02 April 2012
Amoklauf in Oakland
News networks and wire services are piecing together the details, but the word at the moment is that a former student strolled into a Christian nursing school today and killed five people while wounding an unknown number of others. He fled the scene but reportedly has been captured alive. The presumed perp apparently flunked the "Thou Shalt Not Kill" part of the curriculum, but the basic idea has proven a stumbling block for plenty of secular humanists, too. I'd like to claim that this sense of entitlement to kill is utterly alien to me, but it does seem to be essentially American rather than Christian or secular. People do commit murders and mass murders in foreign lands, but I imagine that elsewhere murder is usually a means to an end, either profit from crime or service to some larger political or religious cause, while here it's too often an end unto itself, a matter of pure self-indulgence. I'd guess that this American impulse is older than the modern gun-rights movement, but the implied affirmation of an individual right to kill in self-defense that comes with modern gun-rights jurisprudence certainly does nothing to suppress the impulse. All it can offer is deterrence, which arguably works better with nations than with individuals, especially when individuals feel they have nothing to lose and expect death anyway. If we can figure out why so many Americans feel that way we may begin to answer the mystery of the amoklauf, but encouraging more people to arm themselves doesn't even begin to answer that question. If people claim to feel safer when they assume more people are armed, their feelings are not to be trusted.