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Colorado ‘Batman’ Shootings Eerily Similar to Others Involving a Lack of Cognitive Control

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Shortly after moviegoers had settled in to watch a midnight premier of The Dark Night Rises on Friday morning, a heavily armed gunman entered the Aurora, Colo., theater through an emergency exit and opened fire. In just a few minutes the assailant shot more than 60 children and adults—killing at least a dozen—before police arrested him outside the theater.

This massacre was the only latest in a string of eerily similar incidents in recent years involving the mass murder of civilians, spectators and bystanders by an individual with a firearm and a frightening lack of regard over its use. In April 2007 32 people were shot to death and 17 injured on the campus of Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University in Blacksburg, Va., by a former student. In January 2011, former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords was shot in the head by an assailant who killed six people during an attack outside a Tucson supermarket. Just a few months ago a gunman killed seven people at Oikos University in Oakland, Calif.

In each of these and other similar cases, the lone assailant who was either captured or found dead at the scene of the crime matched a particular profile—a disgruntled loner with grievances against societal institutions and who displayed an abhorrent inability or unwillingness to exercise control over violent impulses. Following the attempted assassination of Giffords, Scientific American spoke with Marco Iacoboni, a University of California, Los Angeles, professor of psychiatry and biobehavioral sciences and director of the school’s Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation Laboratory, about why some individuals act on their violent thoughts whereas others do not. Although details about the life of University of Colorado neuroscience Ph.D. student James Holmes, arrested for the Aurora shootings, are still being uncovered, several of Iacoboni’s observations about accused Giffords gunman Jared Lee Loughner seem apt to shed some light on the violence that recent took place Friday morning.

Scientific American: What turns anger into action?
Iacoboni: Mostly cognitive control, or to use a less technical term, self-control. Self-control is key to a well-functioning life, because our brain makes us easily [susceptible] to all sorts of influences. Watching a movie showing violent acts predisposes us to act violently. Even just listening to violent rhetoric makes us more inclined to be violent. Ironically, the same mirror neurons that make us empathic make us also very vulnerable to all sorts influences.

What has neuroscience uncovered about the capacity of the person who shot Giffords, the person responsible for the Virginia Tech massacre in 2007, and many others (yet still a small percentage of people) to behave so violently?
Their cognitive-control mechanisms are deranged. Mind you, these individuals are not out-of-control, enraged people. They just use their cognitive-control mechanisms in the service of a disturbed goal. There are probably a multitude of factors at play here. The subject is exposed to influences that lead him or her to violent acts—including, unfortunately, not only the violent political rhetoric but also the media coverage of similar acts, as we are doing here. A variety of issues, especially mental health problems that lead to social isolation, lead the subject to a mental state that alters his or her ability to exercise cognitive control in a healthy manner. The cognitive control capacities of the subject get somewhat redirected—we don’t quite understand how—toward goals and activities that are violent in a very specific way. Not the violent outburst of somebody who has “lost it” in a bar, punching people right and left. The violence is channeled in a very specific plan, with a very specific target—generally fed by the media through some sort of rhetoric, political or otherwise—with very specific tools, in the Giffords case, a 9-millimeter Glock.

What are the signs that a person is disturbed enough to take action?
The signs are quite visible, although difficult to interpret without a context—and unfortunately they unfold very quickly, and people can rarely witness them before the action is taken. The action itself is a sign, a desperate form of communication from a disturbed individual. Unfortunately, nobody was chatting with the guy when he left his final messages on Internet before getting into action. But I bet that if somebody was communicating with him before the act and saw those signs and read those messages on MySpace or whichever social network he was using, that person could have done something, could have engaged him in a sort of conversation that might have redirected his deranged plans. Indeed, by connecting with the subject, that person might have redirected some of the activity of mirror neurons toward a truly empathic behavior, rather than in the service of the deranged imitative violence leading to action.

Image of an AR-15 assault rifle muzzle courtesy of Guy Sagi, via iStockphoto.com. The suspected gunman who killed 12 people during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises was carrying an AR-15 assault rifle when arrested by police.

Larry Greenemeier About the Author: Larry Greenemeier is the associate editor of technology for Scientific American, covering a variety of tech-related topics, including biotech, computers, military tech, nanotech and robots. Follow on Twitter @lggreenemeier.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. KnagKnogstiK 6:30 pm 07/20/2012

    Obviously this guy was buried in student loan debt, care of the 1 percent who refuse to pay it off.

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  2. 2. notslic 6:39 pm 07/20/2012

    So far there is no indication of what might have set off the Aurora shooter. But from what we know, he was the complete opposite of the Giffords shooter, who was a total loser from all accounts and had a history of irratic behavior.

    The Aurora shooter came from a successful family, was well educated and had all the prospects of having a successful life. He had no criminal or psychological record and was able to legally purchase the firearms he used. There is also no indication of a girlfriend or lover which could have triggered the killing spree.

    He was, however, in the process of withdrawing from his graduate studies. Makes me think that possibly his parents may have been disappointed and reacted in a way that might have brought him to dispair.

    It is strange that one who exhibited cognitive control up to this point would suddenly lose it to such an extent.

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  3. 3. notslic 6:48 pm 07/20/2012

    nagnostic…add a couple letters and try to get around the ban, eh? I suspect that you will lose cognitive control soon. You are a little, self-centered, small minded pinchy peon who’s smart-ass comments are not worthy of this forum. I would love to squeeze your pimply little throat. Please stay with your video games and don’t come here again.

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  4. 4. OriginsSkeptic 6:48 pm 07/20/2012

    I am no lawyer, neuroscientist, or pscychiatrist, but could people who commit these sorts of crimes (the VT shootings, the Batman movie shooting in CO, etc.) use mental illness defenses at trial? I realize that they completely understood what they were doing, and were fully capable of planning the act and carrying it out – but when they commit these violent acts, is there any sense of responsibility for what they have done? Do they know that from a moral and legal perspective that it is wrong? I am just curious, as I have heard a few of these things floating around in the news coverage surrounding the Colorado shooting this morning…

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  5. 5. ruspert 9:07 pm 07/20/2012

    In view of no motive given is it possible that the shooter is an advocate for repeal of the second amendment to the constitution, and it also seems that at least someone in the audience would have had a weapon and tried to put a stop to the shooting unless the legal carrying of a weapon in a theatre is illegal in Colorado.

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  6. 6. Trafalgar 11:51 pm 07/20/2012

    “The Aurora shooter came from a successful family, was well educated and had all the prospects of having a successful life.”

    Except he couldn’t get a job after getting his master’s degree, which is why he went back to school, getting further in debt… You can see where this is going.

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  7. 7. lilolme 12:41 am 07/21/2012

    Isn’t the mass media coverage of “experts” discussing what “experts” have speculated in an authoritative way for weeks on end responsible for this? The old suicide of the disgruntled individual can now be replaced with infamy? Aren’t we enticing more of this action with every word written and discussed? There is media coverage and then there is news mania. We need to demand the press to wrap up these stories in brief coverage.
    OriginsSkeptic, I should hope there would not be such a defense allowed. Enough of the symphathies for these individuals and let us focus on the real victims. Firing squad would suffice to make sure this nut is removed from society once and for all.
    I hope this is the only coverage of this topic by SI.

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  8. 8. Na g n o s t ik 2:37 am 07/21/2012

    Perhaps if we’d all get on the stick and pass the Affordable Higher Education Act, then these incidents of Student Debt Derangement Syndrome would disappear.

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  9. 9. pinetree 3:59 am 07/21/2012

    How odd. I guess Americans are truly exceptional. American mass murders are only deranged individually, never reflecting the collective disturbance in making weapons of mass killing sprees freely available. Couldn’t be societal derangement, no, never. Our murder rate is nearly 50 times many European countries because Americans are oddly deranged at such a greater rate. Considering the politics of the situation,it might just be true.

    Thoughts don’t kill people, bullets do. Words don’t kill people, guns do. Anger and derangement don’t kill people, weapons used in anger and derangement do. See a patten here, yet?

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  10. 10. Richieo 4:34 am 07/21/2012

    It makes no difference how many “total innocents” are killed , whether through accident or derangement, the “gun culture” will always rule, because all Americans are “rootin, tootin, hollerin, gun totin, cowboys at heart…

    No cure….

    Ban ALL guns, change the culture and there just maybe a chance…

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  11. 11. Na g n o s t ik 4:47 am 07/21/2012

    Richieo – “Ban ALL guns, change the culture and there just maybe a chance…”

    Change the culture? How exactly does that work? Give us some positive historical examples while you’re at it…

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  12. 12. Na g n o s t ik 4:57 am 07/21/2012

    It’s funny how the Left treats these incidents.

    First, they look to see if the perpetrator is a Libertarian, Republican or rightist of some kind.
    If so, then the heinous crime is the fault of Libertarianism, the Republican Party or all people right of center.

    Should the perp be apolitical or a Leftist, then the heinous crime is society’s fault.

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  13. 13. mass79x 5:35 am 07/21/2012

    perhaps….. random….. like the last 10….. in 30 years….. go find the gene……

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  14. 14. Big Mama Roneck 7:14 am 07/21/2012

    Mr. Nagnostic,

    Look at countries with a low penetration of weaponry amongst the population at large – for sure not a perfect way to evaluate – but the incidence of mass murder is lower. Part of this issue is that it is a game of odds. With almost 300 million people in the USA the odds are that someone, somewhere will snap, lose control and wreak carnage upon innocents. Taking guns away from the population is bound to have an impact as it is much harder to kill a person in hand to hand encounters. People fight back – unarmed and against an AK 47 what chance do you have? Gun control will not stop all of the wanton slaughter of people but it will reduce the opportunity to commit murder – especially on this scale. I think the next constitutional amendment should be to remove ‘the right to bear arms’ entirely from the constitution. What are Americans so scared of that only a gun in hand will solve the problem? Seems to me this anachronistic contitutional privelege creates more problems than it solves.

    My heartfelt sympathies to the families and friends of the victims of this horror.

    BMR

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  15. 15. jctyler 7:24 am 07/21/2012

    mass shootings involving lack of cognitive control?

    IOW, an idiot with access to guns?

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  16. 16. devils13 9:34 am 07/21/2012

    The problem is not guns and whether people should own them or not. The problem is people not knowing right from wrong or not caring about the consequences of their actions. Lets say guns were banned completely…then the only people with guns will be the criminals that get them illegally. As a human being I have the right to defend myself and will if the need arises. What the criminal build a large truck bomb, drives it through the front door of the theatre and then hits the switch. Massive explosion and everyone dies. Building a truck bomb is much easier then buying a gun in some places. So because of that, fertilizer gets banned. Then the food industry suffers because farmers do not have the tools to be successful. So banning guns is the answer? What people lawful gunowners that hunt. I hunt. Should my gun be taken away? I carry one everyday. At home and at work. I am trained to use it and have very specific rules I must follow before using it to defend myself or others. But I must suffer because one moron decides to shoot a theatre full of people. Perhaps stiffer punishments for those that commit crime would work. Maybe a clear and concise legal system instead of this garbled machination we have now. Maybe instead of spending the next three years in a “speedy” trial, they should take him straight to the gallows, chair, needle or firing squad, which ever is preferred. Hell give him the choice. They all end the same way. That will save the tax payers a lot of money and will free up the court system for the lesser crimes that don’t require the death penalty. After committing such a horrific crime, his rights as a human go right out the window.

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  17. 17. Heteromeles 10:27 am 07/21/2012

    “Eerily similar” indeed. It’s been called running amok, going postal, or a killing spree. It’s even in the DSM-IV. Back in 1770(!), Captain Cook(!) first “described the affected individuals as behaving violently without apparent cause and indiscriminately killing or maiming villagers and animals in a frenzied attack. Amok attacks involved an average of 10 victims and ended when the individual was subdued or ‘put down’ by his fellow tribesmen, and frequently killed in the process…Jin-Inn Teoh, a professor of psychiatry…reported in 1972 that amok behavior existed in all countries, differing only in the methods and weapons used in the attacks.” (source http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC181064/).

    Does this excuse what Holmes did? Absolutely not. My heart goes out to the victims of his attack, not to him.

    But you know, I understand his rage, just a little. I had a hard time in grad school too, and for about a year, I was pretty sure I would fail out. I got through by deciding that I’d been wrong about everything else in grad school, so I was probably wrong that I’d fail too. That decision happened to be correct, and I got my PhD.

    Grad school is stressful and getting far, far worse in the US, but that doesn’t mean that another grad student will run amok any time soon. (Un)fortunately, the only way to stop a killing spree is to get the potential killer into treatment before they act out, and men who are isolated and desperate are very hard to reach out to.

    Why desperate? As a grad student I knew joked, “if they ever come up with a cure for obsessive/compulsive disorder, the number of grad students will drop 90%.” Can you understand why a rare few of us snap? Here are some examples of grad student life, from my personal experience:
    –my roommate (also my labmate) committed suicide.
    –many of my friends (and most of an entire lab) were on anti-depressants.
    –several of my friends “borrowed” valium or similar drugs to get through their prelims and/or dissertation defenses.
    –Most of the PhDs in my field do not get jobs in their field. I think this is true for most PhD fields. That doesn’t stop any of us from playing the odds, any more than it stops actors or athletes.

    Going from being one of the brightest undergrads in a program to just another starving grad student is a stressful experience. Usually, grad students realize they’re going to fail out at least a year before it happens, and many quit first (like Holmes?). Some professors are saints, but all are overworked, and many need psychiatric care themselves. Worst, the current US college system works only by creating and exploiting a surplus of grad students to teach labs and discussion sections, and to do essential lab work. For most grad students, there is no room at the top, and there is no reason for the system to make it any easier than it currently is.

    As I said, I don’t condone what Holmes did at all. Going out in a bloodbath is never the right way. But maybe I understand what triggered him a little.

    Finally, as others have pointed out, this isn’t about the weapons. Men have been running amok with whatever weapons they had, and that won’t ever stop. Fortunately, 99.999% of men in desperate circumstances do not run amok. For that we should be *extremely* grateful.

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  18. 18. Cramer 11:38 am 07/21/2012

    Has anyone else been bothered by SciAm’s choice of photo?

    This photo seems to glamourize gun violence in a type of Clint Eastwood “make my day” statement.

    Why not a photo of an ambulance, people mourning with their heads down, or even a less “sexy” photo of a gun (or guns)?

    I call for SciAm to remove this photo in connection with this heinous crime. This is a slap in the face to all the victims of this massacre.

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  19. 19. smells_nicer@yahoo.com 12:16 pm 07/21/2012

    At the shooter’s level of education, he was over his head in debt. With the prospect of failing out, he would be an indentured servant for life on a fixed income with no way of becoming self-sufficient. A living wage is not possible as the debt collectors garnish his wages and his tax return. We need to return bankruptcy protection to student loan borrowers. This is the only way to help people in this situation.

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  20. 20. Pugsley 12:32 pm 07/21/2012

    The only “eerie similarity” between Holmes and Loughner is in the most widely circulated pictures of the two. That seems to me a conscious attempt by Holmes to look as deranged as Loughner (who actually IS a schizophrenic), in hopes that a jury might be persuaded of his mental illness …… someday ….. if he would carry out the plans ……

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  21. 21. bmcglasson 4:49 pm 07/21/2012

    I am fifty seven years old. I own my own business. I am well educated. I pay my bills, pay my taxes, give to charity, contribute to my community. I have three children, one of which has grown into a productive adult member of our society, while two are still minor children in my home. Thus far in my life, my most serious criminal offence has been to inadvertently run a red light. I have never knowingly caused harm to another, and have helped those around me whenever I have been able.

    I own several firearms, and practice their use with regularity so that I may remain proficient in their use.

    I believe it is the duty and obligation of all responsible, moral adults to defend themselves, their families, and their communities. Rarely, that defense does require firearms. To fulfill our responsibility of defense we must retain the right granted by our constitution to keep and bear arms. Functional arms, capable of meaningful defense are required for this purpose.

    Historically, defense of self, of family, and of community has repeatedly been demanded of the common citizen. It has often been required that we defend against those among us who are larcenous, predatory, or insane. On occasion, we have needed to defend against governments, both foreign and domestic, that have in their arrogance grown aggressive towards their neighbors, or abusive of their own citizenry. The core character and behaviors of humanity have not changed greatly in the last few thousand years. We need only look to history to clearly illustrate the abuses that we and our governments are capable of.

    By disarming those among us who will obey the laws to disarm, the responsible, law abiding, and moral among us, we empower those who have disregard for the law, and embolden them to act against us with the knowledge that they are armed while the common, law abiding citizen is not. A population rendered defenseless by law, will be preyed upon by those whose moral bankruptcy, insanity, or disregard for law encourages their predatory behavior.

    Our governments, being organized and run by people that share the flaws common to all of humanity, bear the burdens, exhibit the flaws, and suffer the failures extant in the population from which their leaders arise. The men that framed our constitution had lived under governments that oppressed and abused their own citizenry and that had abused the populations of neighboring nations. Our constitution provides the right to keep and bear arms in response to the abuses witnessed by our founders. It codifies their belief that law abiding individuals should be fully capable of defending against all threats made to themselves, their families, and their communities. Those threats are ongoing and, barring a fundamental change in the behaviors of humanity, the need for the defensive capability of individuals will remain for the foreseeable future.

    On the day firearm ownership becomes a felony, I will become, and remain, a felon. For I believe it is the obligation, duty, and right of every individual to fully defend themselves, their families, and their communities against both the violations of criminals and the abuses of governments that history assures us will be ongoing.

    So believing, I cannot voluntarily disarm.

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  22. 22. emt22 4:53 pm 07/21/2012

    I am more than a bit disturbed regarding a couple of points here:

    1) debt isn’t a likely culprit: any one who actually read his biography knows he received a merit scholarship at a state school where he was paying in-state tuition; in addition, most phd programs are fully funded until the dissertation stage.

    2) perhaps more disturbing are seeming equivalent comparisons with past assaults, as if incidents that result in similar outcomes were caused by similar causes. in particular, while one may argue that the giffords’ killer had a lower cognitive ability, this one certainly did not, as demonstrated by the intricate planning and the elaborate traps he set up in his own apartment.

    i would expecpt a blog like this on a major media outlet- but do not expect it from a a marginally respectable publication such as scientific american.

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  23. 23. Big Mama Roneck 5:47 pm 07/21/2012

    The NRA’s mantra of ‘guns don’t kill people – people kill people’ doesn’t cut it for me. I just don’t buy it. It’s a bit like saying ‘heroin doesn’t create addiction, it’s people taking heroin who become addicted.’ Both are prime examples of reductio ad absurdum. Yes, people without guns can and do kill people – and people without heroin can and do become addicts. But consider this:

    From the British newspaper The Guardian:
    ‘Brits (are) used to around 600 murders per year.
    In 2010 – the latest year for which detailed statistics are available – there were 12,996 murders in the US. Of those, 8,775 were caused by firearms.’

    Britain has one fifth of the population of the USA. (approx. 60m v 300m)That’s a lot of angry, gun-carrying Americans.

    By comparison British gun laws are so strict that even the Olympic shooting team must practice outside the country.

    When military forces secure a village the first thing they do is demand the surrender of all weapons. Why? Gives them a better chance of survival.

    Dumping the ‘right to bear arms’ from the US Constitution just might save thousands of lives each year. It’s become screamingly, painfully, murderously obvious.

    BMR

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  24. 24. notslic 7:01 pm 07/21/2012

    I have a sign in front of my house that says “Due to the high cost of ammunition, No warning shots will be fired.” Here in Colorado we have the “Make my day” law that says you can defend your home with deadly force and an open carry law that says anyone can openly carry a legal firearm as long as it is not concealed.

    Those who want to change the laws and take away my rights do not know how many crimes are stopped by the real or possible presence of firearms. If I am not mistaken, New Hampshire has the most liberal (oxymoron?) gun possession laws. A friend of mine who lived there commented that everyone was very polite and considerate because they knew that everyone else had a gun.

    I stand by my original comment that says rejection by his parents likely caused the Aurora shooter to lose it. Finances were not an issue if he could go into the theatre with $3000 worth of recently purchased guns and ammunition and booby-trap his apartment to the extent that it has taken days to disarm it.

    In regards to earlier comments, it varies from state to state, but the general rule for an insanity defense is that the defendant was incapable of knowing that his act was unlawful. That’s why it is so hard to prove. Even “God told me to do it” doesn’t work if you know that God told you to do an illegal act (abortion Doctor murderers, for example).

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  25. 25. Cramer 9:15 pm 07/21/2012

    bmcglasson,

    May I ask to whom you are preaching? Who wants to make firearm ownership a felony? Please name one person and provide a reference of them saying this.

    Most on the left believe what you said. Your fear that anyone wants to take away your arms is irrational, unless maybe you have some anti-aircraft missles or nuclear bombs. Is that what you own? Should people be allow to own anti-aircraft missles? I understand that a Russian SA-18 — a shoulder-fired, surface-to-air, heat-seaking missle — can be bought on the open market for $100,000. And I bet that would be fun to shoot (on a range).

    Did you know that Rachel Maddow (yes, that lesbian on MSNBC) met her partner at a gun range?

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  26. 26. Cramer 9:26 pm 07/21/2012

    Big Mama Roneck,

    Regarding your “Guns don’t kill people…” comment, it is also interesting that the NRA and their supporters change their tune when it came to operation Fast and Furious and the killing of a boarder agent. They switched the logic to if the ATF would not have allowed gun-walking, the boarder agent would still be alive. Wouldn’t the killer have used another gun (acquired elsewhere), a knife, or a club???

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  27. 27. Cramer 9:31 pm 07/21/2012

    bmcglasson, I meant name one elected official.

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  28. 28. MrDrT 11:21 pm 07/21/2012

    I find it interesting that several posters are blaming this shooting on student loan debt. Lets be clear, the murderer is a murderer and that pretty much settles that. So now lets discuss a culture where people are loaned money in good faith and others attempt to justify the theft-default of those loans. That lack of regard for property is a short step to lack of regard for personal effort . . .and the value of human value …and lack of regard for life itself. Grow a pair and stop justifying this decay of values. You are a major contributor to the problem.

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  29. 29. Big Mama Roneck 2:39 am 07/22/2012

    It’s head scratching stuff when somebody says ‘I’m a law abiding citizen until you try to take away my gun. Then, I’ll become a felon.’ BNCglasson – let me ask you this: Whatcha gonna do when they come around to collect your private arsenal? Shoot them?
    Please explain how being in possession of a gun in New York carries a mandatory one year jail sentence? I take it you don’t live in NY. Who gave airlines the right to refuse carriage to passengers with guns? I take it you leave your guns at home when you probably need them most. And why can’t you carry a gun into a Federal or State courthouse…or for that matter The White House or Congress? Why do so many schools put kids through metal detectors? I’ll tell you why – guns are dangerous and a gun carrier is a serious threat to all.

    Like many laws and statutes – the Second Amendment is an anachronism. The ‘right to keep and bear arms’ has no place in a country where the population has access to food a-plenty; where the risk of an invasion by a foreign military simply does not exist and where a non-military constabulary enforce law and order.
    It’s delusional to think that America could be saved by armed citizens – or that Americans will starve without access to a gun – or that owning a gun makes Americans safer. If there is a fundamental flaw in the American national character it surely lies in the belief that somehow gun ownership will save your life.
    It just ain’t so –

    BMR

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  30. 30. yaoray 2:42 am 07/22/2012

    Ever hear of IEDs? If it isn’t guns, bought or stolen or fashioned, then it’s another improvised version of lethality. The defect is in the human, not the tool. What motivated the behavior is the same. If not one thing it’s another ‘trigger’. I read hostility online too often from any view toward another opposite view, no common sense middle ground. Society could do with some maturing, which in my view, would aid in finding solutions sans adolesent tantums. Think more and speak less.

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  31. 31. Big Mama Roneck 2:51 am 07/22/2012

    Right back at ya – yaoray.

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  32. 32. jctyler 6:31 am 07/22/2012

    @devils13:

    “then the only people with guns will be the criminals that get them illegally”

    where, how, from whom do the criminals get them illegally?

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  33. 33. jctyler 6:44 am 07/22/2012

    @pinetree (comment nr 9):

    fully agree, very well put and copied for further user with source quote

    I could add:
    - what Europeans find strange is the ease with which one can buy arms in the US;
    - even more strange, the kinds of pure killer weapons practically everyone can buy;
    - worse, the number of killings children see on TV before the age of 10;
    - worst, the cynicism of those companies which produce these killing ustensils; tens of thousands of people get killed every year with not sports, not hunting, purely made to hurt and kill equipment simply because a few people want to make money and use millions to brainwash the population in believing that it is their right to kill.

    The initial and long since outdated reason for the right to bear arms has been perverted being any recognition to satisfy the egotism of a minority of brainless eunuchs.

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  34. 34. jctyler 7:27 am 07/22/2012

    two very simple questions:

    - how many people were killed by criminals and who are the others?

    - how many people were killed in self-defence where firearms were the only means to defend from serious injury or death?

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  35. 35. geojellyroll 8:21 am 07/22/2012

    It’s not just that some lose control and some don’t…it’s that a hundred thousand didn’t for this one guy who did.

    Trying to isolate the ‘reason’ based on some personality type, background, socialization, pressure etc is meaningless. Thousands would fit the profile and don’t go out and commit mass murder.

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  36. 36. jctyler 11:15 am 07/22/2012

    @35

    “It’s not just that some lose control and some don’t…it’s that a hundred thousand didn’t for this one guy who did.”

    Unfortunately the one who lost it had a ton of guns and thousands of rounds of ammo.

    And why is that the excuse generally is that such killings were committed by individuals who lost control and own arms? And why does that not explain why every year tens of thousands of gun owners lose control?

    Or do the US have an abnormally high percentage of criminal individuals likely to lose control while having free access to guns? And why would that be?

    Is there possibly a correlation between owning a gun and losing control?

    Why do 40 million citizens need to own 200 million firearms?

    Who profits from these sales? Are they the same people who pay for the “right to use firearms” campaigns?

    Why is the rate of firearm ownership increasing with the rate of poor education per state?

    On a tangent, why is there less firearm use in states with better education, even if ownership is high?

    For my personal information: why are the US so convinced that they are heading human progress if they can’t even reply to simple questions without having to resort to excuses that rarely stand logical scrutiny?

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  37. 37. singing flea 12:56 pm 07/22/2012

    If statistics can teach us anything then perhaps we need to look at gun ownership statistics a little closer.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gun_violence_in_the_United_States_by_state

    I’m glad I live in Hawaii and not Louisiana. I only have to worry about 19.4% of the population going wacko with a gun. In Louisiana they have to worry about 79.5% going wack-a-noodle. The homicide statistics tells it all.

    If you really want to listen to all the right wing propaganda on guns you should to move to a state with high gun ownership rate and leave us in the states with a low gun ownership rate alone.

    Hawaii has strict gun laws and as a result, people very rarely carry guns around unless they are going hunting. The state also has fairly lax hunting laws because they don’t have a bunch of gun nuts running around with assault rifles shooting everything that moves.

    Now, let’s hear all the gun freaks tell us all how wrong I am.

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  38. 38. CeeBee 1:54 pm 07/22/2012

    To people discussing grad school failures and lack of jobs… Yes this kid was different from the AZ kid, as pointed out above. He was a smart kid who worked hard to finish a really difficult masters degree and then could not find a job. This is disappointing for everyone who goes through it. You don’t know what to do with your life or how you are going to cope, and you are angry because you feel like you have done everything “right”. Now you are saddled with debt, have no prospects, etc. What to do? Unfortunately, many kids then turn to grad school just to postpone having to face the harsh reality of being an over qualified waiter with college debt. Plus, a PhD is much more difficult than a masters degree, and plenty of bright kids realize their limitations when they attempt a PhD program in the hard sciences. This was his last chance at success, and he failed at that. I’m sure he was desperate and confused. If you can’t tell from my tone, I sympathize. My situation has been similar, and I think this is a pretty common problem in the current young generation in the US, given the horrible state of the economy and the lack of opportunities for really good jobs. Because this lack of opportunity is new, we haven’t come up with ways for people to cope yet.

    OK- nonetheless, no one else facing these difficulties is randomly killing large groups of people. Hardship might’ve been the last straw, but it didn’t cause this guy to act the way he did. He must’ve had a mental problem in the first place, or else something must’ve triggered the response (new drug use, a disease that caused mental problems, etc). The hardship he faced is real, but it has nothing to do with why he decided to shoot 60 men, women and children. Serious hardship like this would explain suicide or even a person snapping and getting violent towards people who annoy them. But it wouldn’t explain this, which is sort of the point of the article I think.

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  39. 39. Minddrugs 3:41 pm 07/22/2012

    In the extreme, psychiatric medication leads otherwise well-functioning and ethical individuals to commit criminal acts, violence and suicide due to some of these “side” effects:

    Manic Reaction (Mania, e.g., Kleptomania, Pyromania, Dipsomania, Nymphomania)
    Hypomania (e.g., poor judgment, over spending, impulsivity, etc.)
    Hostility
    Paranoid Reactions
    Confusion
    Delusions
    Sleep Disorders
    Akathisia (Severe Inner Restlessness)
    Discontinuation (Withdrawal) Syndrome
    Impulsivity
    Abnormal Thinking
    Hallucinations
    Personality Disorder
    Amnesia
    Agitation
    Psychosis
    Abnormal Dreams
    Emotional Lability (Or Instability)
    Alcohol Abuse and/or Craving

    We only need to ask one simple question : What psychiatric drug was he taking or withdrawing from? Sometimes simple questions are not even asked.

    Would those questions would be hard for the media to ask ? Because after reporting the event, taking station breaks for advertisements for antidepressants and other mind altering pills might give big media editors and producers indigestion , since they realy like the Big Pharma sponsorship.

    Ask the question Mr T.V reporter: What psychiatric drugs was he taking when the shooting began ?

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  40. 40. bmcglasson 4:12 pm 07/22/2012

    Cramer,
    The list of politicians advocating prohibition or severe restriction of private ownership of firearms is pretty lengthy.

    In states where ownership or possession rights have been diminished, violation of enacted prohibitions usually carry a felony charge. While often those charges are pled down to misdemeanor, such pleadings are not universally accepted and felony convictions are common.
    Any federal prohibition enacted would impose felony consequence, as does the federal prohibition against modern manufactured automatic rifles currently in place.

    A much abbreviated list:
    Sen. John Chafee (R-RI) in 1992 advocated a ban of handgun manufacturing, sale, and ownership., Minneapolis Star Tribune, 1992.
    Rep. Bobby Rush (D-IL) States his desire to implement a ban on all firearm manufacture and ownership for citizens of the US., Chicago Tribune, 1999
    Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D, CA) Attempted to ban personal possession of handguns in San Francisco, UPI, 1982. Her philosophy expressed as a state legislator now enjoys the venue of the US Senate.
    Sen. Bill Bradley (D- NJ), considering legislation to ban the sale of handguns to private citizens. Washington Times, 1999
    Henry Cisneros and Kurt Schmoke, Mayors of San Antonio and Baltimore respectively, signed “The Case for Domestic Disarmament” a treatise advocating the removal of all firearms now in private hands and banning future sale to private citizens.
    Rep. William Clay (D-MO) Advocated bar of ownership of handguns for private citizens. St. Louis Dispatch, 1993.

    Law resulting in felonious possession of firearms is the rule in the world, rather than the exception. The following list is much abbreviated, but illustrates the tendency of governments to make possession of firearms by their citizenry a felony crime. Follows, a very abbreviated list.

    Canada – prohibits ownership of firearms with barrel length under 4 inches, or chambered in a caliber of .25” or .32”. Prohibits all weapons based on a military platform, even if the firearm has been rendered, by design or modification, to fire only in a semi-auto mode. Prohibits rifle magazines of capacity greater than 5, or handgun magazines greater than 10. Possession of prohibited weapons or magazines without permit is a felony. The permit required, while not impossible to obtain, is nearly so for the common citizen, with over eighty percent of application for such denied.

    Australia – ownership is permitted only for those persons with “genuine reasons” for ownership. Personal protection is specifically excluded from the list of valid reasons. All guns are licensed, the license expires automatically, and the owner must reapply to retain legal ownership. Possession of unpermitted arms is a felony.
    Brazil – all firearms must be registered with the state and possession of an unpermitted firearm for a common citizen outside of his home is a felony.
    China – ownership of all firearms prohibited for the citizens of the state. Possession is a felony, and may be prosecuted as a capital crime.
    Japan – citizens are prohibited from handgun ownership without permit. The permit is rarely granted and granting depends greatly on political association. Possession of a handgun without permit is a felony.

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  41. 41. JDIZZLE 4:16 pm 07/22/2012

    If he had committed this same act with a chain saw, would you be pushing for chain saw legislation too?
    Just curious.

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  42. 42. lebeev 4:21 pm 07/22/2012

    sounds like this guy could have used a lobotomy, pre-frontal job – old skool

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  43. 43. jctyler 4:32 pm 07/22/2012

    ceebee: “He must’ve had a mental problem”

    anyone doing what he did has a mental problem; his mental problem is that when all is said and done, he is an idiot with guns and his mental problem is that he can’t cope with both simultaneously. IOW he is an egotistical, narcissistic, megalomaniac little s*%/&$çt; that is his problem.

    jdizzle: would I push for legislation to ban chain saws if he had done the same thing with a chain saw? what type of a question is that? how do you go about killing 14 people and hurting 50 and more in a movie theatre with a chain saw? why does the US army not use chain saws in Iraq? your curiosity seems based on, ahm, what’s that word describing lack of cognitive talent?

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  44. 44. JDIZZLE 4:51 pm 07/22/2012

    Like I said there big JC, merely curious. Love the nerdy counter troll there too, “cognitive talent”.
    You are a true pseudo intellectual. Have a nice day.

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  45. 45. JDIZZLE 5:00 pm 07/22/2012

    The point being, gun or no, he would’ve found a way to do it.

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  46. 46. Cramer 5:31 pm 07/22/2012

    bmcglasson,

    Every example you gave was in the 1990s. I am talking about right now. Give me examples of any legislation efforts occuring after the 2011 Tucson Massacre. There has been none. Obama has never made any statements about wanting to take away your guns. The NRA, Fox News, et al have simply created this fear for political gain and you have bought their propaganda hook, line, and sinker.

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  47. 47. all4kindness2all 5:36 pm 07/22/2012

    We look at problems like these from the wrong perspective. People have been killing other people since the dawn of man. We do it for love, for hate, for greed, for God, for fame, for our righteous ideals, for acceptance in a group, for survival, or because we have chosen to be soldiers and are sent off to war…

    What interests me is for whom is it a necessary freedom to own assault weapons that shoot off more than 10 rounds at a time? I want to hear why that is a necessary freedom?

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  48. 48. Cramer 5:38 pm 07/22/2012

    bmcglasson,

    I guess you do not believe in American exceptionalism if you fear the gun laws in other countries. What do the gun laws in Canada, Australia, Brazil, China, and Japan have to do with the laws in America. Look at China, a communist country, is outrageous. Do you fear that the communist system is better than ours. I don’t; we just have stop tolerating their currency manipulation — but big corporations in America are benefitting from that.

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  49. 49. Cramer 5:43 pm 07/22/2012

    jctyler gets it much more than JDIZZLE with regard to the chain saw example. Try killing someone with your own hands or a knife. It a lot more intimate (and risky) than using a gun. Most people won’t do it where they would if they had a gun.

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  50. 50. Cramer 5:51 pm 07/22/2012

    all4kindness2all,

    These radicals believe you need AR-15s and anti-aircraft missles to take on the US government as called “2nd Amendment remedies” by Sharron Angle. Next these radical militias in the US will be developing nuclear bombs. Won’t that be their 2nd Amendment right?

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  51. 51. JDIZZLE 6:11 pm 07/22/2012

    You misunderstand me completely. What I mean to convey is that gun or no, he would have found a way to commit this act. Look at the lengths he had gone through to booby trap his room with incendiaries (not guns). The gun is just a tool, hence the (failed) chainsaw example. The problem here was a person who had lost cognitive control.
    And FYI, I too cannot find a reason to have an AR-15 in the home. Its mere presence there is literally asking for some kind of problem.

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  52. 52. jctyler 6:44 pm 07/22/2012

    @jdizzle comment 44: no, you were not simply curious, you tried to be a smart-ass, and you’re failing at it again but you’re definitely not smart.

    and since you are obviously devoid of that specific talent which would allow you to see the difference between a semi and a chain saw, being called a pseudo-intellectual by you leaves my self-respect intact. I’d be hugely embarrassed to be complimented by you.

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  53. 53. bmcglasson 6:48 pm 07/22/2012

    Cramer,
    Most of those quoted are still in public office. There were quite a few more, not listed in my post above. I just started at the top of the list, which happened to be sorted by date. You just asked me to name one, so I did. But really, do you think it likely that their philosophies are changed?

    Though who knows, maybe a few have joined the NRA in recent years, and are secretly funding nuke development for some armband wearing militias. Is that really what you think? That those of us that resist disarmament are whackos drooling over an impending Armageddon, wishing only we had missiles and nukes to do-us-proud?

    Funny really… My primary reason for being armed is to protect; self, family, and community. It is for that reason that I have always been, and shall remain armed. That, and I enjoy shooting and hunting.

    Governments, throughout history, have tended to grow in similar ways. Communist, Socialist, Dictatorships, Politburos, Capitalists, Democracies, Theocracies… the political power that draws people to positions of public office, or to positions that empower them over their citizenry, has been a corrupting influence over every government in our history.

    I do believe in American Exceptionalism, to the extent that I believe our form of government and methods of our economy are exceptional. However, the people that rule China, or Iran, or the U.S.A., or Canada , or any other country on Earth, are not so different from one another as to be entirely beyond the temptations of striving for ever more authority over their populations.

    We see our own politicians yielding to the temptations of increased power, scope of authority, and longer tenure of office with some frequency. To think that desire for expansion of their authority is limited because they are Americans, is foolish. History is replete with examples of governments that started nobly and with the best of intent, and yet was, over a period of several generations, polluted by the desire of their leaders for ever more power over their countrymen. The end result has all too often been despotism and diminishment of the freedoms once taken for granted by their populations.

    Freedoms cannot be taken away all at once, but must be eased away, one small degree of freedom at a time. Otherwise, the population would rise up in rebellion, while they still remembered what true freedom was like.

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  54. 54. jctyler 7:01 pm 07/22/2012

    @jdizzle comment 55: he was obviously hung up on gun culture, a quite specific USamerican phenomenon. Ok, quite a number of people could booby trap an appartement by mixing a few chemicals, but very few do because it’s not that easily done whereas millions think they can handle a gun. Chemicals require a certain knowledge, time and energy, guns only require a trigger. A trigger is pulled quicker than you can only open a bag of chemicals.

    But ok, go ahead, give me a single good reason why there are 5 times more killings in the US by firearms than in let’s say the UK, France, Germany, Spain and Italy together (countries picked because their total population would from my memory be roughly equal to that of the US).

    Heard from a journalist crossing from Canada into the US and the US customs officer told him: “Americans are like Canadians, but with a gun and no health care. Be careful and have a nice trip.” What a way to travel the US when you must be afraid to get shot for a friendly but possibly misunderstood gesture by a hypersensitive, gun-carrying, trigger-happy right-wing fundamentalist.

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  55. 55. JDIZZLE 7:03 pm 07/22/2012

    You’re right JC, I ain’t. And unlike you, I don’t pretend to be. Have a nice day.

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  56. 56. jctyler 7:06 pm 07/22/2012

    @bmcglasson: “I do believe in American Exceptionalism, to the extent that I believe our form of government and methods of our economy are exceptional.”

    I’d say it’s called arrogance from being exceptionally ignorant about the rest of the modern world. Your government is exceptionally infiltrated by big money and your economy is exceptionally abusive. First, you will suffer the consequences of what that mix has done to your climate. Which will hit you exceptionally hard pretty soon.

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  57. 57. notslic 7:57 pm 07/22/2012

    Urban and rural America are 2 very different places. I can shoot any caliber gun on my property and the bullet will not leave my property.

    Shooting guns is very fun if you are not such a wussy that it scares you.

    Every piece of meat that my family eats is either game that I have killed or an angus that I butchered, after shooting it. Many Native Americans in Alaska and the lower 48 subsist on meat taken with guns. Poor people in rural areas become very good shots because they must bring back meat for every bullet.

    The Aurora shooter was very capable of blowing up the theatre, as proven by his apartment.

    On many issues, I am a liberal. I haven’t voted for a Republican since Reagan, which I now consider a mistake. But if you try to take my guns away I will go Dick Cheney on you.

    The Second Amendmant is a complex issue. Looked at in the context of the time that it was written (which the Supremes sometimes do), it specifically refers to the Malitia. If you decided to join the Malitia, then an assault rifle would be your gun of choice (see the movie “Red Dawn”). Personally, I don’t have a problem with the big, ugly, dirty crime-filled cities banning guns. I’ll never go there anyway. The Supremes have decided that cities and states have the right to “reasonably” regulate guns. But if someone comes on my property with bad intent, the law is a long ways away. I live on the other side of the Rocky Mountains from Denver…it is a completely different world.

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  58. 58. jctyler 8:22 pm 07/22/2012

    @jdizzle comm. 55: “unlike me what?” you don’t give a single good reason in defence of your biased comments. You are not typical of your country, you are typical of a certain state of mind. And if I was your neighbour I would hope you don’t have a gun as you seem the typevaguely inclined to use it as a last argument when your kind of strange reasoning fails you yet again.

    @notslic: yes, I can live with your point of view. In fact, to a degree I do as you’re pretty much describing the American counterpart of normal life in many European rural areas. The only thing we would possibly differ on is that he could have blown up the place. In theory yes, but in practice?

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  59. 59. bmcglasson 8:29 pm 07/22/2012

    notslic,
    You are correct, much of the divide between gun / no gun groups originates in the rural / urban divide. I have lived most of my life in areas where guns were tools, carried regularly and used for hunting or protection of livestock, pets, or self from predators.

    But, as most people know, the most dangerous animal in the wilderness walks upright. A lifetime habit of thinking about firearms as tools makes a person much more comfortable with a firearm in a large city. As a citizen of the US, we do still have that right, and I would hate to lose it.

    When rights are incrementally diminished over time, they may then more easily be taken from us altogether. It is a slippery slope.

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  60. 60. Cramer 10:22 pm 07/22/2012

    bmcglasson,

    Okay, so you seem to starting to discover human nature and somehow you only seem to believe that human nature only affects government. Adam Smith also warned of corporate tryanny. Who do you think has bought and captured the government?

    You seem to be more anti-government than pro-2nd amendment. The utopian world envisoned by libertarians doesn’t exist. If don’t believe it, move to the most libertarian country in the world: Somalia. There you can see how things run without police, firefighters, teachers, laws, and regulations. More simply, without a government.

    It would be nice if your utopian world existed. People also “strive for ever more authority” in Somalia. It really has nothing to do with government.

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  61. 61. phalaris 2:08 am 07/23/2012

    notslic #24
    From the other side of the pond:

    “New Hampshire has the most liberal…gun possession laws……………..everyone was very polite and considerate because they knew that everyone else had a gun.”

    Aw shucks, for years I’d believed that many Americans were amongst the nicest and most considerate people you could meet because that’s just the way they were. I’m now totally disillusioned.

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  62. 62. notslic 11:23 am 07/23/2012

    phalaris…I’ve lived out here for over 7 years now. The biggest difference between rural and urban america is that everything in the big city is combat. You fight for a parking space, you fight for your place in line, you fight for your spot on the freeway, you fight with your neighbor over their dog or the noise.

    Out here in the country it’s more of a tradition than anything else. “Live free or die” and “Don’t tread on me” are the radical right fringe.

    As a side-note, it was my government that taught me how to use a gun when they sent me involuntarily to Southeast Asia. If the public had continued to treat veterans with the disdain that we were treated with on our return, maybe there wouldn’t be the gun/war mentality here.

    Cheers, mate

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  63. 63. tucanofulano 3:52 pm 07/23/2012

    While nutcases have always been among us (“Jack the Ripper”, et. al.) and there is no way to ensure the safety of the first victim, there certainly is a way to ensure there are no 2nd or subsequent victims. “Gun Control” ought require that every American citizen over age 17 pack a concealed weapon and know how and when to use it. Instead of 12 dead and near 60 injured by bullets there may well have been 1 wounded plus a dead nutcase displaying fatal wounds from some 30 to 50 return fire shots from as many citizens.

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  64. 64. marysc 4:34 pm 07/23/2012

    When individuals with no history of violence and other serious pathology commit these horrible acts, it seems to me we ought to look more closely at their medication history. I know big drugs companies threaten the media with loss of advertising money if they even mention this possibility, but the military has done studies that suicide and violence toward their families, comrades and innocent bystanders are significantly related to antidepressant medication. See:

    http://tinyurl.com/mp4xzl

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  65. 65. Cramer 5:17 pm 07/23/2012

    tucanofulano, yes indeed, utopia. It would just all work perfect in your utopian fantasy.

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  66. 66. jctyler 7:25 pm 07/23/2012

    tucavufancalo:

    ‘”Gun Control” ought require that every American citizen over age 17 pack a concealed weapon and know how and when to use it. Instead of 12 dead and near 60 injured by bullets there may well have been’…

    35 dead and 180 seriously wounded from panic and uncoordinated shooting, shots in the back from those shooting from behind and shots in the face from those opposite the madman hit by those shooting from anywhere. 18 more died in the ensuing stampede.

    And that was before the shooting restarted outside amongst the survivors shooting at those they believed had shot at their friends inside.

    Toll: 80% of the dead and wounded shot by those shooting at the madman.

    Your comment is by very far the most xxx thing I ever read on the topic.

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  67. 67. jack.123 8:04 pm 07/23/2012

    Judging by what was found in this persons home,bombs could have been his choice.The death toll most likely would have been worse,and we would still be looking for who did it.His being caught was not a given.Remember how long it took to catch the uni bomber.Not being caught right away could have lead to many bombings till they did catch him.The problem here isn’t a lack of gun laws,we have plenty.We need to look at those who are selling these guns more closely.You can’t tell me they don’t know a disturbed person when they see one and yet they still sell weapons to people like this every day.Without an anonymous heads up to law enforcement that maybe guns got into the wrong hands.There is a problem when their profits become more important than the safety of the public.Just because someone has the right paperwork doesn’t mean the sale should be made.Don’t get me wrong here the blame in the end lands on one mans shoulders,but there are in many cases those who could have given a tip and didn’t.

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  68. 68. bmcglasson 9:06 pm 07/23/2012

    Cramer,
    Since I started by addressing you in this blog, I may as well end my participation in response to you.

    I am not an anarchist. I know well the need for government and participate in my local government in an effort to make it better for the people that live in the small domain it serves. I do, however, know that governments, without historical exception, tend to grow beyond the scope of their original intent, and grow until they burden the people they are intended to serve. That unrelenting growth is a reflection of the nature of humans.

    It is part of the nature of humans to desire that our efforts be rewarded by seeing what we work on prosper and grow. The people who work in government are no different in that regard. But while someone building a family’s prosperity, building a business where a product or service is produced, or planting crops in a barren field adds value where there was none before, growing government without bounds is destructive and, ironically, eventually will cause the overgrown government to fail utterly. It is the failure of our government that I hope to help avoid through my participation and effort to keep the government small.

    On a personal note, to twist another’s statements as your last addressed to me did, your twist allowing absurd leaps of logic to denigrate someone just because you think they believe something you disagree with, results in a loss of your credibility.

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  69. 69. bmcglasson 9:18 pm 07/23/2012

    tucanofulano,

    Really? Imagine for a moment, a theater full of 17 to 20 year old boys, who happen to be batman fans, blazing away in fear of their lives. You’d be lucky if anyone got out alive.

    One or two armed granddads might have helped. Maybe. It is hard to imagine the fear and chaos that must have been in that theater. Those poor kids.

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  70. 70. Cramer 1:37 am 07/24/2012

    bmcglasson,
    I know exactly who you are by the statements you made and I understand the propaganda that you bought into. I don’t care if you call yourself an anarchist or a libertarian. You can call yourself whatever you want.

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  71. 71. zirkin 11:30 am 07/24/2012

    Zirkin

    To my knowlege none of the shooters have been female.
    On the other there have been many female suicide bombers. Apparently there is a gender(hormonal e.g. testosterone) as well cultural component to this phenomenon.

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  72. 72. JMFranklin 2:51 pm 07/24/2012

    I would say good article, but sadly it falls back on the old carrot of “If you watch violent films, then you will be violent”, what a load of bleeding heart liberal nonsense. I agree self control is the major factor, but when a society produces individuals like this, then it has to look inwards as well. The causes of such events are not isolated, there are cultural and social as well as psychiatric causes to these events, and one of the main ways that people are able to kill so many is the freely accessible firearms that were never designed for civilian use.

    Yes I know the Gun Lobby will argue that the 2nd Amendment states they have the right to bear arms, but it doesn’t actually state what those arms are, and allowing a deranged civilian to own an assault rifle is simply crazy. There is no justification is a decent and civilized society for the civilian ownership of military spec weapons.

    However, again the weapons are only part of the equation, the society that breeds these people on such a regular basis clearly has some deep rooted issues of it’s own, and until those are identified and corrective measure taken, then more innocent people will die on a regular basis.

    Sad but true.

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  73. 73. notslic 6:27 pm 07/24/2012

    Zirkin…you are wrong. The first school shooter was Brenda Spencer in 1979. She opened fire on a school from her bedroom window with the .22 her dad got her for her birthday because she didn’t like Mondays.

    Brainwashing is different from psychosis. All religions are cults.

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  74. 74. notslic 6:37 pm 07/24/2012

    JMFranklin…If 1000 rabbits are eating your veggie garden, then there is justification for owning an AR and a 100 round mag. I have a Ruger 10/22 and a 50 round mags for varmints. Everyone knows the 100 round drums always jam.

    And we do know the cause…defective genes cause defective humans. Evolution is the answer. Be patient.

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  75. 75. notslic 6:43 pm 07/24/2012

    bmcglasson…I know you’re a teabagger, but I have some friends that are probably worse than you and we are close because of the things we have in common, not enemies because of the things we differ on. I LOVE your comment about the 2 grandpas. I couldn’t agree more. Cheers!

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  76. 76. Glendon Mellow 8:27 am 07/25/2012

    Cramer, to reply to your comment at #18 regarding use of the gun muzzle on this post being inappropriate; I disagree.

    I’m one of the artists on the SciAm blog Symbiartic and proper and appropriate use of images on blogs is something I think a lot about.

    Yeah, the gun muzzle is disturbing and in-your-face. But this article is about the murderer’s motivations, not the victims which is why it’s more appropriate than an ambulance as you suggest.

    It’s a shocking and unpleasant image in a post about a shocking and horrific event. And in my mind, as a Canadian, maybe, just maybe it also allows a few more people to start blaming the gun culture that portions of the US seem so in love with. Discussion of student debt, the Batman movie, and so on are interesting as possible factors but the ease of acquiring guns plays a role.

    It’s a (shocking, disturbing) appropriate image.
    - –
    (For the record, I’m a blogger for SciAm but I have no say on image use by other writers, editors and bloggers, except for occasionally hectoring them to cite their sources.)

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  77. 77. Petra 5:35 pm 07/25/2012

    Z brain is an interesting thing.
    It’s curious how so many wish to pass judgment on a young man who literally threw his life away for reasons we don’t understand. Though I wonder if it’s a simple matter of his inability to handle potential failure when he had been very successful in all of his prior academic endeavors.
    I have so many questions about how this developed and high on the list was perhaps his interaction with family and if their standards for him were higher than he could live up to? Though I don’t wish to place blame there, but consider it on a list of potential problems, yet looming out there surely is some form of even undiagnosed mental illness.
    However, only 1% of all criminals during any year are allowed to use mental defense as an excuse.
    Nonetheless, even if there were no guns think about how many bombs he made and if he couldn’t kill someone with a gun, he’d have found another way and when one considers personal murder is more often than not committed by means other than a gun that speaks volumes about intensity of out-of-control murderers.
    I think for now empathy, compassion and seeking understanding is more beneficial than being angry and failing to hear the whole truth before judgment is rendered.

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  78. 78. Michael M 12:31 pm 07/26/2012

    Interesting that a great number of comments are attempts to externalize/politicize. Most strikingly the comments on extreme stress, isolation and amok are nearly the only ones which makes significant attempt at discovering roots for hypotheses of the behavior.

    Unfortunately this means that Scientific American is not descriptive of those who sought to comment.

    Cruising the internet for articles in which to preemptively defend or attack the ownership of projectile or other weapons may well be a rather thoughtless and desperate effort to protect one’s or one’s group’s perceived status.

    Politicization is the result of what is called confirmation bias, in which the only information absorbed is that which supports one’s or one’s group’s opinions/perceived status.

    However, we make coalition with the group most likely to give avenue to increased status. The bandwagon effect changes one’s opinions when an individual cognitively enters into other groups with different characteristics. You agree with perceived peers, and reduce your exposure to and consideration of information not supporting your group/coalition..

    Politicized statements which generalize and falsely characterize perceived outgroups (“liberal” for instance), lead us to consider Jonathan Haidt’s work at the University of Virginia on what he calls the moral emotions:

    Harm/Care, Fairness/Reciprocity, Ingroup/Loyalty, Authority/Respect, and Purity/Sanctity. In the last, Haidt has coauthored work on disgust as related to political leaning. Should any commentors wish to explore their own beliefs, biases, and feelings about those with whom they disagree, rather than automatically blindly believe in their own sanctity, they might begin with perusal of hypotheses there.

    We attribute our own actions to situations, and the actions of those we outgroup as inherent: personality.
    Humans do not fare well when isolated. We tend greatly to act in ways reflecting what we believe our social ingroup rewards.
    We do know that surveys show individuals as having beliefs which seem to cause consistent differing of these traits in this way:
    Loyalty, authority, and disgust/sanctimoniousness tend to be prized at the expense of care/empathy, and fairness, and vice-versa.

    Contrasting one’s group affiliations with those of “other” nations, for instance, must become a source of objective questioning rather than conflict, and Scientific American strongly needs to monitor and remove derogatory and political comment.

    For some insight into cultural norms, the USA and Canada score much higher for individual self-image than for instance do the above in-commentary reviled China and other Asian cultures, in which individuals perceive themselves as more primarily group-oriented. Distaste amounting to automatic hatred will not close the gap in understanding.

    Enough on the largely ridiculous commentary; the issue is isolation and running amok.

    Link to this
  79. 79. stan e m 2:23 pm 07/27/2012

    A lot of mental illness is caused by antibiotics and food additives.

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  80. 80. jctyler 6:38 am 08/12/2012

    August 12 and New York police kill a man near Times Square who is armed with a joint and a gun. US gun culture at its most typical. If you don’t want to waste time with intelligent solutions, for example someone trained in close combat and give him two minutes, then you simply shoot the person. Good thing it was the police, the man had another half an hour to live. If it had been some of the city cowboys here with a man carrying a joint, a knife and a bandana on their lawn, they would have shot him right away. So the difference between being shot by a city slicker and a city police man is half an hour. No brains.

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  81. 81. upload70 3:04 am 10/10/2012

    youngsters threaten each other all the time especially online so the majority of these threats are not taken too seriously. http://SA.301d.com/

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  82. 82. upload70 1:09 pm 10/12/2012

    sadly the majority of these mass shootings seem to happen in the US which is the only first world country I can think of where guns are easily available ( legally and on the black market ). steroids

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