This complex and tragic event supports my own view

As shots rang out across the courtyard, I ducked behind my desk, my adrenaline pumping. Enraged by the inexplicable violence of this complex and multi-faceted attack, I promised the public I would use this opportunity to push my own pet theory of mass shootings.

Only a few days have passed since this terrible tragedy and I want to start by paying lip service to the need for respectful remembrance and careful evidence-gathering before launching into my half-cocked ideas.

The cause was simple. It was whatever my prejudices suggested would cause a mass shooting and this is being widely ignored by the people who have the power to implement my prejudices as public policy.

I want to give you some examples of how ignoring my prejudices directly led to the mass shooting.

The gunman grew up in an American town and had a series of experiences, some common to millions of American people, some unique to him. But it wasn’t until he started to involve himself in the one thing that I particularly object to, that he started on the path to mass murder.

The signs were clear to everyone but they were ignored because other people haven’t listened to the same point-of-view I expressed on the previous occasion the opportunity arose.

Research on the risk factors for mass shootings has suggested that there are a number of characteristics that have an uncertain statistical link to these tragic events but none that allow us to definitively predict a future mass shooting.

But I want to use the benefit of hindsight to underline one factor I most agree with and describe it as if it can be clearly used to prevent future incidents.

I am going to try and convince you of this in two ways. I am going to selectively discuss research which supports my position and I’m going to quote an expert to demonstrate that someone with a respected public position agrees with me.

Several scientific papers in a complex and unsettled debate about this topic could be taken to support my position. A government report also has a particular statistic which I like to quote.

Highlighting these findings may make it seem like my position is the most probable explanation despite no clear overall conclusion but a single quote from one of the experts will seal the issue in my favour.

“Mass shootings” writes forensic psychiatrist Anand Pandya, an Associate Clinical Professor in the Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Neurosciences at the UCLA School of Medicine, Los Angeles, “have repeatedly led to political discourse”. But I take from his work that my own ideas, to quote Professor Pandya, “may be useful after future gun violence”.

Be warned. People who don’t share my biases are pushing their own evidence-free theories in the media, but without hesitation, I can definitely say they are wrong and, moreover, biased.

It is clear that the main cause of this shooting was the thing I disliked before the mass shooting happened. I want to disingenuously imply that if my ideas were more widely accepted, this tragedy could have been averted.

Do we want more young people to die because other people don’t agree with me?

UPDATE: Due to the huge negative reaction this article has received, I would like to make some minor concession to my critics while accusing them of dishonesty and implying that they are to blame for innocent deaths. Clearly, we should be united by in the face of such terrible events and I am going to appeal to your emotions to emphasise that not standing behind my ideas suggests that you are against us as a country and a community.

47 Comments

  1. James
    Posted September 21, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    I love you, Vaughan.

    PS. I have several scientific papers that support my position.

  2. Posted September 21, 2013 at 10:47 am | Permalink

    After carefully reading your post several times, I am not able to discern your view regarding the factor or cause that you consider most significant in relation to the shooting. It is also unclear which shooting you refer as it is not named in your post.

    • todd
      Posted September 21, 2013 at 7:56 pm | Permalink

      So, since you failed to notice the whole article was facetious, you negligently read this several times.

      • obie
        Posted September 22, 2013 at 4:01 pm | Permalink

        It isn’t negligent to examine something one does not understand.

  3. nskeptic
    Posted September 21, 2013 at 10:54 am | Permalink

    How dare you be sarcastic about this tragic event. Only sincere, stupid opinions are allowed at such a terrible time.

    • Posted September 21, 2013 at 11:03 am | Permalink

      I am sincerely sorry if you took my comment as sarcastic. This is one of the problems of online communication: Users might easily mistake others’ meanings or intent. I was simply suggesting that the text of the post was not clear to me.

      • bmbleeker
        Posted September 21, 2013 at 11:32 am | Permalink

        nkskeptic wasn’t reacting to you, Jeffrey, but to the article. The article is satirical (as was nskeptics reply); all it is saying is that people should stop using these tragedies to promote their own pet theories, when in reality they don’t know what they’re talking about.

      • Posted September 21, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

        Thanks for clarifying. Sometimes I am slow.

      • maharlikans
        Posted September 21, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

        Happens to all of us!

    • Posted September 22, 2013 at 8:23 pm | Permalink

      I must be turning right wing Republican
      b/c I had to read the comments b4 I realized
      Dr Bell was being tharcastic.

  4. Posted September 21, 2013 at 2:09 pm | Permalink

    You are so wicked, sir. And your method of argument is … er … sensational. Kudo. –gc

  5. Posted September 21, 2013 at 3:21 pm | Permalink

    Brilliant.

  6. phanmo
    Posted September 21, 2013 at 4:13 pm | Permalink

    I beg to differ, sir.

  7. maharlikans
    Posted September 21, 2013 at 6:10 pm | Permalink

    “Do we want more young people to die because other people don’t agree with me?”

    And in that moment, I got what was going on.

  8. Posted September 21, 2013 at 7:27 pm | Permalink

    I want to brag that I (eventually) got the satiric tone (after feeling confused for ten minutes). Anyway……

    my own pet theory of mass shootings

    Well, very true with one exception, I think the research is pretty clear on this: putting a gun in the hands of a citizen or in a household significantly ups the chances of them blasting to hell themselves or someone else.

    • Posted September 21, 2013 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

      Amelie,

      Please define “significantly.” Also, if you please, explain to me how we shall handle knives, baseball bats, dogs, and cars, all of which make their owners more likely to use those items as weapons.

      Thank you

      Jonathan Carroll

      • Posted September 21, 2013 at 8:32 pm | Permalink

        Sure. This is from memory; so I may have to amend this later. But here’s the ballpark figures:

        Canadian Journal of Medicine: gun owners are 30 – 40% more likely to die from homicide or suicide.

        New England Journal of Medicine: gun owners are 20 – 30% more likely to die from homicide or suicide.

        Baseball bats were designed for playing games and getting exercise. Cars were designed for (safely, with seatbelts) getting people place to place. Guns were designed to kill people. End of story.

        As for irresponsible dog owners – don’t get me started.

      • Posted September 21, 2013 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, it’s the CMAJ.

        http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1485564/

      • Nathan
        Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:19 am | Permalink

        @Amelie: be careful not to confuse correlation with causation. Your studies show correlation, which in no way implies that gun ownership causes greater violent mortality. It could be exactly the other way around (greater violent mortality causes increased gun ownership) or it could be some third (and fourth and fifth and six hundredth) factor(s) causing both.

      • Posted September 22, 2013 at 6:26 am | Permalink

        Amelie,

        Guns have safety features too.

        30-40% seems like an acceptable risk to me. So I am content with the facts I would still like to choose to own a gun.

        Jonathan

      • obie
        Posted September 22, 2013 at 4:05 pm | Permalink

        @Nathan: I don’t think amelie’s wording went beyond suggesting a correlative link between gun ownership and violence.

      • Kibber
        Posted October 30, 2013 at 8:36 pm | Permalink

        ahem, “putting a gun in the hands of a citizen or in a household significantly ups the chances “

  9. Mason Kelsey
    Posted September 21, 2013 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

    Sarcasm is rarely an effective tool of communication on the Internet. Please stop using it as it is never clear to most readers that you are being sarcastic.

    • Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      Did you actually call for the end of sarcasm? Surely your being sarcastic… right?

  10. Posted September 21, 2013 at 10:21 pm | Permalink

    After having read the title and skimmed the first paragraph, I have come to post the same rebuttal to your pet theory that I have already strewn over the internet before.

    I will then question your reasonings to stay in a country that you obviously hate. I will insinuate things about you and your mentally handicapped family members before cursing.

    • Posted September 23, 2013 at 9:23 am | Permalink

      I will compare either you or your argument in some way to the Nazis, thus demolishing your position. It will be unclear exactly to whose argument I am referring.

  11. Posted September 21, 2013 at 11:46 pm | Permalink

    I recall the NYT article that gave Dr.
    Vaughan’s opinion about the makers of
    “Paranoid Style” sites and channels on YT
    that have their own lexicon of terms, “TI’s”
    or targeted individuals vs “perps”, the so-called bad guys of government, the NWO and Illuminati.

    He said they were made by paranoids for fellow paranoids. Some are, most are not.

    Most are made by PR pro’s (Alex Jones)whose
    job is to look and talk either like lunatics,
    or like officious serious people mixing
    truth with nonsense deliberately to make everything sound like psychosis.

    YT Videos have testimonials by PR
    play-actors playing victims(TI’s)looking or sounding as wingbat as possible. They mix
    BS(NWO, chemtrails)with fact(invasive security programs used on non-volunteer civilians)that make NSA PRISM surveillance look comical.

    Where’s my proof? Yes,I am assigning my opinions as their motives.

    However if anyone has wondered about these
    videos by the thousand and concluded they’re
    comically paranoid should look at them
    again from this POV. They also resonate very
    well with stated and unstated T-Party views
    that “gumment is after your freedoms and gunz”.

    This is not an accident but is probably secondary. The T-Party does get away with basing their political view of the world on what is stated in these videos. The ever immanent, Orwellian Obamian tyranny and martial law. If Obama is forced to exercise more executive power in response to the debt ceiling
    crisis you will hear it more and more.

  12. Posted September 21, 2013 at 11:56 pm | Permalink

    “Clarity is of no importance because nobody listens and nobody knows what you mean no matter what you mean, nor how clearly you mean what you mean.” – Gertrude Stein

  13. smallonpurpose
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 1:05 am | Permalink

    Brilliant.
    Every word.

  14. Donelle Connolly
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 1:21 am | Permalink

    I finally got it. It’s sarcasm that’s the one factor that’s always associated with someone who engages in these heinous crimes. All we have to do is look for sarcastic people and send them to Redemption Island.

  15. Ioldanach
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 3:47 am | Permalink

    I shall respond with disagreement, graceful at first but transitioning into a forceful tirade before I conclude with a witty rejoinder. My citations will be documents years, decades, and sometimes even centuries old, from which I’ve chosen portions that agree with me. Or they would, if they weren’t so out of date that the changing psychological makeup of the nation hadn’t evolved, and the language evolved so far as to make the meaning of the vague documents impossible to agree on.

  16. simone
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 6:12 am | Permalink

    I agree, satirically speaking. There isn’t a definitive recipe that creates a mass shooter. Anyone can become one given the right circumstances.

    I know I am capable of at least wishing I could shoot all the people who interrupt my sleep several times a night, interrupt my work several times a day (and put them together and by Thursday I want to shoot everyone who says hi before I have my morning coffee.)

    Stress is additive from one day to the next if you don’t know how to vent it off in constructive ways. We need to stop looking for a cause of mass shooting (we already know — unvented & additive stressors!)and start teaching people – everyone – how to handle stress & teach how to deal with people who actively try to make your life miserable (there are lots).

  17. W
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 6:33 am | Permalink

    I have my own theory what causes such shootings. There is a risk factor which is always present: The gunman always has a gun.

    • Jimmy dont play that
      Posted September 26, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      And 100% of all drug addicts started out either (a) breast fed, or (b) bottle fed. Causation!

  18. Posted September 22, 2013 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    How dare you politicize the tragedy in this way by using it as a cheap excuse to push your views? Surely when you take off your partisan blinders, you see that my views are the common sense response to these awful events.

    See also: “Why the Bombings Mean That We Must Support My Politics”, posted on 2001-09-12 http://www.adequacy.org/stories/2001.9.12.102423.271.html

  19. Posted September 22, 2013 at 7:38 am | Permalink

    @Nathan, read the study. It shows that the mortalities are caused by gun violence. Although I did choose the wording incorrectly; it does not show the gun owner per se caused the shooting. My wording error.

    • Nathan
      Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      @Amelie, note that still doesn’t demonstrate causation. Notice how your argument has drifted from your original position (gun ownership causes increased mortality) to a much easier to defend one (gun violence causes increased mortality). Even if the second is true, it says nothing about the first.

      And yes I did look at the study. The authors took results from someone else’s telephone survey, observed a correlation, and then suggested in their conclusion that a causative relationship was found. At least they had the decency to admit that further research is needed, but the fact is that no causative relationships can be obtained from this study, and if they had wanted to keep any credibility, they would have said that rather than make the unfounded suggestion that a causative relationship was found.

      • Posted September 23, 2013 at 1:46 am | Permalink

        Well, this serves me right for thinking no one would bother to read my comments. Nathan, I think you’re putting too much stock in my comments. That said, allow me to start over.

        “I found some interesting studies regarding gun ownership and gunshot mortality”. At this point I should have posted this study:

        http://www.nejm.org/doi/full/10.1056/NEJM199310073291506

        Add this to the Canada study, and yet another one published (I think) recently. This research as a whole to me suggests the literature is moving towards evidence that owning a gun is more likely to harm rather than protect.

    • RogueZ
      Posted October 11, 2013 at 7:43 am | Permalink

      amelie, as a resident who lives in Montana, U.S.A, I deal with guns on a daily basis. We use them for hunting (collecting our own food from the wild), recreation (shooting clays and anything else we decide to set up and use as target practice), and for protection. See…up here we can lawfully carry a pistol on our waist in plain sight into the stores where we do our shopping and conversing. I have even seen gentleman at my bank with their 45 revolvers strapped to their hips…and no one bats an eyelash. Before you say it, no I do not live in a small po-dunk town where everyone knows each other. But we realize here that guns are not built so that I may shoot whom ever I please. They are built for many different reasons, and we also trust that the people carrying said weapon, knows how to use it. I have shot many guns in my 24 years on this green earth and have never harmed a single human with one. But with that said, I would be willing to bet my house is safer than yours is. Just because of the simple fact that people realize that yes I am armed and yes I will protect myself, my loved ones, and anyone who is in dire need of it. Thank you, and goodnight.

      • Opacity
        Posted October 12, 2013 at 1:09 am | Permalink

        “I would be willing to bet my house is safer than yours is. Just because of the simple fact that people realize that yes I am armed and yes I will protect myself, my loved ones, and anyone who is in dire need of it.”

        If I’m breaking into houses and I think there’s a reasonable likelihood that there are loaded guns lying around accessible to residents, I’ll take a loaded gun with me myself so that if someone surprises me I can blow a hole in their chest before they blow a hole in mine.

        If I live in a place where people don’t routinely have guns, then when I break into their houses I won’t bother carrying a gun. If I’m surprised I’ll just boot it.

        I’m 49 years old and have never lived in a house protected by a gun. We were broken into once in the seventies when we were living in Africa. They took cash and collectibles. And I was burgled once in the nineties, in Montreal. They took a drum. I can tell you it’s not the end of the world. Certainly not worth killing anyone over — or even being afraid.

        People who carry weapons are frightened. Frightened people are dangerous.

  20. Posted September 22, 2013 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    I’m left open-mouthed at the ability of people to miss the irony and take this post at face value.

  21. Tim
    Posted September 22, 2013 at 12:41 pm | Permalink

    Surely there must also be a cultural component as well. Just like how some cultures have problems with plane crashes and others with trains.

  22. rmgw
    Posted September 23, 2013 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    Ace.

  23. tamslick
    Posted September 25, 2013 at 1:06 pm | Permalink

    Epic.

  24. Posted September 26, 2013 at 1:11 am | Permalink

    I see what you did there…

  25. joatblog
    Posted September 29, 2013 at 3:50 am | Permalink

    Let us not forget statistics. You have a near 0% chance of burning someone’s (or your own) retina if you don’t own a welding machine and (guessing) about a 1 in 100M chance if you don’t (e.g., a freak accident involving a mirror, a magnifying glass, and a sunny day).

    If you do own a welding machine, you might have a 1 in 10,000 chance of causing retinal damage (e.g., someone forgets their eye protection or peers over the top of the shield).

    Now do the math. This is a 10,000,000% increase in the probability that a welding machine owner will injure someone, over someone who doesn’t own one. Based on this, all welding in the country should stop because of this! THE HORROR NEEDS TO END!

    Note: (for the challenged) above is sarcasm, relating to the practice of defining danger as a percentage rather than showing actual numbers or probabilities.

    To express it a different way and throw in the previously noted terms: I have an infinitely greater chance (percentage-wise) of winning the lottery if I actually buy a ticket. Correlation: every single lottery winner bought a ticket. Causation: none (i.e., buying the ticket doesn’t mean I’ll win).

    About the only danger you can realistically express as a percentage: in the long run, you have 100% chance of dieing.

  26. RogueZ
    Posted October 11, 2013 at 7:47 am | Permalink

    I think you should read my response to amelie. You may like it.


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