Mass shootings are a familiar phenomenon but in the last month they have become terribly common. Questions about the causes of all these frequent murderous attacks on a number of people have become more pressing. We want to know the causes of mass shootings. What is the matter with the persons committing these crimes? When we ask that question we are likely to receive different answers. A number of them are obviously self-interested. Religious leaders will blame mass shootings on the decay of religious institutions in our country. Pro-life advocates will point the finger at the moral decay that allowed abortions to be legal for 50 years.
Neglect of their favorite values will be offered as explanations of mass shootings by other groups. But these answers are made up to promote a particular outlook or institution. Much more interesting are the answers provided by persons who have studied this phenomenon of mass shootings and have looked closely at the persons who committed them. They have been looking for facts. The common bond they find among Mass Shooters is despair: the shooters feel threatened in their relationships or perhaps are all alone. They have financial problems; their boss fired them. They have no friends and have not talked to their family in a long time. Their lives are miserable; they have nothing to look forward to, to accept putting one foot in front of the other and trying not to cry in public.
Mass shooters, of course, often die in the course of the massacre. They may turn their gun on themselves. But if they die, they are not the only one, they go having taken revenge on their society by often killing people they don't even know.
Their sadness converted to anger, they are able to act, and able to kill several persons, often including themselves.
The next question is unavoidable. This is America, the richest country in the world, the home of free institutions where it depends only on the effort of the individual to reach the life they have chosen for themselves. " Home of the free .…", how does our wealth and our freedoms create a world of sadness, of despair, of persons whose lives are devoid of hope, of persons for whom the future holds boredom at best and at worst desperation?
The answer to these questions is not hard to find, but many Americans resist that answer because it forces us to stop deceiving ourselves with the sappy misrepresentations of what it means to live in the United States today. Not everyone is wealthy. For those earning the minimum wage life is difficult because their earnings don't always last to the end of the week and feeding their children is a major challenge, never mind eating themselves. They solve the problem of extortionist rents by moving frequently. It is not difficult to imagine the humiliations felt when you are never able to pay what you owe. Being unable to pay your debts, let alone have money left over to provide yourself with reliable transportation, in spite of working really hard, cannot fail to make a person feel that they are the victim of many injustices. Moreover they are the innocent victim and as a consequence they are a very angry victim. Can you blame them?
It requires an impartial look at the society in which we live and which takes shape according to our decisions. There are many people whose hard work does not produce a comfortable living but leaves them at the margins of the economy and therefore at the margins of the society. Once we recognize that, it is not quite as puzzling why elderly men (as in the last few shootings) should aim their guns at people they work with or perhaps at utter unknowns. Too many years of feeling humiliated by their life at the margins finally explode in wordless rage costing the lives of equally marginal victims -- workers who have also been at the margins for many years, who's hard work was not recognized, who were not acknowledged to be upstanding citizens but were humiliated by a less than living wage.
Why do they pass a lifetime without earning a living wage? Your own work experience enables you to give an answer. Think of the unearned advantages--your parents' wealth, social standing and connections to persons with influence, your early educational experiences and advantages that allowed you to set goals for yourself--medical schools , law school--which are not realistic goals for many other children. Hard work will move some people ahead in our society and confine others to minimum wage jobs.
You can now understand why there are frequent mass shootings.