Update: Christopher Martinez’s father, Richard, has spoken out on gun control, watch what he has to say here:
While we in Ireland kept and eye on our local and European election results this weekend, news emerged from the US of a mass shooting. This time it happened in California, where 22-year-old student Elliot Rodger, apparently disgruntled at his lack of success with women, shot three students at the University of California at Santa Barbara. Prior to this, it appears that Rodger killed his three roommates; The Daily Telegraph reports that he had previously rowed with them over some candles worth $22. Rodger reportedly killed himself during a stand-off with police.
Much has been made of Rodger’s misogyny, which appears to have been the main motivation behind his rampage, and his membership of various PUA (Pick-Up Artists) forums online. For those of you who are blessed enough not to have heard of these conmen, they essentially believe that women are kittenish dolts who can be tricked into delivering the sex men are so clearly entitled to through various ruses. To give you an example, there’s ‘negging’, which involves subtly, or sometimes, blatantly, insulting a woman. Much in the manner of South Park’s underpants gnomes, this is supposed to lead, rather inexplicably, to a woman having sex with the man concerned.
I don’t know what kind of women you know, but pretty much all the ones I know would tell any guy pulling this kind of stunt to get the boat. Give me a Colin Farrell type whispering lavish compliments in my ear any day. Most of the great seducers love women, and as a result women love them right back.
But that’s neither here nor there. I suspect that Rodger’s membership of such groups will eventually prove to be as relevant as Charles Manson’s obsession with The Beatles’ ‘Helter Skelter’; a chilling symptom of a sick mind, rather than the cause.
However, you probably couldn’t find a better condemnation of the self-pity of PUA and some Mens Rights Activists than in Rodger’s YouTube videos (which you can Google, as I am not linking them here). Here’s a physically attractive guy, driving a BMW around a wealthy part of California. I mean, bitches be all about that, right? Yet he rails against the ‘blonde sluts’ who go for status and looks over personality.
Of course, if women were really as shallow as Rodger believed, he’d have been beating them off with a stick. But no doubt, his personality seemed so ‘off’ to them, he found himself ignored. That’s if he approached them at all- he was “dauntingly reserved”, according to a childhood friend.
Although it’s awful that it took the deaths of seven people to have a conversation about misogyny in society, at least this is happening. Another debate that seems to have been shelved is the high incidence of these kind of killings in the US. Watching from Europe, it’s all too easy to shake our heads at the crazy Americans, so devoted to their guns even though this love is killing them. (Although, there was a horrific shooting at a Jewish museum this weekend in Brussels, so the States hardly have a monopoly on violence).
California itself is one of the strictest states as regards gun control. As gun-advocates in the US often state, Switzerland has the highest gun ownership in Europe and one of the lowest global homicide rates. Ergo, guns are not the problem, surely?
Let’s look again at Ireland. While our laws are strict, it’s not impossible to legally obtain a gun in the Republic, and I’m sure it’s easier again to obtain a gun illegally. Many of our farmers hold guns, and there a gun clubs all over Ireland. My hometown has a very active one. However, even if there is a picture of me posing with an long-decommissioned War of Independence pistol at the age of 4 with my granduncle, it’s safe to say there is absolutely no fetishisation of guns in Irish society. Guns are tools for our farmers, and like saws and hatchets and knives, they can be used for ill as well as good. A glance at the website for the National Association of Sporting Rifle and Pistol Clubs shows that guns are again seen as the tools of a particular sport, not an end to themselves.
There is also a general distaste for weaponry in Irish society, possibly due to the very recent violence in our history. Guns are seen as a game-changer. The existence of an organisation like the National Rifle Association is baffling to a lot of Irish and Europeans. The fetishisation of guns does not happen on this side of the Atlantic, and we find it hard to understand.
Gun violence does of course happen in Europe. It occurs on a small scale in gangland style shootings, one-on-one murders and suicides. It’s easy to imagine how someone, in the depths of despair or the grip of rage, reaches for a gun. We have experienced mass shootings too. Norway, for example, had one of its darkest day in 2011, when neo-Nazi Anders Behring Breivik killed 77 people with a planned explosion in Oslo and a shooting spree on the small island of Utoya. The 1996 Dunblane primary school massacre in Scotland, in which 16 small children and a teacher were killed, led to major changes in UK gun laws.
Mass killings are highly complex. If you look back through recorded history, it’s clear humanity has a tendency to indiscriminately kill every now and again. Look at the story of ‘Bloody Bodkin‘ in Galway, or the various wars that have plagued mankind since the year dot. There is often a strong suicidal impulse with many mass shooters, but why is the urge to self destruct turned outwards in a mass shooting? We may never know the answer. However, it’s chilling to note that the media themselves may have a role to play. Research notes that copycat killings often follow an initial mass shootings, especially if the shootings are subject to intense media coverage. We can see the reason why. Think of Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the two boys who shot 13 of their schoolmates in Columbine, Colorado, in 1999. I bet you, like me, had an instant picture in your mind of two awkward teens, dressed in trenchcoats, taking revenge on the people they believed had wronged them, no matter how inaccurate this is. If you were in a similar situation to those boys, at the end of your tether, would you not find a possibility of twisted hope in this idea?
I realise I too, am adding to the volumes of material written about Elliot Rodger, the man already dubbed the The Hunger Games killer in some quarters due to his father’s job as the franchise’s assistant director. But maybe there is where we should all stop. Although Rodger is dead, and does not know his notoriety, perhaps we should send a message to other vulnerable and desperate people, by not nicknaming him, or sharing his videos, or giving him greater prominence over his victims. Killing will not make you immortal. There are always other ways.
I will leave you with this excellent video by Charlie Brooker, which was made in 2009 in the aftermath of a school shooting in Germany. The points he raises are still very valid, as is the contribution from Dr Park Dietz, a forensic psychologist. RIP to Cheng Yuan Hong, George Chen, Weihan Wang, Katie Cooper, Christoper Martinez, and Veronica Weiss, who died in the Santa Barbara shootings. May the family of Elliot Rodger also find solace and peace.