What Is it About Men That They're Committing These Horrible Massacres?
“But what about the men?” It’s a question that’s been avoided by the mainstream within the context of mass shootings.
The recent tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut sparked thousands of conversations across the continent about gun laws, mental illness, and violence. And sadly, we’ve been here before.
We’ve had conversations about access to guns – the victims would still be alive today, after all, if there were no gun. We’ve talked about the need to better address mental illness in North America – about how people need access to services and treatment. With proper support, potential perpetrators could get the help they need before it’s too late. And what about the media? We see violence all the time in movies, video games, and on television. Have we become so desensitized to violence that mass murder has become par for the course? Or, worse, a way to achieve fame in a culture obsessed with celebrity as a goal unto itself?
All these factors are relevant. All of these conversations should be had. But no one is asking what is, for once, the single most important question: What about the men?
In 1984, a 39-year-old man opened fire at an upscale nightclub in Dallas after a woman rejected his aggressive sexual advances. The man, Abdelkrim Belachheb, went out to his car, retrieved his gun, and returned to the bar, shooting the woman to death. He then reloaded his gun and killed a total of six more people. Capital punishment quickly became the center of the national conversation. In fact, Belachheb’s crime is most remembered as it lead to the passage of House Bill 8 in Texas —the “multiple murder” statute, which made serial killing and mass murder capital crimes.
That same year, James Oliver Huberty, a man whose ‘volatile temper’ and history of domestic violence is documented, opened fire at a McDonald's restaurant in California, killing 21 people before being shot dead by a police officer. At the time, this shooting was the “ largest single-day, single-gunman massacre in U.S. history.” Shocked, liberal politicians used the incident to lobby for stricter gun laws. Others wanted to know why he wasn’t able to access the mental health services he needed.
In 1992, John T. Miller, angry that his wages were being garnished by court order, “ claimed that child-support payments had ruined his life”. He entered a county office building in Schuyler County, NY, walked up to the child-support unit, and shot and killed four women whose jobs were to collect child-support. Miller had been ducking childcare payments since 1967.
We all know about the tragic day in 1999 when Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold opened fire at Columbine High School, killing 12 of their classmates and teachers. Since, many have claimed the two boys were psychopaths. In 2004, an article in Slate commented, based on entries in Harris’ journal that: “These are not the rantings of an angry young man, picked on by jocks until he's not going to take it anymore. These are the rantings of someone with a messianic-grade superiority complex, out to punish the entire human race for its appalling inferiority,” also noting a “lack of remorse or empathy—another distinctive quality of the psychopath.”
Others viewed the Columbine shooting as a ‘revenge killing.’ Some speculated that fame, or infamy, rather, was the driving force behind Harris’ and Klebod’s actions. We began a national conversation about ‘bullying’. ‘Bullying’ as the number one cause for every youth-related problem in North America is another exhausted conversation.
In 2007, 23-year-old Seung-Hui Cho opened fire at Virginia Tech, killing 32 people before taking his own life. Cho’s behaviour at Virginia Tech, prior to the shooting, was said to be ‘troubling’. He had been harassing female students and taking pictures of their legs under desks. Cho had been accused of stalking female students on three separate occasions. Supposedly he left a note “ raging against women and rich kids.” After the Virginia Tech massacre, the national conversation turned, once again, to bullying, to mental illness, and to gun laws.