Firearms are not the deadliest weapon—it is the human mind, what’s between the two ears. “Perception is a clash of mind and eye, the eye believing what it sees, the mind seeing what it believes,” declared Robert Brault.
The brain, a curious enigma, is the command center of thoughts (rational or irrational), perceptions, beliefs, emotions, behaviors, movement, and experiences. What goes on in the minds of mass shooters and criminals?
School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators (2017) by Peter Langman examined 48 national and international cases of school shootings. The quotes from the attackers at the beginning of each case narrative are a window into the minds of these disturbed individuals. Langman’s previous book, Why Kids Kills: Inside the Minds of School Shooters, was named an Outstanding Academic Title of 2009 by the American Library Association.
Langman asserted “The research presented in my book furthers our understanding of why certain people carried out school shootings. Not only were they psychopathic, psychotic, or traumatized, but they experienced repeated failures across multiple domains: education, military aspirations, work, intimate relationships, financial stability, and sense of masculinity. They often felt they had nothing to live for, and they often wanted to get revenge against those they blamed for their predicaments. These factors, combined with psychopathic traits, psychotic symptoms, or histories of traumas, resulted in violence.” www.schoolshooters.info.
Of course, the environment has to be taken into account. Langman found that traumatized shooters grew up in severely dysfunctional families with parental substance abuse and parental criminal behavior. The individuals were exposed to child abuse, and sexual abuse in some cases, domestic violence, and moving frequently with changing caregivers.
Environment includes the world, nations, countries, states, cities, communities, neighborhoods, and homes. Environment includes schools, churches, temples, synagogues. Environment includes technologies, social media, televisions, computers. Environment includes relationships.
And the ensuing debate over nature vs. nurture argues which has the greatest influence. Both impact each other. What’s inside affects the outside—what’s outside affects the inside. But, ultimately the mind makes the decision. And the insanity defense, impairment due to mental illness, is used for impaired minds.
Human beings are complex creatures, a two-sided coin; capable of noble acts of compassion and immense acts of destruction. Since the beginning of the beginning, humans have loved and hated, given life and taken life, healed and killed.
Long before the invention of guns, people killed other people with an assortment of weapons. Rocks, sticks, spears.
And human body parts can be used as weapons. Strangulation with hands. Beating with fists. Kicking with feet. Biting with teeth. Can human body parts be considered as deadly weapons in our legal system?
Several years ago in a self-defense class, the instructor taught us to use an eye gouge (in certain situations) by driving a finger or thumb deep into the eye socket of an attacker to cause the eyeball to hemorrhage. So even fingers can be used as a weapon.
When inmates throw bodily fluids such as urine, feces, semen or blood at corrections officers, the employees undertake medical testing for possible infectious diseases.
A 2017 Pew Research Center poll reported that 68 percent of adults favor banning assault weapons, and 65 percent support a ban on high-capacity magazines. There is a place for firearms regulation and safe-storage laws for guns, and expanding federal background checks for gun buyers.
Instead of banning all guns and blaming the Second Amendment, we must focus on the human mind, the human body, human behaviors, and the environment to prevent mass shootings and killings.
Melissa Martin, Ph.D, is an author, columnist, educator, and therapist. She resides in southern Ohio. www.melissamartinchildrensauthor.com.