Mass Shootings and the Rise in Violence – By Delinda McCann

“I have no delusion that making assault rifles illegal or intensifying background checks for gun purchases will stop all gun violence. I have no expectation that terrorists and criminals will surrender their weapons or that the insane will not pull their triggers. However, I do believe that if Americans stop making believe that guns are somehow the answer, then those who might be suffering from the frustrations, rage, and mental illnesses that might lead to violence will be less prone to thinking that violence is an acceptable answer to their pain. As long as our culture glorifies violence, it will be the refuge of those who have no place to hide.” –Delinda McCann


Some days we just have to ask ourselves, “What the Hell?”  Yesterday I needed to ask myself that question when I learned of yet another mass shooting and looked at the number of shootings this year.  I looked at the number of civilian shootings.  We probably should add the police shootings to the civilian violence if we want an accurate picture of the senseless violence happening in our country.

Those of us who have some experience in dealing with violence probably should start speaking up.  I’m old.  I’m tired and I don’t want to drive 45 miles to start walking the halls of our legislative buildings.  I’ve done that.  I’ve made changes in our government policy.  I guess I can do it again.  Wish someone else would start the dialog that needs to happen.

The dialog about mass shootings needs to happen in every community.  We need local government sponsored task forces to focus on gun violence.  These task forces need to bring together representatives from the legal system, mental health systems, disability systems, educational systems, and those citizens who work with at-risk populations.  At some point, when talking points are being identified, these meetings need to be open to the public for input.

I am not necessarily talking about gun control here.  I know one of the current major talking points is regulation of guns, which may be part of the solution.  I am more concerned with the social structure around gun violence.  We can perhaps make some progress through gun regulation.  This seems the common sense approach, but we would still leave the support structure for mass murder in place.  My preference is to go for the underlying issues that allow and promote senseless violence.

I am talking about how communities can address the topic of prevention.  Where do the perpetrators come from?  Where have the perpetrators come into contact with community systems?  Where have our systems failed that these angry people are running loose in society without appropriate support systems around them?  Can we identify the intervention touchpoints for violent mass offenders? We already know that they all have at least one characteristic in common.  Mass murderers do not have the cognitive filters that prevent the vast majority of the population from committing acts of violence.

We also know why some people do not have the filters necessary to prevent them from carrying out horrific acts of violence.  Prenatal exposure to various toxins can damage the brain in such a way that the brain cannot communicate within itself to built the filters that stop murderous rage attacks.  We also know that broken bonding can prevent the filters from forming.  Broken bonding can occur when a child is placed out of home, but it can also occur with a child who has undiagnosed allergies or multiple ear infections among other childhood situations.

The private sector very much needs to be involved in the dialog on gun violence.  What can the business sector do to make their communities more safe? Can they sponsor work programs to give disengaged youth a place where they belong?  Do they need to change policies for employees so they can be with their children as infants or when they are sick?

Churches are very much at the center of the issue and need to start working on how their policies promote, enable or prevent gun violence.  Churches can sponsor programs for children and youth to give youth another place to belong and succeed.  They need to examine their teaching to assure that they are not promoting hate and violence.

The entertainment industry needs to take a look at their ethical responsibility around the idea that violence is the solution to every problem.  Does exposure to violent video games really promote violence as some suggest or is the root of the problem exposure to a chemical?

At this point, we really don’t know why mass shooters and trigger-happy cops do not have the cognitive filters necessary to prevent violent acting out.  We talk about stress and mental health issues.  How do these play into the whole picture of what has become domestic terrorism?

We will need to address the issue of government agencies and businesses that do not want to find the solutions that will prevent mass violence.  We need to face the fact that some people profit from mass shootings, and they will shove people into walls and step on small women to keep their profits.  However, we shouldn’t let the lowest levels of humanity prevent us from building the type of communities where we can go about our business in relative safety.

I can make some guesses about what we will find when we start defining and exploring the problem.  The actual perpetrators are probably only the foam on a whole lake of slimy scum.  We will find manipulators and enablers.  We will find big money intent on perpetrating the problem.  We will find deniers.  We will find evil, lots and lots of just plain evil perpetuated by a sub-human species intent only on their own profits and prestige.

The good news is that there are more of us than there are evil people profiting off of mass shootings.  There are more of us than there are people without the brain connections to filter out violent behavior.  There are more of us than there are indolent government officials.  There are move of us, and we have made a difference in the past.  We have taken lead out of paint.  We have gotten labels on cigarette packages.  We got DDT banned.  We have cleaned up our air.  We have raised awareness about drinking when pregnant.  We can and will stop random mass shootings.

Please come back later this week for the second half of this article that outlines an action plan anybody can follow to move us toward a healthier society.

Delinda McCann is a social scientist with over forty years experience in working with at-risk populations.  She started with a program for migrant workers children, moved on to working with at-risk teens in a street program and finished working in the field of developmental disabilities and Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.  She has worked on committees for the State of Washington and been an advisor to several foreign governments. She currently writes novels that touch on social topics including politics and social justice.  Web site:


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12 thoughts on “Mass Shootings and the Rise in Violence – By Delinda McCann

  1. Micki Peluso

    Excellent commentary, Delinda, hitting on the many and diverse causes for the violence overtaking the world today. Taking guns away from victims and potential victims certainly isn’t the answer. I hate violence of all kinds and am not crazy about the many ways to cause it. We can take away guns, but can we take away the makings of bombs, or knives and a myriad of other weapons? If taking away guns would solve the problem how wonderful that would be. History proves that taking away guns en masse seems to leave the innocent defenseless and the perpetrators somehow still armed.

    I’m so glad you touched upon the chemicals and other toxins that are making changes in the brains of newborns and children, causing, in part, for them to act without conscience or forethought. Years ago it was said that murderers were made, not born. In our world of electromagnetic energy all around us, radiation, chemical and pesticides , just to name a few, it is proving that murderers can be born. Looking forward to further thoughts on this.

  2. Jon Magee

    ” We can perhaps make some progress through gun regulation. This seems the common sense approach, but we would still leave the support structure for mass murder in place. ”

    Yes, you are right about the need to look at the wider issue. However, as one who has lived in many countries around the world where they have needed to deal with these issue, experience in the wider world suggests you are right not to forget the need to make some progress through gun regulation as well. It cannot be one or the other, but of looking at both.

    Thank you for your insight on this.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      As I have talked to other people on this topic, it seems to me that we have some systematic failures that do not occur in every other country. The excessive focus on guns may be more a symptom than a cause although weapons certainly don’t help an unstable situation.

  3. Diane Piron-Gelman

    Part of the problem, in social terms, is that America appears unique in its mythos of the gun. What is meant as a tool for self-defense, a weapon of war, or hunting to put food on the table (depending on the kind of gun in question) becomes, in some troubled people’s minds, the Great Equalizer–a near-magical talisman, the mere possession of which brings Respect with a capital “R”. Those who see, and use, guns in this way have a deep and awful deficit in their own sense that they matter. They see themselves as powerless in a world that’s somehow against them, and The Gun becomes their means of taking the power, respect and consequence they don’t feel able to get in any other way. And we play into this, in our pop culture, our mythologizing of our own history, all sorts of ways. The American mass shooter is buying into a narrative that’s already embedded in the surrounding culture, and has been for a long time.

    I’m all for sensible regulation as a starting point. But you’re right, we need to go deeper, and to my mind that includes a genuine reckoning with why we romanticize violence–specifically, gun violence. Because America does that, in a way no other First World nation does.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      The hopeless and powerless are certainly a significant piece of the puzzle. The question becomes how do we restore a sense of hope to our population and empower people to achieve their goals. I think we can find the answers to these questions through dialog. Yes, our love affair with guns plays into the psyche of the powerless.

  4. Kenneth Weene

    I grew up learning how to shoot. I took my son, and other kids, to the range. My wife and I own a handgun. I want to make it clear that I am not advocating taking guns away from people. I am advocating holding people responsible for having guns. First, if a police officer uses their gun there should be a truly independent investigation. While I know that the vast majority of such instances are justified, there are some that are clearly not.

    Second, I think that anyone who does not properly protect a gun from a child’s access should lose the right to own guns. If that weapon is left where a kid can get their hands on it, the person doesn’t have the maturity to have guns around. The kid may someday, but not that person.

    Third, if somebody uses a gun improperly, say shooting an unarmed person who is going home having bought Skittles for his kid sibling or maybe somebody who is running away from being apprehended by a store’s security team, that person should not be allowed to own a gun. Gun owners who use their weapons should be held to the same kind of scrutiny as police.

    Fourth, clearly the mentally incompetent and those who have a history of violence should not have weapons.

    Those restrictions and investigations leave plenty of people whose right to have guns I would never question. But clearly if we take all those precautions there will still be incidents,. A big part of why we have those incidents is what shrinks call the “idiom of distress,” that’s the way in which people scream out their anguish. History shows us that such screams differ over time as new discoveries and forces shape public awareness. A big part of whey we have so many guns right now is that people are saying, “Im hurting and I need your attention.” The media have to address this by changing the rhetoric about violence, be it guns or bombs. That is a big question that will take much consideration.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      Thanks for your comments. You have identified several sub groups of perpetrators here. I think just looking through the comments here we will find we’ve identified and categorized much of the problem.

  5. John B. Rosenman

    A great discussion of a complicated problem, Delinda, and the comments here aren’t bad either. I look forward to your follow-up on this post. Among other comments you make, I like this one: “The actual perpetrators are probably only the foam on a whole lake of slimy scum. ” Yes, there are so many enablers of this problem. Some are slimier than others, but America is unique when it comes to the toxic ingredients in this brew. As you note, encouraging discussion and awareness of the situation is an important step.

    It occurs to me that in Defender of the Flame, the third book in my Inspector of the Cross series, I introduce a sixteen-year-old loner whose only outlet consists of futuristic, interactive video games. In order to give his empty soul and existence some heft, he guns down the hero.

    He would be right at home in America.

  6. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Delinda, I thoroughly enjoyed this piece about a very disturbing and timely topic. Guns in our society takes so many lives. Sadly, the wrong people with dangerous intent result in horrific endings for many.

  7. James L. Secor

    Thank you for this: “The entertainment industry needs to take a look at their ethical responsibility around the idea that violence is the solution to every problem.” We do not like to even come close to the reality that pop culture affects society. There is, though, once it starts a feedback loop. My dss on Japanese theatre was on this very point; but people ran off with the women in theatre vehicle. The problem, a root of the problem, is within society, a society that writes people off, sweeps the unwanted under the carpet, believes in the “if you can’t afford it, you deserve to die” ethic, even more coarse than the Communist “if you don’ t work, you don’t deserve to eat. [since the State supports you]” But, no, Ken, the mentally ill and/or incompetent are not part of the problem; they are used as a rationalization, a means of individualizing a situation so that no solution can be got. Note, though, that some of these people were on drugs that have the side effect of instability, depression (supposedly to cure this) and suicidality–all of which loosen one’s hold. And then the powerless: why should they not react like our neo-heroes of old? Our heroes are just as bad as the bad guys. As to the mythos of guns. . .yes. it’s there. But hundreds of years ago for hundreds of years there was the mythos of sword. Replaced by guns? Will there be a replacement for guns in the long line of death-mongering? AND. . .as long as the military runs things, as long as our colleges are kept afloat by DoD infusions of money, as long as every invention, every piece of new technology (actually, nothing new, just new wrinkles) is taken over for war and killing we will probably not find peace. (pant pant pant) Okay. How many more individual “problems” have I got to go?

    Society. Social structure. The culture. Changing it is so very necessary; change is so damned frightening. What of our educational system? But it’s on the way as the rise of intolerant fundamentalist fanaticism is that symptom; but all these flailing, lost souls are taking solace in old “systems” of thought that have not worked, that have brought about the problems. These people create havoc and fear and false solutions and then die away. But who has the new idea? the wrinkle on an old idea? the ability to make the counter-intuitive work?

    The answer does not come from above, from authority, from government. That group of people is not interested in change and has never done anything to help anyone unless spurred on by the people (below). So, why do we want them (someone else) to solve our problems? The Myth of the State by Ernst Cassirer. . .

    Change individual elements; changing the entire structure in one fell swoop is exacerbating. People must make the changes. Plural. There is not ONE.

    1. Delinda Lois Mccann

      Thank you. It is encouraging to find that other people do understand the complexity of the problem and that one simple answer won’t solve the whole mess. This is why I propose dialog. We can make the changes we need through grass roots dialog. It will take time, but we really must change the direction of our society. It can be done.


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