Late last month, an alienated and enraged University of California at Santa Barbara undergraduate student went on a long-planned killing spree.
At some time before 9:27 p.m. on Friday May 23, the 22-year-old student stabbed, slashed, and hacked three young men to death inside his off-campus Isla Vista residence. Santa Barbara County Sheriff Bill Brown said the inside of the dwelling was a "horrific crime scene."
After leaving his home, the killer switched from blades to a semi-auto pistol. He drove to a sorority house and tried to enter but was blocked. He then shot and killed two young women outside the house. Then he drove to a nearby deli and killed a young man.
Law enforcement officers responded to the rampage. The shooter opened fire on them. They shot back. After the exchange, the killer died in the usual method of mass murderers; he shot himself in the head.
This rampage claimed the lives of the following UCSB students:
* George Chen, 19
* Katherine Breann Cooper, 22
* Christopher Ross-Michaels Martinez, 20
* Cheng Yuan "James" Hong, 20
* Weihan Wang, 20
* Veronika Elizabeth Weiss, 19
Eight more were wounded by the killer's bullets and four were injured when he struck them with his car.
The next day Richard Martinez, father of one of the victims, lashed out at the NRA, blaming the pro-Second Amendment organization and politicians that support gun rights for the death of his son. I sympathize with Martinez and I am sorry for his loss, but he seems to have selective amnesia over the fact that half of the students killed during the Isla Vista incident were hacked to death with an as-yet-unidentified blade and many of the injured were rammed by the killer's BMW sedan.
After a mass murder incident like Isla Vista, the media loves to run a lot of stories that imply such tragedies would surely be a thing of the past if we could just outlaw all the guns. Those same reporters rarely consider how much damage this killer could have done in a crowded classroom with a blade. But they might want to ask their Chinese counterparts about such massacres.
The media also likes to point their fingers at mental health professionals, parents, teachers, etc. But it is extremely rare that any pundit or columnist acknowledges the media's role in perpetuating these slaughters.
Just days after the Isla Vista murders, newspapers and the Websites of TV news organizations printed the killer's 141-page rambling manifesto. And in doing so, they let him espouse his twisted views and spread his whiny message of hatred and brutal fantasies of mass murder, which may influence future killers.
Worse, all the TV news networks—except the much-maligned Fox—tripped over themselves rushing the killer's YouTube videos to air.
I believe such publicity may serve as a reward for cowardly mass murderers. And maybe it's time for the news media to stop granting them this little slice of fame.
In an editorial published in Police Magazine in August 2012, just weeks after the Aurora Theater Massacre, I wrote:
The Columbine killers, the Virginia Tech murderer, and the Aurora shooting suspect have all become household names. And I believe that the desire for stardom is at least part of the motivation for these massacres. I think these butchers want to be famous. That's why they seek such high body counts. They want to top the other guys, hold the record, be the champion killer of all time.
I think we need to take away that motivation. I've argued this point with my fellow journalists, to no avail. But I think it's time that we stop publicizing the names of these mass active shooter suspects.
There is precedent for such journalistic restraint. As a general rule, the media does not publish the names of rape victims or suicide subjects. There are of course exceptions to this rule. But generally, we mind our manners on these two points.
So I think it's time to add a third category of names to that proscription: mass active shooters who seek huge body counts. Of course, the name of the shooter will eventually leak, but there's a big difference between having your name and face splashed on every network, news site, newspaper, and magazine cover the day of the attack and having the name leak out days later.
And I may not be alone in these sentiments. Sunday the New York Times ran an editorial discussing the issue.
Unfortunately, I'm not sure that anything other than early police intervention, permanent confinement, or a bullet to the brain could have stopped the Isla Vista killer.
It's possible he killed his fellow students and even his roommates to attract attention, but I think this young man just killed because he had a twisted need to kill.
His manifesto reads like a misogynistic "Mein Kampf." In it he reportedly attacks not just women (as widely reported), but racial minorities, interracial couples, and others. He even details a Hitlerian fantasy where he would have all women rounded up into concentration camps and slowly starve them to death. A final solution for the human race.
Many people say that more mental health resources and more liberal commitment laws would have prevented this killer from undertaking his bloody rampage. But I doubt it. For lack of a better word, this guy was "evil." What made him that way is a question for psychologists and neurologists. But evil is a hard thing to treat and an even harder thing to contain.
Evil is also persistent and innovative. On the day he was born you could have taken away every gun from every law-abiding American and outlawed the manufacture and sale of guns and this killer would have still found a way to leave his mark.
And I think he probably would have done so regardless of the notoriety achieved by previous mass killers. I think this young man was just consumed by hate and had a compulsion to kill.