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Posted at 10:40 AM ET, 07/23/2012

Aurora shooting: Why?

It was a work weekend for me, covering the shooting in Colorado from the Post newsroom, and at the end of it, having contributed to several stories, I can’t say I understand even approximately why the shooting happened, why quiet men sometimes explode in violence, and how someone could so hate the world and depersonalize his fellow citizens that he would kill people who were just trying to enjoy a movie.

Can we ever make sense of “senseless violence” or is that a fool’s errand?

You have to ponder how easily he obtained enough ammo to take out a small city. Gun laws: Discuss.

I’ll be working on this a bit more and trying to find some answers to the question of why this country has so much violence, and whether it is more or less violent than it used to be, and how it compares to other countries, and what exactly we can do about it.

I wrote a piece online Saturday saying the motive was hard to nail down. Nothing much has changed there. Even if he really did say he was the Joker, that’s not a motive. We have no information so far about psychiatriac illness, and no indication that, like the Virginia Tech shooter, the Aurora gunman showed signs of being mentally disturbed or dangerous.

So far what we know about this crime is gleaned from his actions and not any direct statements. It looks like a twisted scene from a comic book or a computer game — overkill, theatricality, perpetrated by a guy in an elaborate SWAT-team outfit. The forensic psychiatrist I spoke to Friday said that invariably these crimes are committed by young men who are sexual failures and who try to make up for that with elaborate acts of violence — proving their manliness through destruction.

There’s an obvious element here of attention-seeking, of trying to become famous, and the media play a role there that puts us in a difficult situation — we don’t want to reward the killer with attention, and thereby create an incentive for copy-cats. At the same time, we need to know why this happened, whether warning signs were missed, and how we might stop the next such explosion of madness. I think we need to ask questions while being careful not to turn the perp into a perverse celebrity.

The suspect will appear in court today and maybe we’ll get a few more answers. Or maybe there is nothing to explain. Evil happens. People are violent. Anyone can order 6,000 rounds of ammunition online. Nothing new here, just more mayhem and lunacy.

By  |  10:40 AM ET, 07/23/2012

 
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