In the wake of the Aurora mass homicide, there is understandable grief. Like all terrible occurrences, there are questions why it happened. For better or worse, I do not believe there is an answer.
Of course, in this country and elsewhere, murders occur every day. A good number of victims are innocent people, children among them, who were minding their own business. These murders are committed for malicious reasons, during the perpetration of other crimes, and for no discernible reasons by persons described as insane or deranged. Mass killings by lone persons are usually the product of derangement, and because they happen at once, they grab our attention. Many more persons in this country are killing in car wrecks than by perpetrators using firearms or other hand weapons. Given the incidence of road rage these days, there is no doubt that a good number of fatal car wrecks are the result of the use of vehicles as a weapons. Deaths on the roadways are so commonplace that they rarely are reported outside of the immediate geographical area. But the mass murder is different in that respect and always results in a lot of collective hand-wringing.
After the Virginia Tech massacre several years ago, someone wrote that the truth is that there is nothing to be done, because a minuscule sub-set of human beings are insane and discovering who they are before the fact is near impossible. There is not much to add to that assessment.
There have been attempts on the left to re-start the gun control debate and calls to enact stringent gun control laws. That will not happen. In two divisive issues in this country where individual liberties come into stark juxtaposition with life and death, the public policy has come down on the side of individual liberty: gun control and abortion. We have decided that the Constitution recognizes that individuals have the right to possess the means of protection their persons and property, even if it means that some madman will occasionally misuse it and people will be killed. Similarly, we have decided that a woman has the right to individually make the decision, for whatever reason of her own, to abort a fetus, which is a potential or actual, depending on one’s view, human being. Neither public policy will change, unless we become a very different nation.
The fact is that none of us gets out of this world alive. What happens afterward is a matter of faith, conjecture, or pure speculation that we all have to come up with ourselves and may be one of the few places where one idea is as good as another. While many act as if God (nature, fate, or the Higgs boson) will make an exception in their case, that exception has not so far been proven to have happened, and is not a good bet. When it happens the most lucid statement that can be made is that is the time to go. Whether the grim reaper’s agent is a an evil person or madman with a gun, one’s own hand, disease or physical deterioration hardly matters to the persons concerned, as much as those who temporarily survive them might grieve.