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.


20 Thoughts to ““Damaged masculinity,” guns, and mass shootings”

  1. Steve Thomas

    “Crowd Sourcing Database”? 374 Mass Shootings?

    That statistic is pure, unadulterated CACA!

    Even Mother Jones, far from being a conservative publication called that statistic what it is: Crap.

    It’s crap because it doesn’t differentiate between the “spree shooter” like Columbine, and two rival gangs flinging lead at each other in Chicago. Nope. You read that statistic, and the examples used to illustrate the statistic, and to the average person (who has lost the ability to think critically, thanks to the pap that passes as media, watered down public and higher education) you think OMG! One EVERY DAY! We have to DO SOMETHING!

    But let’s dig into the two cases mentioned, and see what a roll an inanimate object played. Nowhere is it mentioned how the Columbine shooter, a minor obtained his firearms. They were obtained through an illegal straw-purchase. Also, nowhere does it mention that the shooters were also armed with knives and pipe-bombs.

    Let’s look at Elliot Rodger, and a breakdown of what he used to kill his victims:

    Weihan Wang suffered a total of fifteen stab wounds and 23 incision wounds to the head, neck, chest, back, and both arms and hands.
    Cheng Hong suffered a total of 25 stab wounds and twelve incision wounds to the head, neck, chest, back, and both arms and hands.
    George Chen suffered a total of 94 stab wounds and eleven incision wounds directed to the head, neck, chest, back, and both arms and hands.
    Katherine Cooper was shot eight times, including once in the left side of the head.
    Veronika Weiss was shot seven times in the chest and lower pelvic area.
    Christopher Michaels-Martinez was shot once in the chest.

    50% of those he killed were stabbed to death.

    Those who were wounded:

    Fourteen other people were injured; seven from gunshot wounds and seven by blunt trauma sustained when Rodger struck them with his vehicle

    50% of those he wounded, the weapon was an automobile.

    So, this sexually-frustrated loser used a multitude of weapons to inflict death and injury on others. In fact of his 20 victims, only 6 received gun-shot wounds. 14 were stabbed or run-down. No mention whatsoever of this inconvenient fact. Do you think that Elliot Rodger, lacking a firearm, would have decided murder wasn’t a good plan, and gone on to be a productive member of society?

    This is a shining example of how slanted stories using twisted facts and outright lies are used to shape the minds of “headline surfers”. Do you think good public policy can result from lies?

    I will agree that culture, especially pop-culture has cultivated the “Tough-guy and guns”, but the same idea is used for Harley’s and muscle-cars. Up until very recently, men, in their roles as soldiers, police officers, man-of-the-house, have been viewed as the “warriors and protectors” of society. But firearms are rapidly gaining a new very real and valuable moniker: Equalizer. Women are the fastest growing segment of firearms owners, Concealed Carriers, and students at training classes.

    If we want to balance the rights of the 99.9999% of law-abiding, mentally-sound gun owners to Keep and Bear for personal protection, or possess for “sporting purposes”, it might be helpful to the public discourse if we used complete and actual facts. Sensationalism, lies and half-truths masks or distorts what the real, underlying issues are, and leads to people like Ed coming up with bizarre, un-workable policies that ignore reality.

    1. I am trying to figure out if I was just admonished.

      What does make people go on shooting sprees and how do we recognize the problem before people are hurt?

      I think that is a very legitimate question to ask.

      1. Steve Thomas


        I wasn’t admonishing you. I was admonishing the writer of this quasi article . While I would hope you would look at that statistic with skepticism, and perhaps search for other information, I don’t assume that you know what I know. The average person reads that article passively, and is influenced by the way that author twists and omits relevant facts to suit his narrative, and his hypothesis. What he’s counting on is the fact that the reader will be shocked, and will share the article by whatever means necessary, and it will be cited in future articles by other writers.

      2. Steve Thomas


        “What does make people go on shooting sprees and how do we recognize the problem before people are hurt?”

        I agree that it is a legitimate question. Here’s a legitimate question:

        What makes a mother decide to murder her kids? The vast majority of mothers wouldn’t hesitate to lay down their lives to protect their children.

        Mothers who kill their children are shocking, precisely because they are rare. They are rare when you compare them against the total population of women who have children. How many mothers there?

        The writer, first redefines what a “Mass Shooting” is, because the official definition doesn’t suit his argument. Then he finds a “data source” that is suspect (Crowd sourcing?) that has minimal quality controls. He needs to inflate the numbers as high as possible. Next he points to two infamous cases…3 decades apart, because he knows the average reader will at least have heard of them. Then he presents an incomplete picture of each case, cherry picking only that which supports his argument: Masculinity is bad because a damaged masculinity is dangerous. Guns are masculine, and in the hands of someone with damaged masculinity, they are deadly. It happens EVERY DAY!

        A detroit mother was recently arraigned for killing her two kids and stuffing them in a freezer. Shocking! In 1994 Susan Smith drove her mini-van into a South Carolina lake and watched while her two sons drowned, strapped in their car-seats. Here are two cases 3 decades apart.

        Maybe I should start a “Crowd Sourcing” database. Have unknown people from all over the internet report cases where mothers killed their children. I am sure there would be plenty of “data” reported. Then I could make an argument that there is an epidemic of maternal filicide in the United States, and then argue that something must be broken with Femininity.

        How do we keep mothers from killing their children and how do we recognize this before more children die? (Children. Live ones. Not those still in-womb)

        It would be a legitimate question to ask…. I’m just not sure there is a legitimate answer to be had. Which groups should I demonize? Women? Women have children.

        Planned Parenthood? They defend a woman’s constitutional right to terminate a pregnancy and fight every attempt to limit this right. Heck, there are even those within the organization who believe there should be NO restrictions whatsoever (on demand). No “checks” or “pre-screenings”. Zoning rules regarding where a clinic can locate are infringements on that absolute right. One can only conclude that Planned Parenthood MUST condone the criminal act of a woman killing her kids and stuffing them in a freezer. I mean, kids are stressful, and place an economic burden on mothers. They MUST condone what Susan Smith did. I mean, her having living kids was cramping her lifestyle.

        There is an EPIDEMIC of Mothers killing their living children. ALL women should have to seek permission from the state, before engaging in intercourse. We should make sure they are not likely to get pregnant and have their child, because we know there is a risk for abuse or even murder. We should maintain a database of those who have broken a certain level of defined abuse, and then each time a woman wants to have intercourse she needs to be checked against that database. We can pre-screen people. The can get an Intercourse Permit, and before they have children, a Child-Bearing-ID card. We can limit the number of children a woman has, because studies show, the more children, the higher the propensity of abuse or death. We can ban “High Capacity Wombs”…I mean, WHO NEEDS 3, 4, 5 KIDS? Those people must hate the government!

        Legitimate questions, answered by twisted facts, bizarre reasoning and sensationalism don’t solve problems.

        Instead, we can just make child-abuse and murder illegal…wait…they are illegal. But people are still abusing kids and some even murdering them. Sweet Buddha on a rubber raft! WE GOTTA DOOOOO SOMETHING!

        That’s it. I’m starting a new group: DADS DEMAND ACTION (for child safety). Now I just need start a blog or a facebook page, start demonizing other groups of people, starting with Planned Parenthood. I’ll also demonize the “sex lobby”: Makers of lingerie, Cosmopolitan Magazine, makers of breast pumps, children’s clothing…playpens. Me and my “DADS” will stage protests at “moms to be” trade shows, and we’ll harass politicians to action. Maybe I can find a billionaire to fund all this. I’ll be on talk-shows and news programs as an “expert talking head” each and every time a mother kills her kid…better if there were multiples….

        Presidential Candidates can run on “Womb Control”. Mothers need to accept reasonable restrictions on their child-bearing. Never mind that Europe and Japan have extremely low birth-rates…Mother’s killing their kids doesn’t happen as many times there, as it does here. Maybe we should adopt a “One Child Policy” like China.

        If you agree that what I am arguing is manufactured crap: Welcome to my world regarding the 2nd Amendment.

      3. Actually, I didnt pay much attention to the statistics of mass murder. What I thought was more important was the new “syndrome” about males. I am not so sure there isn’t something to that. Or …maybe its just plain old bat-shit crazy. I can understand that.

        I do think guns are too accessible to those who probably shouldn’t have them. However, I haven’t come up with a good way to make that determination. I also think that there should be a way to take guns away. Not sure how to do that either.

  2. Steven Thomas

    More on the true number of “Mass Shootings” from the NYT OP-Ed

  3. Scout

    I’ve long thought that the statistical category of “mass shootings” or “mass killings” has been drained of meaning, much as the value of a currency or other medium of economic exchange is depleted as more and more of it goes in circulation. America is such a violent place, that to define a mass killing as one in which three or four people are killed just becomes kind of a ho-hum matter. Most of us, when we think of the concept of a “mass killing” tend to think of situations like Virginia Tech, San Bernardino, Connecticut or Breivik in Norway. Incidents of violence where only a handful of people are killed by guns are now just sort of commonplace, background noise.

    But, nomenclature aside, isn’t this circumstance itself a huge problem? That we have scores of deaths a day (homicides and suicides) from firearms? We’re supposed to haggle over what we call this problem? We aren’t supposed to compile statistics? Really? I’ll spot Steve the point that other weapons also kill, but if you could put a big dent in the gun deaths, that would really bring down the numbers, numbers that include, on an annual basis, scores of innocent children, spouses, passers-by, friends, fellow students.

    1. Steve Thomas


      Scout…will you join my group DADS DEMAND ACTION (for child safety)!? We need to stop the scourge of child abuse in America. It is an abusive place. We need to prevent the next Susan Smith. We need to stop the next Megan Huntsman. WE GOTTA DO SOMETHING!

      1. Scout

        @Steve Thomas

        Sounds like a good cause, Steve, even if not particularly relevant to this post. I wish you well.

    2. Steve Thomas



      Do objective measures matter, especially when it comes to public policy? “America is such a violent place”…is it really? When adjusted for population, are we more or less “violent” than other western nations? Would it be fair to compare the US to the EU? If it would be acceptable, then America is far less “violent” than the EU. Ok, how about just “gun violence”? Again, when adjusted for both population AND private gun ownership, we find that the frequency of mass shootings are pretty low (US is 12, Canada 13). Those that have lower rates have pretty much outlawed private firearms ownership (but they continue to experience mass shootings).

      Did suicide exist before the advent of gun-powder? I’m going to say it did. As a matter of fact, while suicide makes up the largest segment of gun-deaths, a gun is used in only half of successful suicides. The key measure here is “successful”. Hanging/suffocation is the next highest category (25%). How many people, lacking a firearm, would just choose another means? Well, if we look at Japan (#16) vs. the US (#50), where private gun ownership (as well as access to swords and other weapons is highly restricted), they have both a higher rate of successful suicide, and manage to achieve this without using firearms.

      My point is, you have fallen into the sympathy/emotion trap set by the likes of writer of articles like this. Using lies, half-truths, junk data, and dubious sources, they paint a picture of our streets awash in blood, and a gun behind the majority of the killings. The whole “well, it would put a big dent in deaths, especially suicide” doesn’t stand up to scrutiny either…but there’s always the emotional play…the suckers always bite on the emotional play.

      This was my point in the whole “DADS DEMAND ACTION (for child safety)” illustration. Pointing out the absurd, by being absurd. First, you point to something that is both rare, and shocking. You use every available means of mass communication you can cheaply access, Next you sensationalize it as a “crisis” or “epidemic”. Then you pick a group or organization to demonize as “standing in the way of solutions” or worse “supporting those who kill”. You stage demonstrations and seek attention from the media You raise money.

      Did you know that each year, 450 children are killed by their parents, and of these, Mothers commit 40% of the murders? (Scores of death each day!) (Source USA Today)

      Most of the children murdered by their mothers are under 1 year of age.

      Mothers who kill their children tend to do so on impulse.

      Mother’s motivations for killing their children tend to fall into 5 groups (Mental break-down, alturism, revenge against the other parent, child is unwanted, neglect or recklessness)

      So with this epidemic, we need to do something. While we can’t get rid of parents altogether, highly restricting mothers would at least put a dent in the child homicide rate. We need reasonable solutions, such as China’s 1 child policy.

      Of course the National Mothers Association (NMA) will use its considerable grassroots, to oppose implementation of such measures, but they just refuse to accept any of the responsibility. The innocent blood of these children is on their hands. They’ll lobby spineless pols who care more about money and votes, than they do about children.

      If congress won’t act, maybe we can pressure the president to use executive action.

      Did you see that meme on social media? The one with the mother holding her baby? It says “I have children. You want to take them from me. I won’t let you. Your move.” I mean what kind of heartless, blood-thirsty woman can’t see she needs to accept reasonable restrictions on motherhood, for the betterment of society? Aw…don’t give me that guff about the 4th amendment. Back when the founders wrote that, parents needed to have lots of kids, because a lot of them died before reaching adulthood, and they needed many hands to work the farm. We don’t farm anymore, and we have institutions to make sure most kids do reach adulthood. There’s no need for so many mothers having kids.

      Many mothers might be mentally healthy when they have kids, but might later develop mental illness and kill their children. We need doctors to report all cases where a woman is mentally ill, regardless of whether or not she has kids. We need a list. If they are on the list, DSS needs to immediately go and confiscate the kids. Aw don’t give me that guff about “due process”…we need to act NOW!

      Did you see that blog post on moonhowlings? Yeah…the one with the story on “Fractured Femininity?” Makes you think, I mean every year 9,408 children under the age of 14 die, and 450 of these are killed by their parents…180 of which are killed by their mothers. Aw…don’t give me that guff about how there are 82.5 million mothers in the US and the vast majority raise their children in a loving, caring environment. There are 180 kids killed by mothers each year. You must hate kids. I don’t care that you are a parent yourself. Me personally, I don’t have kids. They scare me. I’m just saying you should be willing to accept reasonable restrictions on mothers. I’m voting for Hillary. She said if she could, she’d pass a law “Turn in your kids”.

      I could go on and on…I mean, if it saves just one life, it’s worth it.

      1. Scout

        @Steve Thomas

        Steve – I’ll look at your data when I have a bit more time, perhaps this weekend. But the comparative numbers (comparisons to other countries), while in some sense relevant, don’t drive my personal view of this. We have somewhat in excess of 100,000 killed and wounded gun casualties each year in this country, of which about a third (30,000+) are deaths. Suicides outnumber homicides in this latter category, but the homicides are in excess of 10K per year. As a citizen of what I like to think of as a civilized Republic (although my thoughts on that point are increasingly under siege), these numbers are too much for me. I do not believe they cannot be reduced. I do not believe it acceptable for citizens not to aggressively support measures to drive those numbers down. Way down.

        For what it’s worth, 450 children being killed each year by their parents is not acceptable to me either, whether firearms are or are not involved. So keep up the good work on that front. It’s not a silly or trivial issue.

        As for suicides, it’s obvious enough that there are many means to effect that sort of exit from these earthly coils. These things even can be faddish (In mid 19th century France, there was a wave of suicides by people using moving trains as blunt instruments to separate their souls from their physical bodies, trains being the great new public fascination of the time). But 20,000 gun suicides is, again, too many, whether on an absolute or comparative basis. Gun suicide is instantaneous, presumably of at most evanescent, fleeting painfulness, and highly effective, compared to most other means. I don’t accept that we should flick it off as a comparatively acceptable data point.

      2. Steve Thomas



        If we want to reduce suicide, then we need to address suicide. Not parse this into “suicide by gun and everything else”. People determined to “check out” are not inclined to do so because they own a gun, a length of robe, a razor, or a car sitting in a well insulated garage.

        If we want to reduce “gun violence” we need to understand that when the shooter and the victim are the same person, the manner in which they die is less important than the fact that they wanted to kill themselves. Yet the media loves to lump suicides in with the total number of gun-deaths, as well as lumping lawful shootings by police, and citizens exercising legitimate self-defense.

        When you pull out the suicides, the justifiable homicides, negligent/accidental shootings, you are left with criminals. Criminals shooting other criminals. Criminals shooting innocent people in the commission of a crime. This is a crime issue, not a gun issue.

        What’s left? The shocking, yet demonstrably rare “spree shooter”. Pull out acts of terrorism (sad that we actually have this category), what’s left? Deranged or mentally-ill individuals.

        But it’s too easy to demonize the NRA as protecting killers, and lawful gun-owners as having some sort of mental disorder. These are the same people arguing that there is something wrong with me, because I don’t think a mentally-ill man should be able to enter a public restroom or locker-room while my 9 yearold daughter is in there. Nope, I’m intolerant, somethingphobic…and I exercise my 2nd Amendment rights…so I’m antisocial and paranoid…plus I need to “check my privilege”…and shut my “Christian Mouth”.

        I will say, I know longer believe we live in a civilized republic. We no longer live in a republic at all. “Going Galt” isn’t in my nature, but the temptation is ever-present.

      3. I hate the NRA. Everyone knows that. I didn’t use to. People commit suicide lots of ways. Also, gun suicide is sometimes written off as accident…he was cleaning his gun…

        I don’t think suicide should count towards gun violence unless someone other than the suicide “victim” is injured. I don’t think most lawful gun owners are nuts. I am not nuts, I don’t think.

        Are you saying that all transgendered people are mentally ill? I don’t know what I think transgendered people are…transgendered I guess. I don’t think most are mentally ill as I think of mental illness. I have stayed off this topic somewhat because it is one of those areas that confuses me. I think that most transgendered people who would go in the women’s room would probably enter as girls or women. We might not even know.

        This isn’t my sword to fall on. I think there are far more important issues at hand than who goes to the bathroom where. I would worry far more about pedophiles than transgenders.

        On privilege, I will fall on a sword. I am getting way too tired of being seen as coming up with privilege. I am about ready to get militant about it as a matter of fact.

        Christian mouths….I don’t think these topics are religious in nature. I guess “live with the hand you were dealt” isn’t a bible quote. I think way too much is made of other people’s religion whether the others are Christins, Jews, Muslims, Wiccans, or whatever. (not going to call atheism a religion)

        My peeps are all demonized. What organization catches it more than Planned Parenthood? I am used to it. As angry as I am at Terry over the monuments, I thank him for restoring voting rights and vetoing the defunding of PP.

        I understand no one is going to totally please me. But yet, who on this blog has both kicked Bob McDonnell’s ass and defended him as loudly as I? Does that make me a nut case or an independent thinker?

      4. Imagine what the Greatest Generation thought when the baby boomers and I started coming of age. They probably thought they no longer lived in a civilized republic either.

        I am more fortunate than you are, Steve. I am more insulated from it than you are because my kids are grown. Yes, I have gkids but…they aren’t my direct responsibility. I long ago accepted that I have very little control or influence over them. They have been programmed not to say or do certain things around me and also to not let me know things. <-----they don't know I know. My grandmother was born in 1890. She died in 1996 at the age of 106. Can you imagine the change and "deterioration of society" that she witnessed? My husband did her eulogy and that was his theme. I look at change in technology just since 2000. Light years. With that change has come some real downer also. sexting, texting while driving, techno-bullying, rampant identity theft, I have just named the tip of the ice berg. How do you preserve what you consider decency? I do not know.

  4. Ed Myers

    More factual data to dismiss as bias: The Post reports that Shotspotter microphones have identified 165,531 gunshots in various places across the country. Apparently gun violence is severely under reported as only 1 in 8 incidences were reported via 911.Fortunately only 1 out of about a hundred gunfire incidences (each incident has multiple shots) results in a death. I’m not sure it is good news that gun owners are such bad shots. Perhaps a Kevlar vest would be a better investment than a gun in these violent neighborhoods since one can’t stop a bad guy’s random bullet with a good guy gun.

    1. I read that. Interesting way to count gun violence. How do they separate good shooting from bad shooting?

      1. Steve Thomas


        They don’t separate them. Also, these “shot-spotter” systems tend to be placed in urban environments for the specific purpose of tracking CRIME.

        Ok…say I wanted to track dead armadillos. I could put my “squished armadillo tracker” on a 5-mile stretch of West Texas highway. Then I’d count them, and multiply that by the total number of miles of paved road in the united states, divide by 5, and it would give me a shocking yet useless statistic….except to people like Ed.

      2. People fire guns for different reasons. If I shoot my bb gun at a squirrel, am I going into the deadly shot-spotter list? (Elena would probably come charging over here…..)

        If law enforcement fires a weapon…does that go on the shot-spot list?

      3. Steve Thomas


        A “shot-spotter” was developed for military use, for locating snipers, ideally to target them with our own snipers. Microphones are set up that record the sound of gun-fire, and give you a “line-of-bearing” on the direction of the shot. If the same sound is recorded by several microphones, the shooter is where the lines-of-bearing intersect. It records gunshots, and does not and cannot discern who is doing the shooting, or for what reason.

        In an urban environment, these are used by police to respond to “shots-fired”. If they get there too late to detain the shooters, it gives them a locale to canvass, pull security video, knock on doors, look for shell casings or spent rounds.

        I have a friend who worked for a company that manufactures these systems.

    2. Steve Thomas

      @Ed Myers

      “Gun Owners”… You are lumping in gangsters, armed robbers, and other criminals with “gun owners”?

      Ed…you have reached a new low in circular logic and muddle-headed thinking…IMHO. But, if you need a good source for a quality Level 3A vest, let me know. While I don’t personally own any, I can point you to where I’d go, if I were in the market.

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