There were 374 mass shootings in 2015, according the crowd-sourced database Mass Shooting Tracker. Watch this motion graphic and hear the 911 calls to get a complete picture of the human toll. (Gillian Brockell,Julio Negron/The Washington Post)
What was Eric Harris of Columbine notoriety without his killing instruments? His journals give us insight into his mind.
Harris was born with a birth defect in his leg. He also had a chest deformity that required surgeries just before high school. He had a noticeable, sunken chest. His hopes to follow his father into the military — to be a tough guy, a Marine — were likely to be unrealized.
Guns, he reasoned, could give him power and control.
“I am (expletive) armed,” he wrote in his journal. “I feel more confident, stronger, more Godlike.”
What was he without guns?
“The weird looking Eric kid,” Harris wrote.
In examining the masculinity idea in one of his books, Langman quotes psychoanalyst Erich Fromm on what makes someone sadistic: “He is sadistic because he feels impotent, unalive, and powerless. He tries to compensate for this lack by having power over others, by transforming the worm he feels himself to be into a god.”
Harris became godlike 17 years ago today, choosing who lived and who died.
Langman has other examples of damaged masculinity and the guns cure. Take Elliot Rodger, who called himself the “kissless virgin.”
In 2014, Rodger killed six near the University of California-Santa Barbara. Before the shooting, he wrote: “I compared myself to other teenagers and became very angry that they were able to experience all of the things I’ve desired, while I was left out of it. I never had the experience of going to a party with other teenagers, I never had my first kiss, I never held hands with a girl, I never lost my virginity.”
Then he bought a Glock.
“After I picked up the handgun, I brought it back to my room and felt a new sense of power. I was now armed,” he wrote. “Who’s the alpha male now, bitches?”
The mass shooter.
Langman suggests that in mass shootings, there may be a component known as “damaged masculinity.’ Guns make up for what the shooter feels he or she has lost out on. It’s all about capturing power and control over others.
Is this to say that all men use guns as an extension of their masculinity? No. Not as all. This theory might very well give us insight into why these horrible things happen with some people, especially those who inflict terror and rage on to innocent victims.
So what is the solution? I have none. People use tools all the time to enhance their image of their own persona. (fastest car, biggest lawnmower, meanest dog on the block) We can’t remove tools just because a small percentage of psychos misuse these tools. What we probably need are better tools to identify the psychos. That is the challenge.