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February 15, 2008


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Well, as far as an l/e analysis goes, we're just beginning to get a sense of the costs of an underregulated gun industry, and an underregulated psychopharmceutical industry (how many people do you know who are on psychopharmceuticals? (How did we ever get by befoe GSK and Pfizer!?)

But in the end this isn't an issure for the economists. It's an issue for philosophers and social theorists.

Alienation in our culture is a very real thing. The number of people who are depressed and on psychopharmaceuticals is astonishing. Economists do a poor job of recognizing and understanding the contingency of human identity and value structures. They just assume the millions of teenaged girls who buy Britney Spears albums do it out of some kind of individual choice.

Critical social theory has a long and rich history of explaining alienation as a function of distributive justice in an overly competitive culture fuled by a media which sell lifestyles most will never achieve and values that maximize anxiety, consuption and profit.

I think the answer ultiately lies in the fact that in our culture, love, community and belonging are on the run while individualism, power and status are extolled, though fleeting illusions for most. The distribution of wealth and our dehumanized consumer culture play a large roll in creating the kind of severe alienation that (combine with inadequate gun control and underregulated drug industry) results in such tragic events.

Lets start now with adequate gun and drug control, and then we can talk about creating more distributive justice that might allow more people to love themselves and others.


John Lott did some specific research on mass shootings finding that the deterrent effect is greatest upon mass shooting (as opposed to other crimes) from widespread concealed carry. Nothing's perfect, and there still may be shootings, but one thing missing from mainstream media coverage is how shooters in Pennsylvania, West Virginia, and Oregon were stopped by armed citizens who reacted quickly to events.

Illinois, of course, has extremely strict gun control an no provisions for lawful concealed carry. So, he knew he'd have unarmed sheep to contend with. This kind of eviscerates the popular, facile analysis after the Pearl Mississippi and Luby's shooting that these were a product of Southern Gun Culture.

LAK's points on psychopharmaceuticals and alienation are interesting and worthy topics of research. The gun control research is done and is decidedly in favor of guns versus gun control in a society like ours. These high profile events distract from the much greater crime in urban areas where gun ownership is lowest, family breakdown is highest, and communities are the weakest. Consider how much more coverage this horror will get than the robbery that killed five women in the Chicago suburbs just a few weeks ago. Middle class school shooters are interesting; urban criminals, not so much, even though they're much more deadly as a whole.


Good observation roach, and LAK I am intrigued by some of the points you have brought to the table. what we know about this individual at this point is he had a valid license for at least one gun, and that he had no history that would prevent him from ownership. Gun control pro or contra is aside from the facts of this case insofar as we know them. He seemed to be an active social participant and had been on the Dean's list and was passionate about youth violence and incarceration. He was your above average lefty kid no different from thousands of others except that he snapped. the next piece of info missing from the puzzle is the "why". why would a kid vehemently opposed to this kind of behaviour, one passionate about stopping and helping others do this himself ? If he is simply an anomoly then does he deserve this kind of coverage in death even if he didn't do this as a publicity hound ?


I do think Saul is right on in terms of the media coverage. Just as professional sports broadcasts never show idiots who jump on the field, so should the mass media give little coverage to killers. In the end, those starved of love to the point of psychosis are just seeking crude recognition.

All I know is that this doesn't happen if guns are nowhere to be found. You may say I'm a dreamer, but I can conceive of a society in which guns (or anything designed to take human life) no longer exist. It isn't hard to do.

Joan A. Conway

Because of my severe osteo-arthritis of my left hip, my "New" Doctor prescribed Trazodone (100 mg.) for me to take before going to bed. Of course I objected to taking the depression pill. I was given it so that I could sleep through the night and not take a lot of other drugs to relieve my pain. Another "New" Doctor prescribed another pain reliever that was even worst if that is possible. The prescription sheet(s) on both of these drugs raises the risk of anyone taking them. I told the Doctor that indeed the pill works and I am able to sleep through the night and I was avoiding taking more of the pills that have a limited dose per day. But I wanted to get off the pill as soon as possible. My Doctor said, "No!" "I'll have to get through surgery first!" My surgeon knows of the drugs I am taking, but when his nurse holds a class for people waiting for an implant, and then wants to answer our questions, that she refused to answer on a number of occassion(s) by fax and phone, I didn't take her seriously. The Doctor's appointment was a brief visit where he asked me to walk, and hardly anything was discussed otherwise with the Hobson Choice of seeing his implant patients. I've read where it is the patient's responsibility to insist upon answers from reluctant Surgeons, but I got answers like "Are you through?" And then the subject was changed. I lost confidence in the process. The nurse held me to a higher standard of not on her level for her to discuss my concerns of a contradictory sentence in the material she handled out and I got the other people's competitiveness to out-do-me with their ability to pronounce the names of drugs quickly. I was undermined and dismissed. My concern is that the medical profession isn't doing a very good job with explaining.


LAK, governments have killed lots of people in the 20th Century. They also do a crummy job of protecting us from big, strong people that mean us harm, whether with guns or knives or fists. Do you mean to disarm the government too? If not, then you're asking for unilateral disarmament. You can take that chance; I won't. Literally.

Joan A. Conway

Remember there are no bad guns, just mixed up and bad people, who are exploited by many in the system unfortunately.

The system recall me saying has no integrity!

The system is politically driven as well.

The medical system is a hornet's nest and most of the time does little to prevent harm or injury, because of attitude toward the people needing it.

The medical staff has not gotten over itself.

They still sway and swag under their apparel and dance around anything they may be liable for by gagging their patients' concerns.

If I could change anything in this terrible crime, I would start with the Doctor who prescribed the depression pills, and then I would take on the drug company.

A young adult's fascination with owning guns is not accountable for his collection.

Perhaps a law against the acquistion of a collection of firearms by someone under a certain age or without a screening into the need for theses guns should be considered as well.

They are too available, but so is candy, alcohol, and tobacco.

Does anyone need too much of this stuff over a long period of time.

In Mississippi, where the population suffers from obesity, legislation made buying soda pop more difficult.

But again a person's consumer preferences do not rank as high with me as a learned professional's inability or reluctance to initiate preventive medicine with a bedside manner for everyone of his patients on a one-by-one manner.

The bottom-line is driving this lack of informing patients of what is best.

And fathers' are not around to know best either.

A young adult is at the whim of a crude surroundings with indifference to boot about his or her welfare.

Young people are carefree and blind to their risks without strong moral support and individual attention for adequate role models.

Many of what companys provide as role models are other young people a few years ahead of them, who are equally without a clue, carefree, and blind to the risks of living.

Because the system and political climate has dumb-down society, shun intelligence, overburden learned professionals with profit concerns, and removed adequate access to even telephones forcing everyone to own a cell phone, we are without social responsibility too! It's our Cultural War.

It's all your fault period.

But it will never be all your fault period if we live together on this planet.

We are responsible for each other and more than on a superifical shallow manner.

I suggest that if we think something stinks about anything and telling the people who are doing the stinky thing(s) get us nowhere, lets make the public react to our distain of our system.

Let's have a System War instead.

The system remember has no integrity.

Should it?


Not ours Roach, not its own citizens in any meaninful numbers (Tin soldiers and Nixon's coming, granted). And even with guns, the citizenry is no match for the military should it ever decide to turn on its own citizens. We've come a long way, baby. You're living in the past. Time to look forward my friend. Yes, indeed, we can.


You're right. Armed citizens are no match for the military. That's why Iraq is little different from Denmark these days. Orderly, quiet, obedient, and non-violent. Right?

And, frankly, blacks had it pretty bad down south and would've had it worse but for guns. The Branch Davidians had it bad. Randy Weaver had it bad. The rebels of the Whiskey Rebellion had it bad. Guns are a deterrent, and they work. The Jews of Europe had almost no guns outside Russia and were slaughtered en masse outside of the few who joined up with Russian and Polish partisans.

Anonymous Bosch


Given that the shooter apparently intended to die (either by his own hand or that of the police) in the midst of his terrible action, do you think that the knowledge that the kid in the second row might be packing would have stopped him?

And allowing college kids to carry concealed weapons might just be the worst idea I've ever heard. Think about the average frat party and the fistfight that inevitably breaks out after one too many Coors Lights. Now imagine that those drunken morons have 9mm's stuck in their belts. Do you really think that would lead to LESS shootings on campus?

"An armed society is a polite society," my NRA-member father always insists. But I don't recall the Wild West being all that polite...

Anonymous Bosch

Oh, and I would suggest Iraq might not be the best example if you're intending to suggest that an armed populace deters civil violence.

Dwight Dunkley

A public official once astutely observed that "Weakness is provocative." Though that official was Rumsfeld, his point is certainly applicable to the issue at hand. The weak/unarmed population of the campus was likely a key factor in the shooter's decision to commit this crime.

The aspect of this crime that concerns me, and causes the media attention - perhaps even this discussion - is not the suicide of the shooter but the homicide of the unarmed students. So like other advocates for greater concealed carry on campus, the aspect of this crime I am interested in deterring (or aborting if underway)is the homicide of many unarmed civilians.

The sobering belief that the sophomore in second row may be packing heat is a deterrent to the kind of homicide we are seeing. But more importantly the ability of the sophomore in second row to shoot back can and no-doubt would abort the homicide of other unarmed students. It's a simple arithmetic.


Ideas and firearms are a dangerous mix to say the least. However most of what has been perpetuated in the comments section here is little more than whimsical, altruistic fuddy-duddy.

If we look hard at the system that is in place, we have to acknowledge that our existing framework of regulation and law has no veritable impact on the decisions of those who have removed themselves from the social admonition of such institutions.

Gun regulation itself has very little impact on criminals and those who choose to use such a weapon to commit a crime. If they can not purchase a gun legally, the cost of obtaining one illegally is minimal. If a man is going to rob a bank, the use of a legal gun is inconsequential to his decision to commit the crime.

The incentive for the criminal would be to use an illegal firearm that is already outside the system due to the ease of attainment and the disposable nature of the firearm.

However a system of regulation does have a significant impact on those who do not own firearms. The burden of obtaining a legal firearm is far greater than the general burden of not owning a firearm. The legal complexities involved with owning and transporting a legal firearm tend to outweigh the cost of not having one for most people who rarely come into any significant contact with or encounter a crime where a firearm is necessary.

This generally puts a criminal with a firearm in a better position in a given crime - they (the criminal) wield the power when faced with adversaries who have very little ability to resist.

I can't speak to this NIU incident or the person behind the firearm, but being in Omaha where we recently had our own "Mall Massacre", the situation was much the same. The general deterrence of crime in the Mall was so low, it served as a prime target .


I think it would lead to less shootings. Everyone down south in fraternities has all kinds of guns in his dorm room; they don't all shoot each other. I think shooters don't mind dying, but armed citizens--whether teachers or students--can deter him in two ways. One, they can just shoot him as he gets started. Two, they make it less likely in a large group that he can get very far, and the shooters know tihs, preferring softer targets, which are much harder to find in areas of high gun ownership, like the south and the west.

George M Weinert V

The Answer ultimately rests with the elimination of political cowardice on the nation's campuses. Thanks to liberal idiocy, most "security" on campuses are NOT ARMED! Why not? When dangerous psychopaths and radical Islamofascist bombers are free to raom our institutions of higher learning (and even be employed by them - aka John Esposito, et all) we have all asked for big trouble.

Nearly three years ago HAMAS was dicussing launching small scale (under 100 dead) attacks on American schools - how many in positions of authority in acadme paid any attention at all?

MOst did not - but paid CAREFUL SCRUITY to the THUGGISH DEMANDS of groups like the AMERICAN MUSLIM COUNCIL, Ismaic Socity of North America and United Muslims Mocing Ahead.

Execpt More - MANY MORE.


Joan A. Conway

Colson: Never thought of the criminal mind as being unresponsive to the system.

An excellent discriminative study on a disturbed mind.

But I sort of want to believe that some of gthese peole have minds that can straddle both sides of the fence before or during the rampage.

I am now connected to the internet and can respond much quicker to blogs.

However do to surgery and rehabilitation I'll be gone for about two weeks starting on Wednesday.

Look forward to the opportunity to blog!


On a tangential note, how is it that in a putative age of Big Brother, when the whole of society lives under the Orwellian eye like some rat in a cage, that school shootings are becoming as prolific as the rhetoric which accompanies them?

When last I heard (told to me daily), my library card privileges, phone calls and emails were being monitored by every governmental agency with a vowel or consonant. In the next moment, we get to witness how any two-bit punk with a bitch and a shotgun can waltz into any academy this side of West Point and play John Wayne until the cows come home.

If this is the era of omni-surveillance, could one of the ministry boys behind the black curtain occasionally let the volk know that death is coming?


Joan A. Conway

Comedians laugh at their audience, because they fail to find death laughing at them funny.

An evening CTA bus ride of tired, but crude passengers erupts in outbursts exposing a disabled passenger's mortality relieves work-related stress shamelessly.

The nightly news commentator revealing her colleague's, Randy Salerno's snow mobile's death in Eagle River, Wisconsin, along with her unmasked delight at a chance for his TV spot, while commenting on the station's, WBBM Channel 2, lost does not hide that there is nothing personal about her news report.

A "split" right to the end between a reporter's emotion and her employment.

Relatives raiding their recently deceased loved one's, or friend's, belongings as if they were the spoils of war instead of the personal affects of the dead spouse, mother, father, sister or brother comes back to haunt them with guilt over their, perhaps young, greed.

Handling death requires experience so as not to be caught off-guard when it hits us or someone we love or befriended. And even that is never sufficient in all cases as our hearts break with the news. But going public with one's delight about one's advantage over the death of a colleague is nothing short of being a bad Radio moment.

Joan A. Conway

"11 medical journals adopted a policy meant to improve public access to study data - especially negative results that drug companies might want to keep to themselves," says Chicago Sun Times, Thursday, September xx, 2004, Medical editors: Don't let drug firms hide negative results.

"Honest reporting begins with revealing the existence of all clinical studies, even those that reflect unfavorable on a research sponsor's product."

"Their new policy stems from concerns that drug company sponsored studies with negative results rarely are submitted to medical journals."

"If follows recent revelations that unpublished data linked some anti-depressant drugs to suicidal behavior in children -- a concern that also prompted the AMA in June to call for a public research registry."

However, "The editors acknowledged that some drug companies could avoid the registry (voluntary Web-based registry of drug-companies studies) by trying to get research published elsewhere...some researchers might not agree to participate if they knew their results would never reach the top journals."

See, Dr. Drug Rep, The New Yourk Times Magazine, 11/26/07: "A year after starting my educational talks for drug companies (I had also given two talks for Forest Pharmaceuticals, pushing the antidepressant Lexapro), I quit."

Recently mailed to me about Revisions to Medication Guide, Medication Guide Antidepressant Medicines, Depression and other Serious Mental Illnesses and Suicidal Thoughts and Actions discussing the risk associated with antidepressant medicine.

1. Antidepressant medicines may increase suicidal thoughts or actions in some children, teenagers, and young adults when the medicine is first started, or/and (when the dose is changed).

2. Depression and other serious mental illnesses are the most important causes of suicidal thoughts and actions. Some people may have a particularly high risk of having suicidal thoughts or actions. These include people who have (or have a family history of) bipolar illness (also called manic-depressive illness) or suicidal thoughts or actions.

I think any investigation into what caused this massive crime must include the drugs that were taken, who prescribed them and who manufactured them.

John Doe

Why would showing more coverage of the victims necessarily lead to would be suicide-murderers choosing to drop the murder part and die in solitude? If they wanted to just commit suicide, they'd do so now. Maybe the reasoning is that they kill others to bring attention to their own deaths and thus covering them in the media only encourages others who want to die in ignominy to commit murders as well. However, there is a serious (and seemingly ignored) possibility that these people only commit suicide because they don't want to deal with the aftermath of their murders but that their goal is to murder, not to commit suicide. In that sense, they would be akin to suicide bombers. If these suicide-murderers just want to die with the cameras rolling, Saul's suggestion is potentially helpful. But if these people kill to convey some kind of message, won't covering the victims make their intended message more widespread and thus actually promote more violence of this kind? It seems to me that we need to first try to figure out why these people do what they do before we try to solve the problem. Of course, this is infinitely difficult considering they usually kill themselves in the act. We could try to basically not cover these events at all in order to guard against both risks, but that seems unreasonable and impossible in a free press society where people demand this type of news. In fact, if the media is simply pandering to what people want to hear, there is a massive collective action problem involved in suggesting that the media change its focus from the shooters to the victims. After all, the shooter is what everyone wants to know about. Why did he do it? Who was he? In a free market economy with a free press how can we expect news agencies to divert their focus from what people demand to know? The suggestion is therefore both likely to lead to a bad outcome and practically impossible to implement.


Roach, I'd be remiss in not pointing out that the Branch Dividians had as many weapons stockpiled as is feasible for citizens and it certainly didn't help them much. Same with Weaver. In fact it lead to their demise.

I'd also be remiss in not pointing out that it was nonviolence that lead to equal civil rights, not guns. Yea MLK. We shall overcome.


Lone wolves don't get too far.

Every "march" from Selma to Birmingham featured armed citizens.

The American Revolutionaries got pretty far, methinks, as did less savor sorts like the Algerian FLN.

Samir Chopra

Let me just add one data-point for the claim that non-violence can also lead to radical change: the independence movement in India, which largely deployed mass civil disobedience as a sand-in-the-wheels-of-the-empire tactic. Those marches did not feature any armed citizens whatsoever. To be sure, other factors contributed to eventual independence but the struggle did not need widespread use of firearms.

Anonymous Bosch


Came across this brief recap of campus shootings in the last decade (http://news.esearchnet.com/1110/20080215/20080215084308_D8UQS3FG0/us/us/ ), which would seem to argue against your assertion that such shootings are less likely to happen "in areas of high gun ownership, like the south and the west."

By my count, there were 8 such incidents in the south and west, and 6 in the north and east (assuming Washington state is counted as the latter). We can bump that number up to 7 by including the recent murder of Amadou Cisse here at U of C - not sure why he's not included here, except perhaps that his killer seems to have had nothing to do with the University).

In any case, there do not seem to be less such incidents in areas of high gun ownership, as you contend.


It's not just "campus shootings," it's mass shootings. There were two black mass shooters in the last few weeks; one at a city council in Missouri and one at a department store in the Chicago area. They've received significantly less air time. But the victims are just as dead.

Plus, campuses are often by statute gun free zones, even for CHL holders. So shooters know that they are less likely to run into problems than they would at, say, a NASCAR event.

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