Umpqua Tragedy: We Need to Understand What’s Behind Mass Shootings

As a blogger and news editor, I’m so weary of running these posts. Reactions to mass shootings at college campuses, like the one at Umpqua Community College in Oregonon Thursday. At elementary schools. At churches. At gurdwaras. At movie theaters. On live television. The mass shootings just become more and more common. And the reasons left behind in manifestos, blog posts, and social media profiles seem to get increasingly resentful. In the case of the latest Umpqua shooting, there’s a movement to “forget the zero” and to not speak of the gunman who took 10 lives.

Oct 1, 2015 – Roseburg, Oregon, U.S. – A group of young women console each other during a vigil in Roseburg. after a shooter opened fire at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College. (Credit Image: © Chris Pietsch/The Register-Guard/ZUMAPRESS.com)I don’t want to add to the infamy surrounding these mass murderers, especially with the trend of these shooters glorifying ones that came before them. But we need to understand why. The cycles get shorter and shorter. It has been barely a month since the Roanoke TV station shootings. The Charleston church shootings were less than two months before then. And those are just the ones that made national headlines.

There was a glimmer of hope immediately after Sandy Hook, when there was hearty conversation in Washington around changing gun laws. Then NRA spokesperson Wayne LaPierre’s absurd suggestion that the solution was arming more “good guys”(including Kindergarten teachers), not much has changed in the three years since dozens of young children were killed in their Connecticut classrooms. Except that schoolchildren are now used to armed shooter drills, as if they were as innocuous as a fire drill. I hate that my fourth grader came home to announce that he was assigned to move the bookcase to block the door in case of an emergency. As British pundit Dan Hodges commented earlier this year in a tweet that’s been retweeted over 37,000 times, “In retrospect Sandy Hook marked the end of the US gun control debate. Once America decided killing children was bearable, it was over.”

However, it’s also important to understand the motives behind them, especially if nothing’s going to be done soon about restricting easy access to the kind of semiautomatic firearms or preventing concealed weapons from being carried in public campuses. Even President Obama, in his impassioned speech to reduce gun violenceadmitted, “This is not something I can do by myself.”

We can’t just blame mass murders on the vague term “mental health”, especially if we as a society aren’t also going to take any action in changing our health care system and culture to make those services more accessible and relevant.

I’m really concerned by the underlying current of entitlement and resentment revealed by these shooters. Anger against women. Anger against black people. Anger againstturbaned brown people. Anger against Christians. And I’m concerned about the disparity between white male shooters being portrayed as isolated mentally unstable individuals, while non-white gunmen are immediately investigated as terrorists. And not all gunmen fit the white/non-white binary. The Oregon shooter, Chris Harper Mercer, was mixed-race, as was Elliot Rodger, who killed six people near UC Santa Barbara in 2014. Our discussions have to become more complex and take into account the many factors that lead to these tragedies.