When evil comes armed
I learned there is no good way to explain a mass-shootings to a seven-year-old. But I don’t have to. My son does. My daughters do. I wouldn’t be able to. No one has ever explained it to me.
I once believed mass-killing was an act of insanity. That the murderer was urged on by voices in his head, forced into the act by uncontrollable impulses. I liked believing this. Insanity makes sense. Take away the mitigation of insanity all that is left is evil. Insanity can be explained. Evil is another sort of animal.
Since this past Sunday I have been thinking a great deal about what Stephen Paddock felt as he planned and then unleashed his carnage. I don’t believe he felt the elation or bliss of insanity, but more likely loathing. Isn’t that what evil is, a loathing of humanity.
His brother says “he was just a guy.” And this scares me. How many “just guys” capable of such loathing are out there? I fear such loathing is more prevalent in our culture that we may care to admit. Perhaps our culture even nourishes such a thing.
I have a friend back in Texas who considers himself a “prepper” … a person who readies himself for the coming apocalypse. One Sunday afternoon we are in his backyard drinking a beer. He had just returned from three days on “the property,” a place in the middle of nowhere that he and his extended family intend to meet when the world goes to pot. They stockpile food and firearms, they strategize and run practice drills defending “the property” against the hordes that are sure to one day come.
Birds were singing, sun was shining, my friend’s head was bowed in introspection when he says, “I have come to the conclusion I will one day be forced to do it.”
I knew exactly what it was he meant but I asked anyway. I wanted him to actually say it. “Do what?”
Head still bowed, somberly he says. “Take another man’s life.”
“Why?” I ask.
“To protect the property from the hordes,” he answers. My friend was not only prepping by storing food, firearms and ammunition, he was emotionally prepping for the loathing … the loathing of the hordes … of which I am one.
I allowed my friend a moment to dwell before I said, “You have been preparing for this.”
He nods and solemnly grunts, “Yes, I have.”
I allowed another moment for him to dwell then asked, “What preparations have you made to avoid this?” He was silent. My friend … he’s just a guy.
I know many people, just guys, who entertain the same emotional exercise … preparing to loathe. I know “just guys” who have concrete vaults built into their home to store row upon row of assault rifles and sniper rifles, tens of thousands round of ammunition, every rifle, every bullet waiting for permission to loathe a human being like it was created to do.
Out of the 300 million firearms in civilian hands in the United States, half are owned by only 3 percent of the population. Coincidently, 3 percent of our population are also sociopaths. Four percent are psychopaths. Stephen Paddock was just one point in tens of thousands where these statistics intersect; a person who loathes and owns guns, an empowered evil.
I am not against gun ownership. I support the principle of our Second Amendment. I also support control over gun ownership. Effectively fully automated assault rifles, sniper rifles, silencers, openly carried or concealed are not innocent things. These are things designed, intended for the expression of loathing of others and that is all. Evil like that embodied within Stephen Paddock will always be with us. There is little we can do about this but we do not have to arm such evil.
I wonder, was Stephen Paddock born this evil? Or was he born with just a little evil and it somehow became nurtured, allowed to fester and then allowed expression.
I think of the answers my kids need to come up with to give an answer to their kids. “Why did this man do this?”
Insanity would be the easy answer to give. Insanity can be explained. But it was evil that was looking down the sights of gun while loathing the people below. How does one explain evil to a child? And when the child asks, “Why did evil have a gun?” There is but one answer … we gave it to him. This is all I have learned today.
James Wares lives in Marshalltown and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org