On Friday, within a week of Umpqua Community College mass murders, two more college shootings – one at Northern Arizona University and another at Texas Southern University, left two more dead and four more injured. And the nation cried again, “Why?” “Why so many mass shootings?”
In my column last week, I citied the work and expertise of Dr. Dewey Cornell to show that mental illness is not the cause of increased mass shootings across the U.S., and more gun restrictions are not the answer for how to reduce them.
Today, I will discuss what the primary cause and problem really is.
Just as a reminder, Dr. Dewey Cornell is a forensic clinical psychologist and professor of education in the Curry School of Education at the University of Virginia, where he also is the director of the Virginia Youth Violence Project. Cornell developed threat assessment guidelines for Virginia colleges and is also the author of “School Violence: Fears Versus Facts” and “Guidelines for Responding to Student Threats of Violence.”
Cornell’s exact statements that I discussed in my last column were: “Gun violence is not due to mental illness,” and “Gun restrictions are not the answer.”
Dr. Cornell explained: “We often see reports claiming that gun violence is increasing, but national trends show otherwise. FBI crime statistics show that gun violence was far higher 20 years ago. A few extra cases in a short timeframe are likely to be chance fluctuations or copycat effects.”
He added, “There are more mass shootings in restaurants than in schools,” but we tend to be swayed by only what the media are presenting.
And again, Dr. Cornell noted, “Decades of mental health research show that only a small proportion of persons with mental illness commit violent acts, and together they account for only a fraction of violent crime. Some mass shooters have had a mental illness. Most do not.”
So, if guns and mental illnesses aren’t to blame for mass shootings, what is?
First, it isn’t enough merely to ask why mass shootings are increasing. We need to ask why most other violent crimes have increased in the last 50 years.
Even though the U.S. population has less than doubled from its 180 million in 1960, violent crimes have more than doubled and, in some areas, have increased five-fold. Below are some stats for violent crimes across the country, comparing the 50-year spread between 1960 and 2010.
1960 – 17,190
2010 – 84,767
(What’s even more grave today about rape is that, according to the FBI, 61 percent of rape victims are under age 18, and 29 percent are younger than 11.)
1960 – 154,320
2010 – 778,901
1960 – 912,100
2010 – 2,159,878
1960 – 328,200
2010 – 737,142
1991 – 24,700
1962 – 8,530
2010 – 14,748
(It might be down from 1990s, but it was four times as high in 1991 than it was 30 years earlier in 1962.)
Are we going to blame all of those statistics on guns or mental illnesses, too?
Blaming guns for mass shootings is like blaming beds or back alleys for rapes, crowbars for burglaries, and Slim Jims for car thefts. It’s not the weapon or tool used in the crime that’s to blame. The primary cause of mass shootings, like other violent crimes, is the corrupt character of the criminal.
It reminds me of a billboard I heard about it Arizona that points to the very first murder as recorded in the Bible. The billboard reads, “Cain killed Abel with a rock. It’s a heart problem, not a gun problem. Jeremiah 17:9.” Despite that we don’t know for sure if Cain’s weapon was a rock, the point is still taken. (Jeremiah 17:9 is “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?”)
Gun violence occurs for the same reason that every other act of violence occurs: because human nature is bent to wrongdoing and evil and when provided the right – or wrong –circumstances, human tragedy often ensues.
And what contributes to the eroding character of human beings and hearts to turn them from law-abiding citizens into lawless criminals? A thousand things in society can and do exacerbate human depravity, including unhealthy, unloving, abusive or dysfunctional relationships or patterns. Culture itself can contribute to the corroding of character, even what we sometimes prize or regard as good, benign, liberating or even a life goal.
Get the rest at Freedom Congress
For more help and info, please go to Dr. Cornell’s Youth Violence Project.
(Next week, I will give the most important part of the address and Dr. Cornell’s advice and wisdom: “Solutions to reduce mass shootings.”)