The carnage caused by 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs on Sunday, killing 26 people is nothing short of unspeakable. With the exception of terrorism, what could cause someone to do something like this? We will hear about his marriage gone bad, his dishonorable discharge, a grievance with his former in-laws, and other matters that may have led to Kelley’s decision.
Similarly, Dylann Roof, who killed nine in the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, South Carolina, was incensed that the United States is racially and religiously integrated, and that black people and Jews had rights and opportunities intended to be equal to those of white Christians. Then there is Stephen Paddock, the man who killed 58 people in Las Vegas last month, who was discouraged after gambling away a significant amount of his money over the past two years; something that the Las Vegas city’s sheriff called a “determining factor” in the worst mass shooting in modern U.S. history.
Yet, this begs the questions, “are these people angrier than anyone else in the world?”, and “why then do we see this tendency to commit mass murder out of anger or depression in the United States than anywhere else?” If that is even the truth.
I mention anger or depression specifically to make the distinction between global mass murders due to politics, religious fanaticism, or terrorism.
Again, we will also hear about gun laws and how they need to be changed. Some of those laws could use modifying, in fact, but guns are not the cause of this violence. On CNN Monday night, Senator Al Franken said “this is a gun issue.” Inasmuch as a gun was the weapon of choice for these people, he is correct, but guns are absolutely not the impetus for the crime. Those opposed to guns say that guns make it easier to kill; and there is truth to that. Still, as I have suggested in an earlier piece, people who want to kill have always found a way to do it, easy or not.
Nonetheless, any laws imposed today to limit firearms will unlikely stop a would be criminal from obtaining one. That does not mean that Second Amendment advocates cannot rationally discuss limiting civilian access to automatic weapons and firearms intended for military use and law enforcement. We would be wise to apply the same criteria for licensing or permitting handguns to assault rifles and rapid-fire guns. The NRA may say that any limit is encroachment on the Second Amendment and could lead to a full repeal one day, but that is an extremist position intended to evoke fear enough to rally the troops to lobby against any change.
All these debates do is discount the underlying issues that we as Americans try to ignore; we share cognitive dissidence over what we know, and what we want to admit. My theory on this epidemic in America is that it is not about access to guns, but about our sense of entitlement.
The United States, unlike any other country, was founded on personal liberties and freedoms; not socialism or monarchies, where freedoms have limits. Over nearly two and a half centuries, that sense of personal liberty in some has become a selfishness that manifests itself with this propensity to destroy without regard when one is outraged and seeks blame.
It may seem simplistic to some; to others, blasphemy against our American values, but consider what we have done to ourselves and our children. We have created an entitlement culture that has become an addiction. Throughout the years we have cultivated generations of able-bodied people who receive – and expect – welfare payments, SNAP subsidies, housing assistance, free or subsidized healthcare (for those on public assistance or using Emergency Rooms), and other social service benefits.
Then there is the millennial generation, which is an overly narcissistic set. So much that Time Magazine ran an article suggesting that millennials are the most threatening generation, “not because they’re trying to take over the Establishment but because they’re growing up without one.”
We have warped values, where we highly reward people for entertaining us (not those who teach us), and then listen to those very wealthy celebrities when they lecture us from their ivory Beverly Hills towers.
Our trade union leaders have been failing to see the forest for the trees and rarely yield, a stubbornness that has led their near obsolescence. On the government side, we have congressional leaders who trade selfishly motivated pork for needed legislation, and employ district gerrymandering and challenge term limits to keep them elected in perpetuity. Additionally, we have authoritarian government regulators who rarely readily concede power. Then we have grown up to see more CEO-billionaires created from easier paths to wealth than ever before, regarding them with esteem, making them role models.
A friend told me she met a guy who confided that he loved the world of finance, and asked if she watched intellectual shows such as Billions, and shared that the Wolf of Wall Street was his favorite movie. He must have missed the point that these were shows about criminals who made it big by hurting anyone and everyone to get there.
Humans are selfish by nature, requiring us to work hard at intentionally suppressing our venal behaviors. That can be what drives some to commit such heinous acts. A broken heart, financial losses from investing, gambling or being fired, employment outmodedness, xenophobia, coupled with a narcissism, can give cause to blame everyone else for personal troubles and pain. Then, entitlement kicks in and the overwhelming sense that “I deserve what was taken from me,” and consequently, the sanctimoniousness act of justice; “kill them all!”
We have done this to ourselves. Instead of admitting that perhaps we need to take a look at our own homes, our educational systems, what we promote from our leaders, our core values as free Americans, we can blame guns. Those who just say “guns” as well as those who fight change to gun laws, each fool the public into believing it is a zero-sum situation. Both groups are being intellectually dishonest, and America just watches the debate on liberal news shows that also fail to look at the full picture.
Until we are willing to face ourselves and consider how a selfish entitlement culture has put us in this predicament, we will see more gun violence by people who feel their friends, their families, their peers, this country, even this world, owes them something, and they will make whoever they can, pay for the injustices.