Nearly all of us wouldn’t and couldn’t commit heinous crimes like those of mass shooters. We not only know right from wrong, but also we’ve been trained not to do wrong. We have moral training that works within us to stop us from killing. It’s operative. We obey the laws against killing. We recognize the wrong of killing. We also recognize the penalties if we do kill.
Mass shooters all have motives for killing. They all have their reasons. Some even write them down. But they differ from killer to killer. I hypothesize that what most mass killers have in common is that they have not been taught to distinguish right from wrong. Whoever or whatever sources there are to dispense such training, they’ve missed it or it’s been there but hasn’t taken root. Instead, they think it’s right for them to kill.
There are going to be cases of deranged people becoming mass killers. That’s a separate group.
There are going to be cases of passions giving rise to mass crimes. Emotions can’t be separated from crimes; we all have emotions that accompany our actions. However, the essential feature of the crimes committed by mass shooters is the lack of a moral sense that stops or checks them from their criminal actions.
They haven’t learned and absorbed right from wrong. They haven’t learned to obey a basic commandment. They’ve learned something else, which is that it’s all right to take the law into their own hands.
Once we attempt to determine motives, we get lost in the many possibilities. We lose sight of the basic failing in these shooters, which is not knowing that it’s wrong to kill and not having that being such a strong prohibition that they can’t and won’t kill innocent people.
There are dozens of motives and states of mind consistent with not knowing right from wrong. For example, although acting alone, some of these killers may rationalize their transgression by thinking of themselves as warriors at war or heroic figures. Their moral sense may be distorted. What is evil they consider as good. Other shooters may think they’re in kill or be killed situations. Others may have all sorts of ideas. We can’t understand mass shooters by examining these many states of mind. What’s important to understanding is why the proper moral sense hasn’t been inculcated in them.
The post by Charles Burris mentions several hypotheses about the conditions under which men fail to receive good moral training:
“Most, according to psychologist Peter Langman, an expert on school shooters, came from homes that also experienced infidelity, substance abuse, criminal behavior, domestic violence and child abuse.”
This hypothesis is on the right track. Instead of focusing on motives, the focus is on where moral training comes from, even though moral training is not mentioned. Hypotheses like these should explicitly bring in moral training as the key. We cannot escape acknowledging this. We can’t avoid talking about values that are correct and right.
To avoid raising monsters, we have to define right and wrong properly and we have to impart it to children. It has to be done starting from an early age. It starts with parents. We should not obscure the process of teaching right from wrong, and also teaching virtuous behavior, by fancy words that academics use like “socialization”. Some thoughts, some behaviors and some actions are definitely wrong and some are right. We should not obscure the clear cases by focusing on the difficult and ambiguous cases.
The hypothesis of Peter Langman is really that a bad family life fails to deliver proper moral training to children. It delivers improper training in its place.
The hypothesis can be broadened. We are having more shooters because the moral training has gone downhill, and it has gone downhill because the training provided in the family, the schools, the churches, the camps, the media, the books, the movies, the government, etc. has gone downhill.
Why has this happened? What remedies do we have?7:53 am on August 6, 2019 Email Michael S. Rozeff