The Naval Shipyard shooting has reignited the controversy over guns in society. Once again, people are pondering over what went wrong. Many have asked why the behavior of this shooter and others has failed to raise red flags that might have alerted authorities and prevented the tragedies.
The shooting incidents should indeed raise red flags but not from troubled individuals but over America in general. Something is terribly wrong with a nation which produces these crazed people who so wantonly take innocent life. Something needs to be done.
But to put all the responsibility on the authorities doesn’t make sense. The sad reality is that there are far too many Americans with mental problems that no authority can possibly keep tabs on them. Even if the red flags went up before such incidents, it is unclear what steps could be taken. Most of these individuals had not broken the law prior to their outbursts and cannot be arrested. They still manage to function in society so they cannot be committed to asylums. Many times the future shooters are off the social radar all together. They are out in society, schools and public places like ticking time bombs waiting to go off.
But one thing is certain. The present strategy of dealing with the problem is clearly not working. When the red flags of crisis go up, we raise the while flags of surrender. We yield to every possible excuse including the most common one of blaming the weapon the murderer wields and not the hand that wields it. We blame the lack of medication and not the illnesses. As we keep locking these deranged people up, our society is increasingly on lock down as we try to find safety in security systems and monitors resembling those of prisons.
Rather than isolating these individuals who seem to multiply with time, we should address the root cause of such madness. It is no secret that all the shooters share certain characteristics. They are all the products, (not the victims) of a broken and violent culture. They are culpable for their acts even as society tells them acts have no consequences.
And so we might begin to address the problem by condemning the instruction manuals that show us how to commit these crimes in all their gory details. There are the Hollywood movies that feature or glorify serial murderers and senseless violence. There are the violent video games where players shoot and kill with reckless and bloody abandon. These are literal how-to manuals that teach viewers to commit these crimes. This is something that should raise a red flag. Raising yet another flag is the lack of concern on the part of liberal media which decry gun violence in real life yet ignore it on the big or little screen.
We should address the problem by looking at the family. All these shooters have major family problems. Broken families lead to broken lives. The devastation caused by the lack of a stable family life is irrefutable and has turned the home into a center of violence. We need to at least recognize it as a major contributing factor to the shootings. A red flag should go up causing national and religious leaders to declare a crisis in the family and see what moral, religious or cultural influences might be brought to bear to shore up the family. Instead we see a resignation on the part of society and media which treat broken families and broken lives with an air of normality.
There is a final factor that should be considered in any analysis of the shootings. Such meaningless acts suggest individuals that find it difficult to discover meaning in life and thus they create their own fantasy worlds. A red flag should go up at the extreme individualism of our days. When people see themselves as the center of their own little worlds, it leads to situations in which some individuals will eventually accept no social restraints and freely gratify their fantasies. The bizarre nature of so many of these shooting incidents suggesting a disturbing failure on the part of so many to instill our youth with a sense of purpose that would allow them to look beyond their self-centeredness and toward the common good. It points to a lack of the stabilizing influences of family, community and faith that normally serve to anchor the individuals in reality and fill their lives with meaning.
There is no lack of red flags going up to warn us of the shootings. There are however many who cannot see the flags or interpret their message. What is needed is a return to order. Only then will the ticking time bombs of future crimes be defused and society find answers to why the killing continues.
John Horvat II is a scholar, researcher, educator, international speaker and author. For more than two decades he has been researching and writing about the socio-economic crisis in the United States. Visit www.returntoorder.org.