When these atrocities happen, everyone asks, “Why did he do it?” Why did Steven Paddock fire ten minutes of automatic fire into a crowd of 2,000 people, kill 58, and wound around 500?
Some detectives have the theory that every crime must have a motive. Often if a prosecutor can’t find a credible motive, it helps the defendant get a “not guilty” decision in court.
Well, why did he do it?
Let’s think about it and see if we can come up with some answers.
One simple answer is that we can debate the existence of God and of heaven until the cows come home, but one thing seems incontrovertible: sin exists and evil exists. Most of us have experienced sin and evil, not only what others have done to us, but also in the secrets of our own hearts: the fantasies of hurting our enemies (or society at large), our temptations, our dreams, and our automatic responses (before they have time to be socialized).
Also, we can read about sin and evil in a newspaper every day. One of the main differences between Paddock’s shooting and the more ordinary, everyday sins is that Paddock was a very bright and competent man who had (it is said) millions of cash. The common criminal doesn’t have the wherewithal to buy 20 guns and thousands of shells, and doesn’t have the competence to pull something like this off.
This is the same argument that demonstrates that the Nazi’s didn’t do anything unusual during Hitler’s years. History is rampant with stories of genocide. Pol Pot in Cambodia, Stalin in Russian, Mao in China, and the Hutus in Rwanda are recent examples. In fact, the Old Testament is filled with stories of genocide: either the Israelis or their enemies killing every man, woman, child, and animal during their battles. It’ just that the Nazis had a more modern political machine and a higher developed technical war machine.
The story is as old as Adam eating the apple: man’s cruelty to man.
And we’re all guilty. We live in a democracy and we are responsible for our government. Who elects the representatives of the gun lobby?
And who’s responsible for global warming and what it did to Puerto Rico? (See article “Who’s responsible for Puerto Rico.”)
(Granted, there isn’t absolute evidence that man has created global warming, but 95% of scientists say this is the case, so we know as much about global warming as we know about anything.)
Does our conspicuous consumption and our draining the world of scarce, non-renewable resources have anything to do with the escalation of immorality in our society and in the world? Does Madonna imitating fornication and orgasm on stage have anything to do with the continuing AIDs and STDs crisis?
So, what can we do?
Perhaps we could get back to the 10 commandments, for instance: don’t kill, don’t lie, and don’t steal. Perhaps we can even add Jesus’ commandments: forgive to the same extent as you want to be forgiven; do good for evil; love your enemy; and sell everything you own and give it to the poor (OK, I agree, the last one is a little extreme.)
In other words, we could be a little more ethical in our individual lives. If you don’t like the commandments above, pick some that are better.
I once read a statistical study that showed the behavior of the average person affects the extremes of behavior. This seems to be the case.
When the average person cheats on their taxes, cheats on their wives, engages in irresponsible fornication, or chronically lies, in a mystical way, those people on the fringes of society do more extreme behavior.
For instance, when we have 1 million abortions a year, perhaps this influences a guy to buy automatic rifles, bust a hole in a hotel window, and kill 58 people.
Perhaps when we invade Iraq and kill up to 1 million innocent civilians, the assault and murder rates goes up in the U.S.
Poverty causes immorality
Paddock gives us some evidence against the argument that poor people have a moral blank check and an eternal excuse because their poverty causes dysfunctional behavior.
Paddock had it all. He retired early; his live-in girlfriend was madly in love with him; he lived a life of doing just what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it; he was a multi-millionaire; and, with his intellect and work habits, he had unlimited opportunity to do what he wanted with his life. But he chose to kill 58 innocent people. He was angry.
Example isn’t the best way to teach a child, but the only way
Perhaps the fact that Paddock’s father was a career criminal influenced both he and his brother to be criminals. Perhaps the 70% legitimacy rate (that is, fatherless families) in the African American community has something to do with African America men having four times the criminality rate as other groups in the society. Up to 70% of the young African American young boys don’t have a loving and responsible male example on how to live.
We can’t dismiss biology
Genetic determinates are much harder to locate. Perhaps there is a criminal gene, or a pathological gene, which both Paddock and his father seemed to have. However, genetic causes of behavior and talent (even the talent to deceive others and commit crimes) is taboo in this society. We must believe that we all are born with equal opportunity, that is, equal genes.
Many biologists and psychologists say that even if Paddock had the psychopathic gene, he still had a choice on whether to allow that gene to express itself or to control it. We have a mystical aspect of our personalities called “free will.”
So, these are some possible reasons why Paddock did it. But shhhh, don’t tell anyone. Regardless of what we say, many of us don’t really want to live in truth.
Davina Johns says
Hi RG! Need a few moment to organize my thoughts about this article!
Jim Johns says
Lets not blame guns for the havoc Paddock created. It was Paddocks mental state and Paddock himself who is to blame.
Interesting Mr. Johns. I might agree with you here. Why is it that whenever one of these incidents take place that the liberals all rush to blaming guns? its people who kill people .
I think you are right Sally. When Bin Laden had 2 planes fly into the world trade center, no one said that American Airlines was at fault and the solution is to have less planes. I just don’t get why people blame guns instead of holding the shooter himself responsible. Do you?
Right on. People kill people. I agree with all of you. Does anyone know why Paddock killed all these people?
Tx for your thoughtful reading of my article. I’m looking forward to your thoughts!
Jim, Sally, Maria, and Jeff,
Tx for your lively discussion on this phenomenon, and our attempts to explain it. You may be right, people are responsible for mass killings, not guns. However, as we have seen, there is always an antithesis. And here is one:
After a mass shooting in Australia, they ramped up the gun control laws, and outlawed guns like semi-automatic weapons. The incidents of murder went rapidly down. The same thing happened in England, where there are hardly any guns. In Japan, where there are also hardly any guns they have around a 50x less homicide rate.
Here’s an interesting question for you: What is the need for an individual American to have a semi-automatic rifle?
Tx again for your contribution to our pursuit of truth,
Jim Thorpe says
Nonsense. I think they should ban all guns. The thought that people kill people is ridiculous. In the words of Bob Dylan: “Imagine” a world without any guns. Would you then say that People kill People with knives. Maybe – by a fewer number only.
RG your last comment cherry picks the countries. For each country you listed, I could find two where there was an inverse correlation. Just in Europe we have France, Germany, Belgium, Switzerland of the top of my head that show stick gun control yet higher deaths. Here at home lets take a look at Chicago. Although it has the countries strictest gun control regulations, the crime rate there is off the charts.
Tx for your comment. I agree with you, there are countries and cities that have an inverse correlation between gun control and gun violence (and murder). You present an antithesis, and I believe the antitheses are as valuable as support for the thesis — in this case, “Increased gun control will decrease gun violence.”
Perhaps our readers can contribute some more arguments on both sides and see if we can arrive at a synthesis. Then one of us can run for office, get enough power to do something about gun violence, and everything will be better.
But is the meantime, I guess we have to do what we can — with the limited about of resources we have (including our limited minds).
Let me offer you a thought experiment: What would happen if we successfully eliminated all semi-automatic weapons — including all ammunition for them. All that would be left would be single- shot pistols and hunting rifles. Would the probability of incidents of mass murders be then lessened?
Another response to your thoughtful comment: One reason for the uncontrollable gun violence in some communities–even with strict gun control laws (1) — is the absence of loving, responsible, contributory, and law abiding fathers. Many young men in minority communities in Chicago have no loving and responsible fathers to emulate. This is the elephant in the room.
(1). Since guns are so easily transported and sold across state lines, there would have to be national gun control laws for any laws to be significantly effective.
tx again for your comment.
Dubey Daniels says
Thorpe, please come back to reality. The facts do not support your claims. Maria is right. In Chicago laws are strict yet crime is high. Would be interesting to see you deny this.
Hi RG, I think you’re right there are many reasons why someone like Paddock would do what he did. And I strongly agree that sins exists, and evil exists. And humans have flaws but we shouldn’t make our humanness be the justification for us to lash out and be angry with others.
Thanks for your thoughtful comment.
I perceive what you are saying is that since there is the existence of sin and evil (which who can deny?), we shouldn’t use this reality as an excuse for our sinning and engaging in evil. I guess this is a reason for a main commandment throughout all civilization has been: “Don’t sin.”
I believe your insight in the reality of sin and evil could save the intelligentsia of this society a whole lot of trouble, a whole lot of paper, and a whole lot of hot air.
If we could accept the fact that sin and evil is a cause for many of our problems (and has always been a major cause (1), we could work on how to lessen the effects of sin and evil, This is opposed to solving the problems of sin and evil by blaming it on the rich, on inequality, on psychological problems, on our parents, on unisex bathrooms, or on unequal consumption of goods and services.
One way we could fight against sin and evil is by being an example ourselves. We could live in a way that if everyone lived like us, it would be a good world (Kant’s categorical imperative). If we didn’t want to do this, we could just obey the Ten Commandments. If we didn’t want to this this, we could just obey Jesus’ two: love God and love one another.
Another way we could fight against sin is to pass laws against sloth (an historical cardinal sin). We could guarantee everyone a meaningful, contributory job at minimum wage (plus benefits, such as health insurance), and then require that ex-convicts, many of the frauduently disabled, the poor, the single mothers, and the non-performing students, over the age of 18, to work at these jobs.
We also could fight avarice (another serious sin) but taxing the equity of the obscenely rich and the obscenely higher income groups (like CEOs, professional athletes and high-end financial investors). Obscenity has been another historical sin.
How could any of these people deny the fact that every citizen of this country should have a job at minimum wage? (See my policy on guaranteed employment.)
Thus, the top 1%, and others, could pay for this guarantee of a minimum wage job (at least a 20-hour-week job at $10 and hour) to start. (See my policy on guaranteed employment.)
(1) Thus perhaps one of the major causes of many wars is the tendency to disobey the 4,000 year old commandment: Don’t steal. Perhaps tribes and countries invading others and taking their goods (while killing them) is not much different than people in race riots stealing from stores or young kids shoplifting (which I, myself, engage in, as a kid — not because I was poor, unequal, or psychologically troubled, but because I liked to steal.)
Rachel Moss says
I think the question we should be most concerned about aside from why did he do it, is that, what can we do to prevent him or other people like him who has been planning to do something like this
I couldn’t agree with you more. “The answers, my friend, are blowin in the wind.” In this case, the answers are a hurricane slapping us in the face: Outlaw, nationally, all guns except pistols and hunting rifles, and then minimize the pistols. All through Europe — and every other developed country — they do this, and guess what? There’s fewer mass shooting, if any.
Of course, there will always be some nut cases who will shoot up the place. But this is because there is evil in the world. How we get rid of evil is a whole other question!
I believe we could easily end this kind of gun violence, just as we could get rid of war, poverty, global warming, and much disease. We only need the political will — of everyone. But tell this to Putin, Trump, ISIS, North Korea, and Iran. Oh well, all we can really do is our little part. But, hey, let’s do it!