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Treat it as seriously as militant Islam

During the Cold War, Ian Fleming observed that “once is happenstance, twice is coincidence, the third time it’s enemy action.” So it is here. It would be both too glib and too simplistic to smother the details of these attacks beneath a single word such as “horror” or a catchall euphemism such as “senseless.” In America, as abroad, we see our fair share of inexplicable violence. But the patterns on display over the last few years have revealed that we are contending here not with another “lone wolf,” but with the fruit of a murderous and resurgent ideology — white supremacy — that deserves to be treated by the authorities in the same manner as has been the threat posed by militant Islam.

We will see a myopic focus on guns in the coming days, tied to a broader discussion of America’s “mass shooting problem.” This will be a mistake — not because America does not have such a problem, but because to focus on limiting a certain tool in a country with half a billion of those tools in circulation and a constitutional provision protecting their ownership is to set oneself up for guaranteed failure. In the last decade, we have watched in horror as devastating attacks have been carried out with the help of trucks, cars, bombs, grenades, incendiary devices, matches and more. The task before us, to nip this grotesque insurgency in the bud, should transcend our debates over means.

From “Crush This Evil,” by the editors of the National Review.

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White-supremacist terror is rooted in a pack, a community. And its violent strand today is being fed by three distinct, but complementary, creeds. The community has essentially found a mission, kinship and acceptance.

First, the mission. Young white men today are the last generation of Americans born when white births outnumbered those of nonwhites. Seven years ago, the Census Bureau reported that minorities, particularly Hispanics, were the majority of newborns in the U.S., a trend that will continue. …

Second, the kinship. White-supremacist terrorism has what amounts to a dating app online, putting like-minded individuals together both through mainstream social media platforms and more remote venues, such as 8chan, that exist to foster rage. It is online, much like Islamic terrorism, that white supremacy finds its friends, colleagues who both validate and amplify the rage. …

Finally, the acceptance. It is too simplistic to blame President Donald Trump and his inflammatory rhetoric for the rise of white-supremacist violence. But that doesn’t mean his language isn’t a contributing factor. Historically, racist ideologies don’t die; Nazism survived World War II, after all. They just get publicly shamed. Communities evolve to isolate once acceptable racism or xenophobia. But they can also devolve back to hate.

From “There are no lone wolves,” by Juliette Kayyem, a former assistant secretary at the Department of Homeland Security, writing for the Washington Post.


More guns per person; more ammo per gun

Many factors can of course play a role in any individual shooting. But when you want to explain why America sees so many of these mass shootings in general — 268 so far in 2019, by one estimate — and why America suffers more gun violence than other developed nations, none of these factors gives a satisfying answer. Only guns are the common variable.

To put it another way: America doesn’t have a monopoly on racism, sexism, other kinds of bigotry, mental illness or violent video games. All of those things exist in countries across the world, many with much less gun violence. What is unique about the U.S. is that it makes it so easy for people with any motive or problem to obtain a gun.

From “Guns are the problem,” by German Lopez in Vox.

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The lethality of military-style rifles is self-evident: Six of the deadliest mass shootings in the last 10 years all included military-style firearms. But large-capacity magazines — generally defined as ammunition-feeding devices holding more than 10 rounds — are arguably even more dangerous than the guns themselves: A study last year found roughly half of recent mass shootings involved them. A growing consensus among criminologists is that, as deadly as military-style weapons are, the critical factor that multiplies the mayhem is not necessarily the style of the weapon but the size of the magazines. …

Nevertheless, even with this bloodshed directly attributable to enlarged magazines, the gun industry remains poised to release a new generation of them that are lighter weight, more reliable and higher capacity. Until now, some of the most common large magazines held 30 rounds of ammunition. This newer generation with better antifriction “self-lubricating” technology ranges from 40 to 100 rounds. …

It seems clear that, at least for now, the United States is not going to seriously restrict the sale of military-style weapons. But we can at least restrict the tragic capabilities of their firepower. Judges shouldn’t stand in the way. The Constitution certainly doesn’t.

From “There’s No Second Amendment Right to Large-Capacity Magazines,” by Robert J. Spitzer, a professor and the author of five books on gun policy, writing in the New York Times.


Words have consequences

The president’s defenders have taken great offense to the notion that any of his actions or rhetoric have contributed to what happened in El Paso, but this defense is deeply flawed. …

It doesn’t require an overt appeal to violence to motivate an ideological extremist to engage in violence. Indeed, individuals often move from being a passive supporter of a cause to a mobilized killer when their political grievances are amplified, and their enemies are dehumanized.

So when Trump goes on Twitter and television calling migrants “invaders” and dehumanizes them by suggesting they are “infesting” America, he is motivating aggrieved individuals to take action into their own hands by using violence.

From “We must call the El Paso shooting what it is: Trump-inspired terrorism,” by David Schanzer in the Guardian.


Not all gamers; the ‘aggrieved’ ones

Republicans have found a culprit to blame for this weekend’s dual mass shootings, and it’s not guns or white nationalism. It’s video games. …

But, although these Republicans probably don’t know it, there is a clear and obvious connection between video games, white nationalist terrorism, and the image board where the El Paso shooter posted his manifesto. That connection is GamerGate, the campaign of misogynistic harassment by aggrieved gamers that began in 2014, and which moved to 8chan from 4chan when the latter refused to allow GamerGaters to use that board for coordinated harassment campaigns and doxing. …

Although some researchers have claimed to find a link between video gaming and aggression, meta-analyses suggest that this connection is weak or nonexistent. That makes sense, because the community of people who play video games is both vast and diverse, while the people who commit mass shootings are both few in number and overwhelmingly male. Nearly as many women report that they play video games as men, and there are no significant racial differences in who plays and who doesn’t. …

Because gaming is so vast, it’s clear that the specific grievances of GamerGate — that women should not be allowed to criticize games from a feminist perspective and that industry attempts to increase diversity are ruining games for “real” gamers — had to do with the entitlement of an angry subculture of men within gaming, not the content of the games themselves.

From “The Real Connection Between Video Games and Mass Shootings,” by Evan Urquhart at Slate.


Accurate prediction is statistically futile

“Mental illness and hatred pulls the trigger, not the gun,” Trump said on Monday. …

The truth is: It’s largely a myth that poor mental health is associated with mass violence. … What’s more, there are serious mental health care shortages in America, and Trump and his Republican allies tried to push legislation for much of his early presidency that would have potentially limited it even further.

The only personal factors that reliably correlate with mass shooters are being young and being male. There are a lot of angsty young men in this country. That makes prediction hard.

But what makes prediction even harder is just how rare these instances of mass shooting are. … Even if we said one in a million people will become mass murderers, that would be too high an estimate. There are 323 million people in the United States.

The fact that there are so few mass shooters and so many more harmless people makes it actually mathematically impossible to predict who might become a mass shooter.

From “This cartoon explains why predicting a mass shooting is impossible,” by Brian Resnick and Javier Zarracina at Vox.


Young men who feel they have no future

The most important words from the El Paso killer’s writings are in this line: “My whole life I have been preparing for a future that currently doesn’t exist.”

How can a country with so much prosperity produce humans that value their blessings so little? How can young men entering a world of promise feel so cheated and see no future? Yet they do. And they’re not alone. Spend time talking to millennials and Gen Z and their perception of their own experience is astonishingly bleak. The increased number of suicides is proof of their hopelessness. Why are they so sad and frustrated?

Maybe it’s that they have everything materially, but their lives lack meaning. Despair dead-ends into nihilism. Maybe murder is a response to nothing. At least rage is something. And rage is powerful. It must seem better than the alternative.

How do we solve that problem? How do we help young men, especially, feel like their lives have meaning? That the supposed deep thinkers are blaming their political enemies demonstrates how pathetic our intellectual class really is. These mass murderers are multiplying, and the common thread isn’t politics. It’s powerlessness in a sea of prosperity.

From “The Common Thread Binding These Mass Murderers,” by Melissa Mackenzie in the American Spectator, in a column that also focuses on media complicity.


Meant to protect; does the opposite

It’s time that we help ourselves. And we can start by understanding and declaring that the Second Amendment is a failure.

It’s not just a failure because guns are used so widely, and to such ill effect. The Second Amendment of the U.S. Constitution is a failure because the right to bear arms — the right it so famously defends — is supposed to protect Americans from violence. Instead, it endangers them. …

On balance, guns do more harm in America than good. The damages are easily measured, while the benefits are mostly theoretical and rare. …

A healthy understanding of the right to self-defense should include the reasonable expectation of safety in both private and public places.

From “The Second Amendment has failed America,” by Joel Mathis in The Week.


The people must use their power

Instead of sensibly regulating gun purchases and possession, Texas and other gun-lobby protectorates have outsourced their responsibilities to the “good guy with a gun.” Yet time and again, people are shot before the good guy, who in reality almost always wears a badge, can stop the carnage. Ohio law-enforcement officers encountered the Dayton shooter within a minute. It was too late. There are countless cases of accidental shootings, rage-induced homicides and alcohol-fueled attacks for each instance of an armed civilian stopping a shooting. A recent Federal Bureau of Investigation report gives zero credence to the good-guy-with-a-gun myth.

Until the superheroes turn up, laws will have to do. The U.S. House passed a hugely popular comprehensive background-check bill in February, along with legislation to close the loophole that let a racist mass murderer acquire the weapon he used in a church in Charleston, S.C., in 2015.

Senate Republicans have failed to act on both those proposals. That will change only if more Americans demand it — and send a clear message to their representatives that voting against gun safety will cost them on Election Day.

This time can be different. But only if we reward political leaders who protect public safety, and drive those who don’t from public office.

From “Don’t Let This Moment Pass,” from former New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg on Bloomberg Opinion.