This past weekend, we’ve had yet another mass shooting, yet another murder by a seriously disturbed young man hellbent on killing as many people as possible, using, again, the semiautomatic weapons that help make these killings so much easier.
This time, unlike some of the previous ones, the parents contacted the police, who interviewed the young man, who apparently didn’t display behavior that would alert the police to his plans.
The parents tried, the police investigated, and still the deranged young man was able to murder several innocent people.
So what do we do? What can we do?
Do we impose a media blackout, so that the murderer doesn’t become a role model for another? And if we do, who’s to say that some media source wouldn’t chase after the information, hoping to be the one that breaks the news?
Maybe we do try that, but in this day of the all-knowing social media, that blackout wouldn’t last long.
Do we give the police better training in identifying the potential mass murderer? Do we have psychological units within the police force tasked with being the ones who initially interview the young men — and they are, after all, all young men — who others have such concerns about? Do we give the authorities more leeway in keeping them in an “involuntary hold,” until a more thorough examination is held? Do we trust our authorities with that kind of power?
Maybe. But then what? In most states, it’s impossible for the police to take weapons from people they believe are somehow troubled mentally or emotionally. But maybe we need to revisit how much leeway authorities have to at least temporarily confiscate weapons and deny the future purchase of legal weapons. Of course, we know that in doing something like this, the absolutists within the gun lobby will see this as somehow infringing on Second Amendment rights, but isn’t the right to live paramount?
And do we, finally, limit the ability of these insane young men to wreak the kind of carnage they do by limiting the firepower they can legally possess? The man in California had three semi-automatic handguns with him, and witnesses said he simply “sprayed bullets.” Police found more than 400 rounds in his car, all purchased legally. Without the semi-automatic weapons at his disposal, would all of those victims be hit? Doubtful. Would the carnage of all the recent mass murders have been lessened? No doubt.
I worry that the equation of the deranged plus legal access to efficient murder weapons plus media exposure will continue to equal the horror of this past weekend. I worry, too, that we will, once again, do no more than say we need to do something, a “something,” that slowly disappears with time, until the next horrible murders.
• Mike McClellan is a Gilbert resident and former English teacher at Dobson High School in Mesa.