Bent On Evil

There exists no simple formula to define or classify a multiple killer like Cho Seung-hui, the killer at Virginia Tech.

Gun culture, violent films and video games are certainly aggravating factors in modern criminal violence, but they are surely not the only cause, or else shootings like the one at Virginia Tech would be happening more often - taking into consideration how many young people have access to such violent material. Interestingly, there is a potential correlation between a mass murderer and a terrorist suicide bomber; both are often dissatisfied with society, both want revenge, both want to be immortalized on their way out. And just as suicide bombers come from all walks of life, so do mass murderers.

Banning guns might seem like a nifty solution for apparatchiks of various anti-gun advocacy groups, but in reality it would not have much effect on such mass murders. In fact, if someone had been carrying a gun on them in Norris Hall to use in self defense, Cho might have been disabled long before he did all that shooting (over 200 shots). As hard as it might be for some people to believe, gun control does not necessarily mean a reduction in murder rates.

For example, consider homicide rates not involving firearms. The U.S. statistics rank higher than many European countrys' total murder rates, while Mexico, the Philippines and Taiwan have no-gun homicide rates higher than the U.S. total murder rate. Furthermore, 27.2 percent of Swiss nationals own hundreds of thousands of fully automatic rifles in their homes as part of their national defense; Switzerland has a low firearm homicide rate. Yet Great Britain with its draconian gun laws has a higher firearm murder rate. In the long run, if potential mass killers didn't have access to firearms (an unlikely prospect even if the gun laws were changed) they would just turn to other weapons to commit their crime, a bomb being a likely choice.

Violence has been commonplace throughout America's history; it is not a new phenomenon in some way brought about by modern culture. It could be due to America being an immigrant society, where everyone had to fend for themselves and people were suspicious of newcomers who spoke different languages and risked taking away their source of livelihood. Immigrants to America often had to cope with extortion and violence from thugs and mobs when they arrived. For example the "Black Hand" gang preyed on the early Italian community of New York, dynamite being their default device for extortion. In effect, violence tends to be more prevalent in non-homologous populations, like the United States, Mexico, Canada and Australia and than in "indigenous" nations such as in Europe where the populations have ancestral roots. It should be added that studies reveal that criminal violent behavior is more commonplace in countries that have large income inequality, such as Brazil, Mexico, the Philippines, South Africa and the United States, but that does not signify there is a higher instance of mass homicide; Iraq, Japan and Russia have had their share of terrorist related mass murder sprees, for instance.

As hard as psychologists, psychiatrists and sociologists have tried, defining a future mass murderer is still not possible. Anything published to the contrary is just suspect science that has merely upheld deeply ingrained, erroneous beliefs. Professor Dr. Goertzel of Rutgers University gave excellent advice concerning statistical analysis:

"When presented with an econometric model, consumers should insist on evidence that it can predict trends in data other than the data used to create it. Models that fail this test are junk science, no matter how complex the analysis."

Actually, if there is any link between violence and mental illness, it is that the mentally ill are most often the victims. Scientifically, there just isn't a solid link between, say an aggressive child and a pathological adult, nor is there one for frustrated social outcasts, or for those who see injustice in society. Everyone that has been to school has probably seen odd and aggressive behavior in classmates, or has seen excessively shy and isolated students, yet only a miniscule proportion of such people have ever morphed into psycho killers. Singling out potential mass killers or trying to stereotype them is not possible.

Looking for scapegoats in a case like this is only a consoling diversion from reality. This was an unsystematic, horrific crime perpetrated by an evil youth. As the old maxim says, "He who is bent on evil can never want occasion."