Opinion | Why Does Our Society Produce So Many Mass Murderers?

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To the Editor:

I strongly support common-sense measures such as banning military-style assault weapons, for heaven’s sake.

But I wonder if we are failing to address the deeper root of these recurring, nightmarish tragedies: How is it that our society continues to produce such highly disturbed mass murderers on such a regular basis?

Of course, we debate the issue of mental health, which is extremely relevant. But why do these very disturbed and violent individuals keep appearing? And why does so much of the “entertainment” in our society present scenes of violence? What kind of people are we?

A letter like this cannot begin to address these questions, but along with practical solutions like banning assault weapons, don’t we need to do some serious national soul-searching? Could we take a deeper look into our hearts and minds, and our way of life, to seek out the deeper, human causes of these endlessly recurring, horrific tragedies?

Why is there so much hatred, resentment and violence in our society? (And in our world, for that matter: Do we really need to threaten each other with nuclear weapons?) As human beings — and Americans — can’t we do better? Is it possible?

In recent decades we have made incredible advances in technology. Perhaps by focusing our attention, we could also find ways to become better human beings?

James Culnan
La Crescenta, Calif.

To the Editor:

I am a life member of the National Rifle Association and for 20 years represented the N.R.A. and the firearms manufacturers before the United Nations.

The horrific murder of children in Nashville makes it crystal clear what needs to be done. It is time to ban all assault-style weapons.

The incredible rate of deadly fire from these weapons belies any idea that the solutions to the school shooting epidemic lie in “hardening the target” through armed teachers or more school security officers.

In the 14 minutes it took to dispatch the Nashville shooter, three children and three adults died. In Uvalde, a legion of macho Texas cops cowered before the idea of one shooter with an AR-15.

Even under the current case law, established in District of Columbia v. Heller and McDonald v. City of Chicago, a ban would not affect real Second Amendment rights to self-defense.

Thomas Mason
Portland, Ore.

To the Editor:

“Judge America by the Number of Small Coffins It Tolerates,” by Esau McCaulley (Opinion guest essay, March 31), and “Beware the Heckler’s Veto,” by Jamelle Bouie (column, April 2), speak eloquently after the carnage in Nashville.

One speaks of the young lives cut short because collectively we have clearly failed to do enough. The other speaks to the growing movement, veiled as “parents’ rights,” to choose what books, thoughts and images our children can be exposed to.

How is it that the anti-woke and vehement parents’ rights movements and their supporting politicians are so committed to shielding children from ideas and thoughts, yet remain absolutely opposed to any meaningful gun control, which is something that could protect children’s actual lives?

They should join the majority of Americans who are sick of the Nashvilles, the Parklands, etc., etc. There will be more if we remain unshocked and incapable of meaningful action.

Daniel Smith

To the Editor:

As we yet again collectively mourn the slaughter of our nation’s innocent children as a result of gun violence, perhaps we should take a lesson from Emmett Till’s mother, who decided to have pictures of her brutally murdered beloved son published in some national magazines.

At least some parents of these unfortunate youngsters killed by gunfire might be similarly willing to have the mutilated corpses publicly displayed. The horror of mangled bodies changed minds in the 1950s. Perhaps they could have the same effect now.

James A. Steinberg
Rhinebeck, N.Y.

To the Editor:

Watching the demonstrations in Israel has been a depressing experience, but at least Israelis have taken action in opposition to their government’s overreach.

Compare that to America, where children are regularly victims of gun violence. Where is the outrage? Why aren’t protests happening on the streets of every city? We pay attention to the latest atrocity for a couple of days and then move on.

It’s easy to sit back and blame gun groups and politicians, but the real blame belongs to all of us. If you want change, there’s a lesson to be learned from Israel.

Jeff Zalles
Santa Rosa, Calif.
The writer is a former member of the Brady Campaign Against Gun Violence.

Play Cheaper Ball!

To the Editor:

Re “With Rule Changes, a Timeless Game Is Speeding Up” (On Baseball, March 27):

As a longtime baseball fan, I will withhold judgment on the new rules being implemented this season. They could very well have the desired impact on the game, making it faster, more exciting and of more interest to a younger crowd.

I think the commissioner and owners will be disappointed, however, if they expect these new rules to bring fans back to the stadiums, where attendance has been declining for years.

Fans are not staying away from stadiums because of the length of the games; they’re staying away because they can’t afford to go anymore.

It should not cost $150 to $200 for my son and me to go to Wrigley Field to see the Cubs. Forget about taking the whole family. But after I’ve bought two $50 tickets, two $11 beers, two pieces of pizza at $12 each and paid for parking, that’s what we’re talking about.

Another shift the owners should consider, for the good of the game, is to lower the cost of attending one.

Jim Leftwich
Wilmette, Ill.

Listen to Your Adversary

To the Editor:

Re “The Biggest Loss on Campus? Listening,” by Pamela Paul (column, March 31), which described an incident at Stanford Law School in which protesters repeatedly interrupted a federal appeals court judge’s speaking engagement:

I applaud Ms. Paul for her persuasive defense of listening. It should be obvious, but it appears lost on otherwise incisive thinkers that listening fosters greater understanding, intellectual growth, even empathy.

Moreover, as an attorney, I can promise the future litigators at Stanford Law that advancing one’s argument and challenging one’s adversary are severely limited without careful consideration of what such an adversary has to say.

And there’s also the quaint notion of common courtesy. Shouting in protest and interrupting a guest speaker are simply rude. Students who reject the opportunity to be open-minded and perhaps learn something new can opt not to attend the event.

Apart from the educational value of contemplating an abhorrent point of view, it’s not a bad way for students to practice navigating what is not always a friendly world.

Cathy N. Goldstein
New York

Daniel Ellsberg ‘Inspired So Many of Us’

To the Editor:

Re “Daniel Ellsberg’s Life Among Secrets,” by Alex Kingsbury (Opinion, March 26):

In discussing his impending death, Daniel Ellsberg acknowledges with characteristic honesty that his work on some important issues has not borne fruit. But may he leave us knowing that the courage and integrity behind his release of the Pentagon Papers inspired so many of us to strive to embody his values.

Heather Dubrow
New York

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