Felicia Muftic: Mass shootings not just in Colorado
Grand County, CO Colorado
Last Friday I was sitting in the same living room where I watched on TV as the Columbine shooting unfolded in 1999.
This time it was the mass shooting in the Aurora movie theater. Flashbacks to that day in 1999 mingled with the TV images of the horror in Aurora. Tom Costello, former TV reporter with KUSA in Denver, now with NBC, asked, “What is wrong with Colorado?” as he talked about the trauma he experienced in covering the Chuck E Cheese pizza store massacre in Aurora in 1993.
Tom, it is not just Colorado. The problem is worldwide. It is just that Colorado was the first to bring the drama of mass shootings to real time TV and world attention with Columbine. Columbine gave the seriously mentally ill a new technique to use.
Looking at an Associated Press site that provided a list of mass shootings, copy cat incidents have happened including recent ones in Scandinavia, some in China and points in between. World-wide, too, this is known as the “Columbine Effect.”
Some of the countries have good mental health support systems in place. The U.S. mental health services are woefully lacking, but thanks to Columbine our emergency responders have become well prepared for repeat incidents. Unlike the U.S., not all of the countries have our freedom to bear arms, but deranged mass killers manage to carry out their deadly missions anyway.
Even we in rural Grand County have had our own traumatic experience with an angry member of our community In 2004, Marvin Heemeyer sought revenge in a converted bulldozer outfitted like a tank. Like the Aurora shooter, James Holmes, he prepared for months. Heemeyer set about destroying property belonging to the town leaders who thwarted his attempt to stop the building of a cement plant near his property. His bulldozer got stuck and overheated on one of his property targets, cutting short his rampage before he could kill someone, and he shot himself.
This event, too, made news throughout the world … not because of the numbers killed (other than Heemeyer, no one died), but because his method of venting was so bizarre and was covered by TV helicopters and media as his bulldozer moved at a crawl from one victim site to another in a slow-motion rampage.
Psychiatric profiles of those who commit mass shootings vary greatly. One piece I found on the web about mass killings got my attention: “They are driven by selfish, powerful and uncontrolled desires … the origins of the personality type may be numerous and sometimes disputed. Certain commentators believe a person is born with the possibility of acquiring such a personality. Note, however, that all accept that upbringing, especially relationships and parents and the amount of exposure to violence as a child, has a major impact on their development.” (socialscience.slow.ac.uk/criminology_notes)
What triggers such acts? Perhaps part of the picture could be the exposure of the young to violence through modern media and desensitizing violent computer games. Modern assault weapons also allow one shooter to do incredible damage in a short period of time.
Aurora Congressman Ed Perlmutter has proposed reinstating the expired federal ban on assault weapons. This event is not a good reason. A ban would not have stopped such an unbalanced individual from killing. There might still have been less carnage in the theater, since Holmes first used an assault rifle until it jammed. He then switched to non-assault weapons that were also deadly. As Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper said on CNN Sunday morning, “If he had not used that weapon, he would have found another weapon.” Holmes obviously had the ability to use bombs as well, as evidenced by the sophisticated booby traps he set in his apartment.
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