Motive does not matter for gun violence
Posted on Nov 13, 2012 in Opinion
Last Tuesday while most of us were too preoccupied with the presidential election to notice, Lawrence Jones pulled out a handgun and shot four of his coworkers (two, fatally) at Apple Valley Farms in Fresno, California before killing himself (Time). With a dead perpetrator, officials are having a hard time finding a cause for this apparently random act of violence. This search for a motive stirred up the same thoughts I have had after many similar incidents: What’s more terrifying? A killer with a motive, or a killer with undirected hate and a gun permit?
Tragedies like Fresno and Aurora, and school shootings like Columbine are not new concepts. But it seems that now, more than ever, violence is not limited to being driven by racial, religious or political hatred, or even to resentment over a bad grade or unfair punishment. Sometimes, people shoot crowds of innocent bystanders out of a much more simple, yet much more terrifying form of hatred — hatred for the world, hatred generalized to anyone who is convenient and vulnerable.
Columbine High School was a convenient outlet for Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, who just wanted to shoot their peers and friends (Toppo). A movie theater packed for a midnight premiere provided plenty of vulnerable victims for James Holmes, who just wanted to kill people; he didn’t care who.
I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I haven’t been to a midnight movie premiere since that night in July, but I am sure that I’m not the only one. Thoughts of the Holmes’ attack are perhaps even more sobering for those of us here in Birmingham and at UAB considering Holmes originally applied to the UAB graduate neuroscience program here but was rejected (Holden). If he had been accepted, it could have been my friends running for their lives through gunfire and blood, or my husband lying dead between the rows of seats because he threw his body over mine. All because some guy we’d never even met was angry and wanted to kill people.
Of course, this is not to say that shootings, bombings, or other types of violence with motivations are any more justified. The girls that were killed by Klansmen right here in Birmingham in 1963 didn’t die for a more excusable reason than Lawrence Jones’ coworkers, the Columbine students, or the Aurora moviegoers. I find that, for those of us who are fortunate enough to see these devastating events from a safe distance, there is something innately comforting in the headline that reads, “Officials Discover Motive for Recent Shooting.” But what we must all remember is that knowing the cause doesn’t make it feel any different, any better, for the families and friends of those who have lost their loved ones to violence. They all had to plan funerals far too soon.
They all endured the questions of reporters and well-meaning acquaintances. Their lives were all changed forever, in ways that the rest of us can’t imagine.
My thoughts and prayers go out to the families of those killed in Fresno, as well as to the two people who were seriously injured, and their families.