Archive for December 16, 2012

Would ‘Gun Control’ Really Stop Rampage Killers in the USA?

December 16, 2012 26 comments

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last three days you might have heard that a 20-year old guy (Adam Lanza) executed 28 people. He was only 4-5 bodies short of Seung-Hui Cho record (32 dead) set at Virginia Tech in 2007– a record which he could have easily broken given the nature of his captive audience. Having said that it is apparent that Adam was a better killer (28 dead, 1 injured) than Seung-Hi (32 dead, 17 injured). As many of you also know, more than a few politicians and media figures are trying to use this event to pass laws for more ‘gun control’ laws in the USA, hoping that the death of 6- and 7- year white kids can be used to grease the rails for passing such laws. But this post is not about whether they can succeed where previous attempts at ‘gun control’ have failed. This post is about whether even ‘strict gun control’ could stop rampage killers in the USA.

The short answer to that question is- No. Even very strict laws would not stop rampage killings in the USA. We would just see more of them committed with “illegally acquired” weapons or with other technology-based means that would cause a far higher body count. I should also point the hypocrisy of mourning the death of 20 white kids while supporting the killing many more brown kids in Pakistan as “collateral damage” of drone strikes. Understanding the reasons that make the USA uniquely susceptible to rampage killings requires to first acknowledge some of the unpleasant realities about contemporary american society.

People, unlike governments and large organisations, almost never profit from killing people publicly. The motivations of rampage killers are therefore very different from armies, police or bureaucrats. People who go on rampage killings almost always have a very deep personal and unremedied grievance with society. Going on a rampage killing is therefore just the last step in a process of progressively disenchantment with society. The seeds of that process are sown years before the final outburst and nurtured through increasingly negative experiences with society. Nobody just wakes up one day and decides that they have to execute 20-30 people by midnight that day.

Rampage killings are therefore almost never planned at a short notice. Indeed, the difference between your generic underworld-related killing and a rampage killing is that the person who commits the later has been thinking through the scenario for months, if not years. They have been playing, and replaying, that simulation in their head for weeks, months and often years. Rampage killings in the USA are therefore only partially like some tribal guy in Malaysia going ‘amok‘. While both are driven by a combination of personal insults and deprivation- the tribal guy snaps once the situation is intolerable. In contrast, his american counterpart will rarely kill immediately after his point of tolerance has been exceeded. The nature of modern life and amenities means that a person rarely has to act on his homicidal desires immediately. It is this delay between the final provocation and the outburst that makes american rampage killing very different from ‘running amok’.

Then there is the other crucial difference- education and intelligence. Have you noticed that many of the recent spree killers in USA, especially the ones with high body counts, were rather affluent, educated and intelligent. The modern american rampage killer is not some poor and dumb guy who dropped out of high school and works a minimum wage job- indeed the truly abused are too stupid and cowardly to kill lots of people. The modern american rampage killer is best understood as a reasonably privileged person someone who is lashing out at society reneging on its end of a contract he was explicitly (and implicitly) promised since he was born. A brief study of human history suggest that semi-elites who did not receive their promised share of the loot are the most dangerous adversaries of the system that defrauded them. What you are really seeing in the USA is the first overt manifestation of discontent among the younger generation of semi-elites, who rightly believe that they have been taken for a ride.

Now some of you might say- “why don’t we see such incidents in Japan, Greece, Spain or any other developed country with a high number of well-educated but unemployed or underemployed youth?”

The short answer to that question is- the peculiar nature of modern american society, institutions and beliefs. The longer answer to this question does however, once again, require us to talk about aspects of american society that most of don’t talk about or often hardly notice.

It begins with acknowledging that american society is not a society in the conventional sense of that word. It is based on conditional co-operation to attain personal gains without any real sense of social solidarity or togetherness. It has no significant and deep historical, cultural or ethnic competent. Therefore it has no organic institutions or mechanisms to keep most individuals content- especially under adverse conditions. While that was not as issue as long as the economy was growing or credit was plentiful, it does becomes an issue when the future is not looking good. Older societies such as Japan, Greece or Spain have gone through such situations in the past to have developed coping mechanisms that prevent the worst effects of poverty – though even that may not hold once things go beyond a certain point.

The educated but poor youth in those countries have a social net to fall back on. Whether it is their parents, extended family, local community, “unofficial” jobs or a government created jobs which pay enough to avoid serious social problems while providing good quality utilities (excellent and inexpensive healthcare, affordable and high-quality public transport, subsidized housing, subsidized or free higher education etc). That is why countries like Japan, Spain and Italy can have very high rates of youth underemployment and unemployment without any noticeable breakdown of civil society. Of course, youth underemployment and unemployment does fuck up the demographic profile- but that takes a couple of decades (or more) to manifest itself.

The youth in the USA have no safety net to fall back on. We do not have reliable family or extended family to provide them anywhere near the support that is the norm in many other countries and there is no sense of local community. The government is devoted to enriching a few at the expense of many and helps plutocrats, through armed force and law, to fleece everyone else. They provide costly and shitty healthcare, shitty public transport (if any), expensive housing and extremely expensive and mediocre higher education funded by non-dischargeable student loans. The system is so busy eating its seed corn to benefit the few that even the semi-elites (upper-middle class) no longer feel secure about their future. Until recently (a decade ago) the semi-elites and their progeny could look forward to a comfortable if somewhat uncertain future. That is no longer the case..

The reason you hear so much talk about growing income inequality in the last 4 years is largely due to the fact that things have become visibly and unmistakably worse for the semi-elites since 2008. They are now experiencing the same problems everyone below them has been experiencing for a couple of decades. Their belief in the validity of the previous social contract with the elites has evaporated. You can also add the ‘negative’ effects of feministic overreach and hypergamy to that- especially as far as younger men are concerned. It is therefore no surprise that you are increasingly seeing a few younger men from the semi-elite class take out their frustrations through rampage killings.

However the biggest threat to the current system does not come from the very small number of semi-elite youth shooting up movie theaters or primary schools. It comes from the much larger number who will express their frustrations through less overt but far more significant actions or strategic inaction.

What do you think? Comments?