Another week, another disturbed young man, another mass killing spree. It’s come to the point where episodes like Elliot Rodger’s murder of four men and two women near the Cal-Santa Barbara campus have become so frequent in America that the crime scene tapes have hardly been removed before people turn them into political symbols.
At which point any possibility of taking anything useful away from the tragedy ends. I certainly have no answer for the eloquent cry of Richard Martinez, whose 20 year-old son Christopher, a stranger to the killer, was shot dead in the street.
“Why did Chris die? Chris died because of craven, irresponsible politicians and the NRA,” he cried. “They talk about gun rights. What about Chris’s right to live? When will this insanity stop? When will enough people say, ‘Stop this madness; we don’t have to live like this?’ Too many have died. We should say to ourselves: not one more.”
Such is the downright Satanic power of the gun cult in this country, however, that Martinez may as well never have spoken. Every poll available shows that Democrats, Republicans and gun owners alike favor, at minimum, stronger background checks aimed at keeping semi-automatic killing machines away from disturbed individuals like Rodger.
Yet nothing happens, basically because Second Amendment cultists exercise a stranglehold on the political process. If the Newtown, CT massacre of elementary school children didn’t cause a rethink, no misogynist shooting down sorority girls is going to change a thing.
It’s really quite bizarre, but until some certifiably conservative politician takes on the NRA and wins, spree killings will remain a depressing feature of American life. We could make it much harder for deranged people to acquire arsenals without greatly inconveniencing legitimate gun owners, but we haven’t got the guts to give it a serious try.
Then there’s the customary inadequacy of our laws relating to involuntary commitment of persons deemed an active threat to themselves or others — very roughly the legal standard in most jurisdictions. I got into an online debate recently with Lindsay Beyerstein, a young journalist whose work I admire. She argued that Rodger should be classified as a “misogynist terrorist,” who targeted a sorority house as part of his “WAR ON WOMEN” (his words).
“Here’s why he did it,” Beyerstein wrote. “He was distraught because he had never had a girlfriend. He was enraged because he believed he was entitled to sex and adulation from women. He believed that women would never be attracted to him because women are sub-human animals who are instinctively attracted to ‘brutish,’ ‘stupid’ men, instead of magnificent gentlemen like himself. Women, in his view, should not be allowed to make their own decisions about whom to have sex with, because, as subhuman animals, they are incapable of choosing the good men.”