass murderer to cite fame as his goal. Why not a simple experiment? It wouldn’t involve changing the Constitution. It wouldn’t violate anyone’s rights. How about a voluntary agreement among members of the press — and ordinary people on social media — to withhold the names of mass shooters? That’s it. Just deny them the publicity. Report the crime, but no names or identifying information about the killers. Try it for one year. If it doesn’t have any effect, nothing is lost. But I strongly suspect that the attention is what most of these disturbed young men are after.