"When mindless acts of terror (is the phrase redundant?) occur in the world, will people please not immediately ascribe those acts to believers of Islam?"
I wrote those words exactly one year ago (07/23/11) tomorrow, after the nut went crazy in Norway and killed 84 people. Thursday night we had another episode of insanity, but here in the States. ABC did a lousy job (as in: check sources, don’t just Google® someone’s name) and tried to link the gunman to the tea party movement. The NYPD Commissioner issued a statement about the shooting, to the effect that the gunman had dyed his hair red like Batman’s arch-nemesis The Joker. What did NYPD have to do with it?
Here are matters that I believe—catch the caveat—to be well-established as facts. The shooter had graduated from University of California-Riverside. He did well enough in undergrad to be admitted into graduate school for the study of neuroscience at University Colorado-Denver medical school. He was not a medical student in the sense that he was on track to be an M.D. (His doctorate would have been a Ph.D. I mention that only for clarity.) He was 24 years old and had no prior criminal history. He recently had withdrawn, or was in the process of withdrawing, from school. He had four firearms: three on his person and one in his car, parked behind the cinema. He wore body armor. When officers went to his apartment, they found it rigged with booby-traps. He recently had placed an ad on an adult website. The photograph depicts a person with dyed, orangish-red hair.
I do not read any particular ideology into these matters. Sociopaths and psychopaths (if such persons exist) are not mentally ill, as that term is used. The legal standard for sanity is whether one appreciates the wrongfulness and consequences of one’s actions. Sociopaths and psychopaths appreciate the wrongfulness and consequences—but do not care. Whether by nature or nurture, the Sons of Sam and Ted Bundy characters arrive and make others suffer. There is no ideology there.
One point to note: it appears the lapsed Federal statute that banned assault rifles would have included the main weapon this individual wielded as well as the expanded clip that enabled to fire more rounds before re-loading.
A member of Congress suggested that if other people in the movie theater had been armed, they could have taken the shooter out. (1) They might have shot each other out of ignorance of whom the real shooter was. (2) If they’d seen through the smoke from the smoke devices the guy tossed before he first pulled the trigger, they would have spotted the body armor, then ducked and not shot. (3) Archie Bunker had the same idea when he got equal time to address the problem with air hi-jacking: arm everyone as the plane is boarded, then if a guy pulls a piece, everyone shoots (right before pressure in the cabin disappears through the holes in the fuselage).
Tuesday we shall have a special edition of Civil Discourse Now from the Indianapolis International Arts Festival, late afternoon; more details tomorrow.