Massacre should not have happened
April 16 still reverberates in our hearts and minds. A 23-year-old student slaughters 32 people and wounds 28 others on the Virginia Tech campus and another mass murderer enters the infamous history of senseless American violence with the largest single massacre of its type in all of U.S. history.
Long before this terrible moment — before the other school shootings and the workplace shootings — there was that McDonald’s massacre in San Diego and the report that was written and sent to the local and national media. It was an analysis of the problem and a serious suggestion for consideration. Needless to say it was ignored.
The report suggested that we should really consider making every reasonable effort to identify the relevant behavioral footprints and extensively treat such unstable personalities before they can become such a terrifying footnote in our history. It was suggested that if we do not do something of this nature, such horrendous events can be expected to be repeated again and again.
So now what shall we do? Shall we ignore the advice once again and continue on as before (with the results continuing as before) or will we somehow manage to actually give serious consideration to this idea?
Yes, we can argue that some of those perpetrators did not leave many, if any, behavioral footprints to be followed and that there is so little we can do when we actually do make a good identification. We can ignore the fact that most unstable personalities of this type do leave us a reasonable trail to follow and that we really should develop adequate facilities and treatments for such individuals, even if they might not eventually act out such a violent end.
That Virginia Tech student is an important example of what could have been identified and wasn’t. He had a long and troubled mental history. It had even been professionally determined that his potential for violence was very high. Records also show his previous involvement with stalking and setting fires. Classmates and professors recall him as being sullen and scary. The behavioral footprints were there.
This shouldn’t have happened. But it did. And a few days later it happened again. A gunman took two hostages at the Johnson Space Center in Houston and killed one of the hostages and himself. We can expect more of the same because we just don’t seem to be able to learn from such experiences.
Matt Crenson of the Associated Press reported that mass shootings are more common in America since the 1960s. He noted that since August of 1966, at least 100 Americans have gone on shooting sprees. So should we just accept the situation and huddle in our homes and hope that it will all just go away, as we seem to be doing with so many of our serious issues? Is that going to be our answer? I sincerely hope not. If there is going to be a solution it is going to have to start with each and every one of us as individuals. Jonathan West San Diego, California