Motives. Targets. Tools

For years, we’ve been pounded by news of mass killings.

Every time, the public aftermath concerns one major question: Why?

To me, there are three tracks to every mass murder, tracks which run independently until they verge toward each other and collide. Two of the tracks are: Why does someone commit such a dreadful act? And how does he pick his targets?


The motive for killing masses of people is not a motive. A motive is a reason. There is no reason in mass killings. And there is no reason to keep asking the question, “Why did he kill?”

No reason, no motive, no why. Only a mindless drive, an eruption of pathological rage. Sometimes the rage comes out of psychosis, sometimes out of malevolent fringe group sociology. When a psychotic ventures to explain what he did, he makes no sense. Sociopaths and paranoids can seem to make sense; they are able to produce language that sounds like our words, although riddled with a hate that makes no sense to us.

People who kill, whether as individuals or in a group, are not driven by rational ideas or rational choices, no matter how strenuously they work at justifying it with lies and distortions and misdirections.

The only “motive” is wordless, violent rage. No other explanation makes any sense.


Too often the people mass killers target have one quality in common: their physiognomy is distinctive. They are noticeably Asian or Black or brown-skinned. If they adhere to a specific religious sect, their clothing can identify them.

For someone whose inchoate rage drives him to kill, a person recognizably distinct from himself is the easiest target. As are people who gather together in community meeting places — synagogues, mosques, churches. Or are contained by the walls of another sort of community meeting place, a mall or nightclub or market.

My empathy for victims is unending and my explosive fury at these killings never, never lessens in intensity. But I don’t think they have been victimized because of who they are. I think they’ve been victimized because they are inalterably distinguishable.

It’s not Asian-Americans’ or Black Americans’ or Latino Americans’ burden to protect themselves or change in some way.

We must change. What we must change are laws.


Mass killings occur because unbalanced people get guns.

The tools of these killings are guns.

I’m not a politician so I get to be an absolutist about guns. No one should own guns. The millions of weapons now in personal armories should be confiscated and destroyed. Heavy liability must be mandated for all gun manufacturers and gun dealers.

If all politicians can bargain for is some kind of gun control — universal background checks so that disturbed people can’t get their hands on weapons through which they will vent their irrational rage; bans on assault weapons; registration of all guns; criminal charges against gun owners whose weapons have been used in violent acts…

Well, we all know what laws have been laid on the table and what will be barely acceptable efforts to end mass violence. But we can’t put aside one overwhelming central fact: guns are inherently evil. By allowing individuals to own weapons, this country is as crazy as are its armed killers.

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