Sooner or later, we need to put in as much effort addressing why someone would want to shoot a lot of people, as we do arguing about how they accomplish it.

No matter how you stand on gun control, you’ve got to agree that it’s not the gun and ammunition and the armored gear that turns someone into a monster and makes them want to kill and maim and hurt and cripple and ruin the lives of others.

Weapons certainly accommodate the desire or the obsession or the hate and bigotry or whatever it is.

And we’re not saying we need more or less gun control (although we often wonder how we’re spending our resources – for instance, doing background checks on people buying shotgun shells so they can go hunt birds or shoot skeet is probably a waste of time). To be perfectly clear, we’re not advocating for more or less gun law (although we, too, have to wonder why a regular citizen needs a machine designed for warfare).

One of our problems as an American society is our utter dedication to the rule of law and that we somehow believe that we can address every single problem by writing a rule. 

You could try, but won’t successfully outlaw hatred or bigotry or dilapidated mental health.

Engaging in vehement and yelled arguments advocating gun law or fending off perceived assaults on Second Amendment rights will not change the way someone feels about life, about community, about race, religion, who’s to blame for what, or who holds a grudge against what person, group or church full of worshipers. 

We do see the sense in the idea that immediacy and availability can be primers in putting someone with a vengeful heart in motion, or someone who wants to end it all. A person could have those feelings, and if an assault rifle is available, act on them; and if an assault rifle isn’t available, could  cool down and let it pass. But, honestly, it seems to us that that logic seems to work in the case of suicide; but not so much in the case of mass shootings, where perpetrators may spend quite some time brooding, planning strategy and collecting materials ... whether it is knives or box cutters, a big truck, the ingredients for a bomb, or an assault rifle.

We also question the usual comparison of the U.S. with every other developed nation, where gun violence isn’t nearly as high. It’s interesting, to be sure, and worth giving thought to. But we can’t think of a study that examined various possible influences on gun violence other than availability of guns ... mental health care, police-to-citizen ratios, use of security cameras, types of unemployment benefits, levels of nationalist and anti-nationalist sentiment, etc.

It may be that we’re afraid of providing motives to monsters. So we’re more likely to assign a person’s assault on society on the availability of weaponry than we are on a person’s depression, or unemployment, or upbringing and racism. Even when the  monster provides a white supremacist screed, leaves messages vowing hatred of other colors and cultures, expresses hatred for the opposite party, explains their hatred for former co-workers ... we still go right to blaming the gun and arguing for or against more gun law.

When we asked on our Facebook page last week what people’s thoughts were about the Gilroy Garlic Festival shooting, the exchange turned almost immediately to arguments about the Second Amendment and the efficacy of gun laws. The comments that weren’t concerned with that were often gracious and thoughtful, but never addressed the cause of the the shooter’s motive or disposition.

Why is that? Perhaps because we don’t want to mistakenly find a reason to pardon the monster of unpardonable sins. We need to get beyond that and start working on why people flip out and decide, one way or the other, to kill random strangers or groups of people unlike themselves.

It’s very scary to go looking for monsters; we’ll never get rid of them if we don’t.

Our View editorials represent the opinion of the Appeal-Democrat and its editorial board and are edited by the publisher and/or editor. Members of the editorial board include:  Publisher Glenn Stifflemire and Editor Steve Miller.

Recommended for you