Mass shootings often demand stricter gun control laws or mental health assessments, but what if all the attention around controlling the weapons is only distracting us from paying attention to the problem at large? That problem is the shooters and more importantly their inability to control the power that comes with being born a white man.
On Aug. 3, 2019, a gunman walked into a Wal-Mart and then shot and killed 22 people in El Paso, Texas. The shooter walked out of the store, raised his hands in surrender and said, “I’m the shooter.” He admitted to police that he was targeting Mexican individuals.
According to the New York Times, a 2,300-word manifesto speaking of a “Hispanic invasion of Texas” and warning that white people were “being replaced by foreigners” appeared online nineteen minutes before the first 911 call about the shooter’s presence in Wal-Mart. It was thought to be written by the shooter. It specifically mentions that the writer “[supports] the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto.”
On March 15, 2019, a gunman walked into a New Zealand mosque during prayer and killed 51 people. The Australian citizen wrote and published an anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant manifesto before his attack.
One month later, on April 27, 2019, a gunman walked into a synagogue in Poway, California, during Passover and opened fire, killing 1 woman. His anti-Jew criticism was published on the same online message board where the document potentially tied to the El Paso attack was found. It too quotes the Christchurch shooter.
Imagine parents shielding their child from bullets while on a quick run for diapers and the lost lives of children who would be starting kindergarten for the first time this fall. When you consider El Paso, however, a town populous with immigrants targeted by a shooter with a past of publishing content about white supremacy, this becomes a very different situation.
The shooters in California and Ohio both had a notable past of practicing and encouraging either white supremacy or violence. People of color become walking targets. They are the hated and the despised. They are the Emmett Tills and Eric Garners of America.
These communities can’t afford to stop talking. The stress of fighting for their equality is, quite literally, killing activists, like Erica Garner. Their lives depend on you not forgetting that they exist, that they deserve to exist, and that they deserve security, justice, equality, and rest.
Should any of us hold this hopelessness too close, it may dare to turn to pity, or worse, white guilt – the feeling of guilt for what white people, people of my own race, have done. It may lead to my feeling guilty for being born with privilege and daring to ask that the victims and activists to be mindful of my comfort and be gentler with their words because “I didn’t choose to be born white.”
I grieve a nation where violence is somehow accepted as a fact of daily news, but more so, I grieve the American culture that young white men are born into and the standards they are pressured to achieve. I grieve the president and the fear and violence he has incited in his “jokes,” which sometimes I find funny myself, sitting just down the hall from my neighbors, people of color, who do not hear jokes, but a threat to their lives and another reassurance that America will never be a safe place for them.
This is about gun control, but it’s also about the white men born into a country that breeds in them high standards, insecurities, and fear of losing something. It’s about men who have likely endured trauma and never given the opportunity to work through it.
All countries have video games and all countries have mental illness. While we are not the anomaly the media wants us to believe we are, as gun violence is not unique to the United States, few other countries come close to seeing what we have seen in scattered terroristic mass shootings, almost always committed with militarist semi-automatic rifles.
In 2013, the FBI reported that over 96% of mass shooters are men. I am a white woman. These shooters are my cousins, my father, my uncles, my friends. They are the men who never learned that fear-incited violence is not the solution to getting what you want, when you want it.
According to the National Alliance for Mental Illness, those with mental illness are more likely to be victims rather than perpetrators. Someone who opens fire on a group of people is not of a healthy mind, but they are rarely mentally ill.
In FBI records of past shootings, researchers have found that an attacker’s first source of weapons is to borrow or steal guns from family members or friends. Once these attackers have a will, they will find a way.
Our problem is not video games. Our problem is the young men without role models, without direction, without compassion, and, should they be born into the world a white man, destined to a life of power and modern American influences that can, and will, quickly lead to radicalization.