08 January 2017
Whatever happened to the old fashioned amoklauf?
News of a mass shooting draws out two or maybe three kinds of people. One kind expects the shooter to be a Muslim. Another clearly hopes that the shooter proves another Dylann Roof, to confirm his own sense of threat. A third will use the occasion to renew calls for greater gun control, and a fourth may try to preempt any raising of that subject by warning against politicizing a tragedy -- and will politicize it by doing so. In Fort Lauderdale we appear to have a plain old madman, though it should not surprise us in these days to see the so-called Islamic State or the federal government playing a significant role in his delusions. For what it's worth, the suspect is a native-born Hispanic who served in Iraq, but so far there are few hints of the sort of antisocial grudge that drives the classic amoklaufer. There seem to be fewer such incidents these days, or else the amoklaufer has grown more politicized or "radicalized" in recent times. The Columbine or Virginia Tech sort of angry-misfit rampage has perhaps become passé, and perhaps the sort of people who might have killed as recently as a decade ago are content now to torment people on social media, leaving mass murder to those with political or spiritual agendas, or to those, like the Fort Lauderdale suspect, who just seem crazy. If so, then with the classic amoklaufer goes some kind of clarity, for it was obvious to all but the most stubborn Second Amendment absolutists that the problem behind the amoklaufer was too easy access to guns. Now the debate has shifted to the ideas motivating shooters and the forms of hate that alarm contending groups of people, so that many of us seem to prefer that a shooter be a certain type of person. But whatever type of person he is, his victims are just as dead.