Mass Shootings: Formulas for Discussion

I have a moral conundrum.  I believe that bearing arms is a right provided to Americans in the Constitution.  I also acknowledge that my principled stance (along with like-minded Constitutionalists) has led directly, and indirectly to innocent people being killed. 

Through the recent gloom of regular mass shootings the term “freedom isn’t always free” has never been so true. Casting all of the academic jargon aside, simply put, allowing people to have unfettered access to weapons has led to an epidemic of violence and death – and I still support it.  This is the dark alley that I find myself traversing.

In order to shift this dilemma from discussing the problem toward discussing a solution we should take the issue away from those who, for money or politics or power, are better off with the problem and place the discussion into the hands of those who are better off with a solution. 

In other words, move David Hogg back to the fringe and return the mainstream argument to those who reside in the mainstream. Only when we give power back to the sensible will we find sensible policies towards guns.

Further, we must understand that civil discourse requires honesty based on the facts.  I try, as most of us do, to strip away the hyperbole to reach the center of a debate. Sometimes it requires an examination of myself as well as those who I respect.  During the last few mass shootings I have seen a disturbing narrative among some on this site who I hold in high regard that are now coupled with some on other sites who elicit opprobrium.

The narrative that has been pushed by gun lobbyists and advanced by the 2A supporters is that the killer with the gun didn’t mean to kill all those people, therefore it is not actually a mass shooting.  There is a disquieting argument that a mass shooter can only be someone who has hate in their heart, plans out an attack, has a political agenda and kills a lot of people. A person who acts on the spur of the moment who shoots at a mass of people is somehow disqualified from being considered a mass shooter.  A drug dealer who tried to kill masses of police during a raid cannot be a mass shooter but a white supremacist who tries to kill masses of civilians can.

Respectfully speaking to those who make this claim I say your argument is poppycock.  This is nothing but an attempt by the gun supporters to confuse and conflate the issue because it looks bad for their cause.  This argument lives in the same neighborhood as FISA Warrants and birtherism. The strategy appears to be that if the number of mass murders can be parsed out and compartmentalized it can be explained away, free from discomfort. 

It is easier to say that there are 25 separate and small groups of 10 people who are murdered in a wholesale fashion than it is to describe 250 mass murders per year that are committed by individuals with high powered weapons.    

The bottom line is that mass shootings are mass shootings.  Death is death. There are no splitting hairs in what the killer has in his heart when he pulled the trigger.  It doesn’t matter if he planned the murders last year, last week or if the idea was completely extemporaneous.

To stymie the discussion by creating ambiguity and confusion provides a recurring short term solution – do nothing.  The debate is simply postponed until the next mass shooting and nothing is done to cultivate a serious examination of the epidemic.

This closely follows the pattern of most contentious issues in the post-truth world. If you skew the facts until they are unrecognizable you can’t debate facts.  If you can’t have a debate then there must not be a problem. If there is no real problem then no action is needed.

Ultimately, saying that the killer who shot dozens of people is not a mass shooter because he only shot at police or because he didn’t plan the attack in advance is as palliative to the victims as saying that the intoxicated driver is different because he killed someone while on heroin instead of alcohol.  The reasoning for the multiple shootings is irrelevant.

This may be controversial, but it is just my opinion. Don’t bother to challenge this postulation with me, fortunately I am not the person that you need to convince. I urge you to try minimizing the event to the grieving mother, the devastated widow or the orphaned child with a claim that a mass shooting wasn’t actually what it appears because the murderer didn’t fit into a specified category.  I don’t just urge you, I dare you. 

That’s my two cents and I could go on all day but an endless diatribe will further the argument no more than those who I am opining about.  Alternatively, I suggest a completely analytical approach that does not allow the topic to be shifted toward the realm of subjectivity and emotion.  This approach would negate the necessity of writing the first eight paragraphs of this post and could propel us straight toward a serious and honest discussion of the problem.

Let’s consider this issue to be a mathematical theorem.  As in any theorem there needs to be assumptions. Let’s assume:

  • A killer is the person who is the shooter.  K = killer
  • A shooting can only be carried out be a gun.  G = Gun
  • You cannot have a gun death without having someone actually die.  For these purposes D = Death
  • You cannot have a shooting unless there is an equal measure of one half shooter that shoots and one half gun that discharges.  In a shooting one cannot exist without the other.

So, the equation for a single gun shooting death must be: 


I hope that this make sense and we can all agree on this simple equation so far.

To further the conversation, in 2013 Congress determined that a mass shooting is three or more killings in a single event.  In other words a mass shooting is one individual shooting death times three.  So deductively speaking:

  • If a death = D then a mass shooting must equal 3 x D and;
  • A mass shooting = M

Then the formula for a mass shooting should be:

= (.5K+.5G)*3D

To take this even a step further, if an epidemic is 4 consecutive mass shootings (the number four is my own threshold, others may have a different number) then an epidemic of mass shootings could be: 

  • E = Epidemic
  • N = number of consecutive mass shootings

E = [(.5K+.5G)*3D]*N

So the next time that there is gun violence that directly affects multiple people, regardless of reason, intention or politics, simply plug the variables into this equation.  If M is greater than or equal to 3 then it is a mass shooting. If E is greater than or equal to 12 then it is an epidemic of mass shootings. If M and E are determined, then it is time to begin the discussion in earnest and look for compromise to achieve the safety of our citizens.  Ideally, this would wipe away any rationale or reason to diminish the problem and take us straight into an intellectual vantage point that is constructive and honest.

In the end, I still support gun ownership and I still don’t have any solution to the killings. For that I am sorry.  I can think of no new ideas that have not been already proffered and, while completely capable of describing the problem, I can offer no novel solutions. 

My diminutive contribution is simply attempting to clear away the platitudes and misdirection to briskly move the two sides closer to conversation. If I can assist honest people to examine and discuss these atrocities based on an agreed set of facts then I hope I have done my very small part.

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