Normal, healthy people like you and me have a hard time understanding mass shootings. Other types of crime, be they robberies and the like, make sense. The people aren’t interested in harming others, they just want the money or valuables they possess. But when someone goes out with the intent purpose of killing innocent folks, we often grapple with the causes and—more importantly—solutions.
Many people on the left jump to gun control. While I strongly disagree with restrictions to the Second Amendment, I understand why they would feel this way. Guns are powerful. And it’s shocking and terrifying to think that someone bent on harming others could so easily acquire firearms of any kind. The obvious solution, then, would be to make it so that these kinds of people cannot get their hands on weapons.
But it’s often pointed out that gun control laws only seem to work in preventing law-abiding Americans from getting firearms. These shooters seem to have no problem going outside the law to acquire weapons. And of course, we cannot ignore the fact that a “good guy” with a gun can mean the difference in a shooting—so limiting access to firearms could create more instances where people are vulnerable.
So, what’s the solution? Obviously, I’m not so idiotic that I think guns should be handed out to people like free candy. But any regulation can be seen as a violation to the Second Amendment, especially when we learn how past administrations did such a poor job upholding the existing laws (you can puzzle that one out for yourself).
Perhaps the key to preventing mass shootings comes in the form of highlighting and addressing the culprits before they commit crimes. Now, I’m not advocating a Minority Report-style society where we police innocent civilians. But, come on, folks. There are often warning signs that a person is about to do something terrible. The terrorists at San Bernardino and Orlando used social media frequently to broadcast their ideas. The Texas shooter was known to be hateful towards Christians (and had slipped through numerous government cracks).
When there are obvious red flags, you need to take action. Such was the case of one David Kenneth Smith.
Authorities said they found several loaded rifles and shotguns inside the home of a 39-year-old West Hollywood man who threatened to go on a “killing spree” in a bizarre YouTube rant last week.
David Kenneth Smith was charged with one felony count of making criminal threats Monday, less than a week after he was arrested by Orange County sheriff’s deputies, prosecutors said.
Police were contacted by staff members at Soka University in Aliso Viejo last week after Smith, a former student, sent an instructor “a link to a YouTube video that showed him sitting with a semiautomatic pistol on his chest talking about the university,” according to the Sheriff’s Department.
In another video, posted last week, Smith goes on a strange rant about choosing between suicide and mass murder in a video titled “What Good Does Killing Ever Do?” (LA Times)
The videos he posted online were incredibly disturbing. Here are a few:
I don’t know about you, but that face will haunt my dreams. He’s got the looks of a stereotypical serial killer. I mean, he looks like Joker without the makeup! But beyond his boorish face, we see a man posting troubling content online. He is basically outlining his plans to commit mass murder.
“Well, what should I do? Should I just be homeless, or should I go on a killing spree? I go on a killing spree because I think being homeless is an entirely artificial situation. It’s a situation that we made up. It’s not like starving or famine because the crops didn’t grow because you didn’t know what to do.”
“No, homelessness is an entirely artificial and abstract creation of our own minds okay? On how we justify people starving in the streets and not giving them food. And compared with that I would rather go on a killing spree. I’m sorry folks. I’m just saying,” he said. (Milo)
It is often pointed out that these killers have similar traits. They are loners. They are emotionally troubled. And they seek attention. Because the media often glorifies past killers, they think that they will get some kind of recognition through their killing—recognition they never got in their lives.
Because of this, there is a trail leading up to the event. These folks will most likely post cryptic or disturbing content online—via YouTube or any other kind of social media. It doesn’t take a lot of work for a coworker, acquaintance, or family member to report this kind of behavior. Thankfully in the case of Smith, a staffer at his former school notified the police when they received his email. The police were then able to investigate Smith, discovering his cache of weapons.
Was Smith planning to commit mass murder? We don’t know for sure (actually, in this case it was very likely, considering he made a video about it), but the warning signs were there. He did commit a crime in making threats to the school. That gives law enforcement a way to prevent him from doing much worse.
Perhaps this can create an opportunity for rehabilitation. Maybe Smith just needs counseling. Maybe some medication. Maybe he just needs someone to talk to. Unfortunately, without this kind of intervention, that may never have been possible.
We live in an increasingly isolated society. Who said men live lives of quiet desperation? Even the best of us get stressed, frustrated, and defeated from time to time. Imagine how hard it is for someone who’s the victim of abuse or who has serious emotional/mental problems? It’s easy for them to fall through the cracks, ignored or neglected by everyone. They are not capable of reaching out for help, because their challenges prevent them from doing so. A sickness can fester for years until it leads to violence.
I’m not blaming the family or friends of past shooters for their crimes. Nobody knows what’s going to happen. But when there are obvious warning signs, even an anonymous report can make a difference. We need to be aware of the world around us. We cannot be passive passengers, when we see something going wrong. If you saw smoke rising from a house, wouldn’t you respond?
The case of “King David” is a good lesson for us. A tragedy could have happened, had someone not acted. We might not be able to prevent every crime, but if we are vigilant and honest, perhaps we can curtail this appalling trend. And perhaps a few sick people can get the help they need.