But there's a common thread in three of the best-known recent gun crimes. Oregon:
Christopher Harper-Mercer was withdrawn and quiet as he grew up in southern California, spending most of his time indoors at his mother’s apartment and deflecting neighbors when they asked him how he was doing, or why he always wore the same outfit of combat boots and green Army pants. But there was one subject that got him to open up: guns.Texas, 2013:
Mr. Harper-Mercer collected handguns and rifles, and he regularly went to a shooting range with his mother, said neighbors in Torrance, Calif., where the two lived until moving to Oregon in 2013.
Four letters, "PTSD," have hung over Eddie Ray Routh since the day he was accused of killing Chris Kyle, a famed Navy SEAL sniper....Connecticut, 2012:
The fragments of information presented about Routh, a 25-year-old Marine reservist, have been indelible thus far. Iraq war veteran. Listless and unemployed.
There's Routh: hospitalized multiple times since returning home, at one point reportedly threatening the lives of his family; also having been found shoeless and drunk by the police.
There's Routh: hospitalized another time because a friend in north Dallas was afraid he would hurt himself....
Kyle worked with a nonprofit group, FITCO Cares, to get returning veterans workout equipment. He had also written about using gun ranges as a kind of therapy for returning veterans, in which he'd give jokey tough-love between stories and beer. It's on such a trip with Routh that police think Routh turned a semiautomatic pistol on Kyle and one of Kyle's friends, Chad Littlefield, 35.
Everyone tried to encourage Adam [Lanza] and looked for ways to engage with him. [Adam's mother] Nancy would take him on trips to the shooting range. Nancy and [Adam's father] Peter thought that their son was nonviolent; the best way to build a connection to someone with Asperger’s is often to participate in his fascinations.I'm not part of the gun culture -- I don't own guns and haven't known many people who do. But I don't condemn the culture outright. It seems to me that most gun owners are right when they say that their use of guns is careful and responsible.
But the problem is that the gun culture doesn't even seem to acknowledge the possibility that some people really shouldn't go anywhere near a gun. Christopher Harper-Mercer, we've learned, was
an angry, isolated young man whose rage was fueled by animus toward religion and resentment at how his life was unfolding, law enforcement officials said Friday....But his mother went shooting with him, and no one who knew him -- no family member or acquaintance -- seemed to think that an angry young man plus fourteen guns in the house was a potentially lethal combination. No one thought it might be a bad idea for Adam Lanza or Eddie Ray Routh to go shooting.
“He didn’t have a girlfriend, and he was upset about that,” said a senior law enforcement official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly. “He comes across thinking of himself as a loser. He did not like his lot in life, and it seemed like nothing was going right for him.”
How do we think about alcohol in this culture?
I drink -- not much, but I like drinking. Most people I know like drinking. But I don't have trouble keeping multiple thoughts about drinking in my head simultaneously: Drinking can be very pleasant -- but I shouldn't drink to excess, and everyone should avoid drinking and driving, and drinking can be a problem if it's your way of dealing with emotional distress, and some people simply can't handle drinking at all. I think most of us can hold all those thoughts in our heads at once. We'll proudly raise a toast at our daughter's wedding, but we also know that alcoholics need to steer clear of the bottle.
Is the gun culture able to think like that? It seems to me that the gun culture thinks gun use is healthy recreation for everyone except criminals and terrorists. Guns are always good for what ails you! Certainly it's never worrisome if someone in emotional pain is surrounded by guns. I grew up hunting. Guns have always been a part of my life. That's true for everyone around here. And on and on....
Members of the gun culture, I'm not recommending that you forswear guns -- I'm saying that you should recognize that gun use isn't healthy for everyone. Maybe you need to take a closer look at some of your fellow gun users. Maybe some of them need an intervention -- which doesn't mean that your gun use is a problem. They just need to be separated from guns.
I know: You feel under constant threat from us freedom-hating liberals. You think this sounds like just a subtler form of gun-grabbing.
Well, it's your decision. But remember what I'm writing the next time there's a bloodbath caused by someone who was surrounded with guns and who'd obviously been emotionally distraught for a long time. Maybe someone in your culture could have connected the dots.