Santa Barbara Stabbing and Shooting Spree Can Be Used to Advance All Kinds of Agendas

But especially the ones trotted out after every sufficiently newsworthy tragedy like this


The Friday night rampage in Isla Vista, California, by 22-year-old Elliot Rodger began with the fatal stabbing of his three roommates, followed by a shooting spree in which Rodger killed three more people and injured several others before shooting himself in the head.

Over the holiday weekend, the story became international news. Writing in The Guardian, Daniel Jackson called the rampage part of the "Era of the YouTube Killer," with Rodger coming from the "first generation that could turn the process of growing up into personal broadcasts." Rodger had posted a deranged YouTube video, since pulled by Google, where he promised "slaughter" for his sexual frustrations. Jackson notes that this and other videos "look like an amateur performance, a bad audition for a bad part."

Rodger's participation in the online "anti-pick up artists" community—not a group opposed to so-called "pick up artists" (PUAs) per se but just upset the techniques don't work for them—led to renewed scrutiny of PUAs and the culture that helps create them. Slate reported that one PUA site suggested it could have prevented the rampage if Rodger had "gone to our website and got our personal dating coaching or purchased one of our products" and that this was "why we do what we do"

The rampage—in which Rodger both fatally stabbed and shot people, as well as injured some with his car— was also seized upon to advance gun control agendas. The father of victim Christopher Martinez blamed the tragedy on "craven, irresponsible politicians" who refused to pass stronger anti-gun laws after violent incidents because the National Rifle Association (NRA) wouldn't let them do so. Martinez's father is reported to be a criminal defense attorney, and his mother a deputy district attorney.

At The New Yorker, Adam Gopnik seizes on the opportunity to politicize:

Why did Christopher Michael-Martinez die? Because the N.R.A. and the politicians they intimidate enable people to get their hands on weapons and ammunition whose only purpose is to kill other people as quickly and as lethally as possible. How do we know that they are the 'because' in this? Because every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn't happened again. (Australia is the clearest case—a horrific gun massacre, new laws, no more gun massacres—but the same is true of Canada, Great Britain, you name it.)

You can draw your own conclusions on Gopnik's definitions of intimidate and modern country for this rhetorical contortion. Gopnik goes on to decry the culture of euphemisms and cliché, without any hint of self-awareness.

Elliot Rodger had been seeing a therapist since the age of eight, and his parents reportedly contacted his therapist and then police about Rodger's videos and other social media postings. Police said he didn't meet the criteria for an involuntary hold, while Rodger wrote afterward that he had multiple guns under his bed when police visited him and a search would've "ended everything." His parents did not appear to search his room.

The rampage has also been used to push for more mental health policy, especially by legislators. Roll Call reports:

"How many more people must lose their lives before we take action on addressing cases of serious mental illness?"

[Pennsylvania Republican Rep. Tim] Murphy says he has a solution: He calls his bill the "Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act."

"Washington must take action on my bill," he said.

Murphy, a clinical psychologist, said in a statement Saturday that he will hold a briefing Thursday on his committee's report on mental health, written over the course of a year following the Newtown, Conn., massacre.

Among the report's findings are a push to give law enforcement and emergency medical personnel better training on mental health.

Murphy says his bill would also expand access to psychiatric treatment.

It would also encourage states to set a new standard for committing people — that they need treatment, not that they present an imminent danger. It would also make it easier for family members to take action.

Brendan O'Neill, the editor of spiked in London, suggested that those looking to draw points from the rampage should examine "therapy culture":

It is striking how therapeutic is the language used by Rodger in his videos and his murder manifesto. He talks about how people's attitudes towards him "really decreased my self-esteem." He clearly sees such assaults on his self-esteem as unacceptable, saying "if they won't accept me… then they are my enemies." In short, fail to offer recognition to this damaged creature and you will pay the price. And then he makes the key cry of our therapeutic era: "It's not fair. Life is not fair."

… Perhaps we should see Rodger as a kind of therapeutic terrorist, using murder to gain recognition; his rampage can be seen as a very violent therapy session, a real primal scream in defense of his sacred self-esteem.

Related: Reason TV's "Five Rules for Coping With Tragedy" 

NEXT: Gene Healy Says Obama Is Avoiding the Debate on Terror He Promised To Have

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  1. This, to me, seems to summarize the dilemma faced by libertarians. On the one hand, they are opposed to virtually any regulation of firearms. On the other hand, they decry what they term the militarization of the police–i.e., they claim that the police are acting too aggressively when dealing with either criminal suspects or average citizens.

    Has it ever occurred to any of these libertarians that perhaps the reason that the police (at least in the minds of libertarians) are acting more aggressively in regards to criminal suspects is that the police have a legitimate fear that these criminal suspects may secretly be brandishing powerful weaponry?

    Maybe if this were a society in which firearms were more heavily regulated (eg Britain, Australia, South Korea, Israel, Germany) so that the deadlier versions of these weapons were less common, this would encourage the police to be calmer and more respectful in dealing with citizens.

    Just a thought.

    1. …this would encourage the police to be calmer and more respectful in dealing with citizens.

      No doubt if citizens were more cowed our police state would accept that appeasement and ease back. That’s how it works, right?

      1. So do you think that arming more heavily will cause police to become more respectful?

        1. Nothing the populace does will cause that, short of forcing accountability. We’ve militarized law enforcement for a war on drugs, and now they see the badgeless as the enemy.

          In addition, you will never prohibit guns in this the United States, no matter how many laws you pass. So police will always assume their enemy is armed, legally or illegally. I see what you’re suggesting, but it simply will not work.

    2. Yours is a statist point of view. People and guns come before a state. We AGREE to give certain members of society the right to use Force in the protection of our lives and property. They don’t PRECEDE us, we precede them. You’d prefer a society where they have all the guns and we’d have none? But the whole idea was to be able to take back the transferred Force once it is improperly used. And I am of the belief that when a country has troops stationed around the world, is fighting perpetual war for perpetual peace, has prisons stuffed with non-violent offenders, has a $17,000,000,000,000 debt (with a debt many times higher when unfunded entitlements are actuarially added, likely north of $55,000,000,000,000), is debasing currency at a breathtaking rate, and has effectively banished interest, that’s not the time that I think is best to give up the only “arguments” against such statist lunacy. But I guess you still live in an “officer friendly” world where experts are taking care of business. I live in a world were craven idiots are running us into extremely uncivil times.

      The police acting militarily is a product of the War on Drugs, an excuse to use high end Force domestically for four decades. This isn’t new, it’s just like any war, it escalates when victory isn’t achieved. Libertarians are consistent and logical. Those who fail to see the fascism that surrounds them on a daily basis are the ones who see inconsistency.

      1. Ok, I’ll think about that.

    3. As long as you hand me your lunch money you won’t get a black eye.

    4. “This, to me, seems to summarize the dilemma faced by libertarians. On the one hand, they are opposed to virtually any regulation of firearms”

      Part One

      The problem underlying that thought is that England has always had a lower murder rate than the US. One hundred years ago, Britain had virtually no gun laws of any kind. Pistols, rifles, and even fully-automatic machine guns could be had just about anywhere. Shotguns were as ubiquitous. No registration, no licensing, basically nothing. Only after the “revolution” in Russia, did the government, fearing a armed communist revolt in Britain, start to try to control firearms. Yet their homicide rate prior to such regulation was even lower than it is today. Also, homicides as a result of blunt or sharp instruments in Britain, is similarly lower than those types of homicides in the US, and Britain has now shortage of hammers and steak-knives (at least not yet!).

      Looking a bit closer to home, and more recently (like today), you will find states with fairly low gun-ownership rates and lots of regulations which have very low murder rates (notably Mass. and Hawaii). You will also find states with very high gun-ownership, and almost no regulation, i.e Montana, Vermont, etc., with rates similar or lower than Mass and Hawaii. You will also find states with high gun-ownership rates and high homicide rates. And you, well, you get the idea. The correlation of gun-ownership and homicide rates simply does not exist.

      1. Part 2

        You can even take it one step further, and compare county-to-county and city-to-city within the same state (and even the same county) and find similar non-correlations between the prevalence of guns and homicide rates. And it’s not just about poverty, either, as Mass has a very high per-capita income, while state like Montana, in comparison, quite low. And Hawaii, Mass, Montana, Vermont, etc, have homicide rates not that different from Britain’s, despite the number of gunowners. It could be rurality, but that isn’t consistent either, though rural areas generally have lower homicide rates. I have been studying this issue for over 30 years, and the only thing that seems to make sense is a “culture of poverty and marginalization.” And this culture exists across ethnic and racial lines. There are identifiable neighborhoods in Northern California, with violent crime and homicide rates pretty much the same as in L.A. or Oakland, which are over 95% white. I know this, because I used to collect statistics from these neighborhoods when I worked for the government. So, it’s not the number of guns, or what kind they are, it’s the culture. And THAT is a hard thing to fix.

      2. There’s some truth to what you are saying. It’s not completely correlated. There are places where there are low homicide rates and high gun ownership rates. But are there any countries that have strictly and effectively enforced gun control and high homicide rates?

        No fair comparing cities, as locally-imposed gun control is easily flouted.

        1. Eg Switzerland, which has both lots of guns and little crime. But are there any countries that have tough gun laws and high homicide rates? That’s the million-dollar question.

          1. Well, of the top of my head, Mexico. I hate going that route (using Mexico as an example), because of the problems Mexico has with cartels and all. But the laws are pretty tough: All gun owners need to “show cause” to own a firearm and they and all firearms are registered. Some calibers are banned, as well as semi-autos, without special permits. Some Mexican States or cities may have even tougher laws.

            Depending on who you talk to, the murder rate is between 11.5 and 17.5 per 100,000 – or, roughly two to three times that of the US. The firearms ownership rate, given the info I have, is probably about 1/2 or less than that of the US. But that is a bit of a guess on my part.

          2. In North America, Bermuda has tough gun control and nearly three times the U.S. intentional homicide rate. All of Central and South America except Chile and Suriname. Russia is double the U.S. All of the Caribbean except Martinique.

            The U.S. with a rate of 4.8/100K is below the world rate of 6.9.


        2. When I mentioned cities, I was speaking specifically of two CA cities which are basically next to each other (I should probably look up that link), and subject to the exact same laws. So, that case probably is a fair comparison, though I grant you that comparing Honolulu and Chicago is not. 🙂

          1. Okay.. here is a link. Not the one I was looking for, but close enough, comparing CA cities by population and geography, with a bit of hoopla thrown in, but still relevant. It’s a five minute read and adds emphasis to the idea that it isn’t about the availability of guns or gun laws. When this was written, by the way, gun laws were consistent throughout the state, by constitutional law. That is no longer necessarily the case.

    5. If gun control keeps from militarizing the police then why have all the police in all the nations you list for great gun control also become more militarized

      1. I’m not saying it’s the only factor–I’m saying that it contributes. To be fair, I don’t know much about how police behave in the other countries I have listed. But it does stand to reason that a police officer who is afraid of getting gunned down will act more aggressively–will be more likely to yell, more likely to draw a taser or pistol, etc. And police departments that are afraid of powerful guns will be more likely to stock up with powerful weapons themselves.

    6. Has it ever occurred to any of these libertarians that perhaps the reason that the police (at least in the minds of libertarians) are acting more aggressively in regards to criminal suspects is that the police have a legitimate fear that these criminal suspects may secretly be brandishing powerful weaponry?

      The “powerful weaponry” you’re talking about, semiauto rifles and handguns, have been brandished by U.S. criminals since 1910 or so. Their recent (last 50 years) proliferation has been fueled not by lax gun laws, but by increased criminal funding due to the war on drugs. The LEO militarization funding is a reaction to the same source.

      Making it more difficult for non-criminals to legally purchase firearms won’t have any effect on criminals or law enforcement. See the recent NY magazine limit law, which exempts police “because otherwise they will be outgunned by criminals.”

      End the war on drugs (which last time I checked was a thoroughly libertarian position) and criminal violence will drop precipitously.

  2. Because even though it is far from the most dangerous job in America, police officers are supposed to be much more brave and accepting of risk than the rest of us “civilians”.

    The real dilemma is the one facing the anti gun crowd. How is it that someone who has no aversion to the crime of murder, stopped by laws restricting legal gun ownership?

    I guess we can start by discussing a time when prohibition of anything was actually successful.

    1. Gun control seems to work pretty well in these countries, as these countries have lower murder rates than do the United States. Do these countries have lower murder rates because people there are more virtuous? No, because the police forces work to restrict access to weapons–and when the police forces work together, gun control is pretty effective, as opposed to the United States, where laws are loose and there is a patchwork of authority.

      1. Countries where gun crime is low also tend to be socially homogenous, lacking large concentrations of urban poverty of the sort we have.

        It isn’t the laws, it’s the cultures involved. If laws would fix what is wrong, NYC, Chicago, and DC would be crime-free utopias.

        It just isn’t as simple as you make it out to be.

        1. Britain, land of soccer hooligans and alleged originator of the Glaswegian smile, is a less criminally-prone society than America?

          Britain doesn’t have urban riots? Britain doesn’t have stultifying urban poverty?

          And Europe, btw, is pretty diverse: Britain has significant numbers different ethnic groups, including Bangladeshis, Cornish, Indians, Scots, Pakistanis, Manxmen and Manxwomen, Barbadians, Jamaicans, Welsh, etc.

          How about national laws, nationally-enforced? The problem with DC laws is that you can just take the subway out to Virginia, buy a big box of guns, and ride back into DC and sell them to crooks.

          1. Comparing one country to another is a bad idea when it comes to “safety” or anything else.

            Look at what happened to a country after gun bans. Increased crime. Look at what happened after more people (civilians) carry guns. Less crime.

            But this is all a red herring. Whether or not it increases crime matters not. Abusus non tollit usum. Other people doing evil doesn’t prevent me from having fun, or protecting myself from individuals or institutions.

            1. I should really proofread…

      2. Just to add some confusion: If you look at the overall homicide rates in Countries with effective gun control (and I am not sure how one quantifies “effective”), you need also to look, as I intimated before, at stats for homicide by particular weapon. I think that you will find, fairly consistently, there are simply fewer murders overall, by whatever weapon is utilized. For me, this is a crucial component to factor in, when talking about gun control.

      3. Clearly it must be the guns, because all that *I* can think of is guns. We certainly wouldn’t want any data to conflict with those views.

        Yet, manifest success in keeping its people disarmed did not prevent the Soviet Union from having far and away the highest murder rate in
        the developed world. In the 1960s and early 1970s, the gun?less Soviet Union’s murder rates paralleled or generally exceeded those of gun?ridden
        America. While American rates stabilized and then steeply declined, however, Russian murder increased so drastically that by the early 1990s
        the Russian rate was three times higher than that of the United States.

        And just how successful are the Brits and stopping murder–you don’t really care if someone is murdered by a gun vs. any other means, do you? Let’s look Oh dear, more murders now than when they started down the path of gun control in 1968.

  3. Europe has had a lower murder rate that the US even before their modern restrictions (state sponsered murder not included). Murder rates have been falling all over the developed world, including the US.

    If guns are responsible for violence, why should the violent crime rate be dropping in America? If anything it should at least remain constant.

    1. One possible answer would be that America has probably had more of a tradition of gun ownership, so that clashes that would remain nonlethal in Europe would be more likely to turn fatal in America.

      1. “One possible answer would be that America has probably had more of a tradition of gun ownership, so that clashes that would remain nonlethal in Europe would be more likely to turn fatal in America.”

        That is not entirely illogical. But, as with seemingly everything with gun control, there isn’t a direct correlation. Several years ago, I got into a protracted discussion with an individual on the internet concerning an aspect of that.

        I took a close look at two states: Montana and New York. I compared assault rates and the like and found, that although Montana was a very slightly more violent place (more cowboys in more bars drinking more beer and getting into more fights?), the murder rate was a fraction of NY State. Firearms are many times more prevalent, and probably more rooted in Montana’s cultural history than in New York (upstate NY notwithstanding). In fact, it is perfectly legal to carry openly almost anywhere in Montana, and if not in an incorporated city or town, you can legally carry concealed, even in a vehicle. No gun licensing, no “assault weapon” ban, no magazine capacity limits, etc, etc.

        So, to make a long story short (too late, I know), even though folk in Montana possess and (probably) carry firearms at a much higher rate than New Yorkers, they STILL don’t use them nearly as much against people.

  4. He was seriously mentally ill with a serious defect in social interaction. Aspergers has been mentioned (and of course, now people will be calling for the listing of folks with Aspergers.) On top of that, he seems to have had some kind of psychotic break. That said, he HAD access to what seems like high quality mental health care, so “better mental health care” doesn’t seem like the solution. His parents and the police were watching him but he didn’t meet the very difficult “harm to himself or others” standard. Talk to the ACLU about fixing that — although I am not sure I can think of a way to address it. He killed both men and women, hating indiscriminately just about everyone, though it’s being pimped as a misogyny issue. He killed with a knife and a gun and hurt people with his car, but it’s being played as a gun control issue. He bought his guns legally in a state that has a lot of gun control, but “gun control” is needed.

    1. He was never officially diagnosed with asperger syndrome.

  5. Because every other modern country has suffered from the same kinds of killings, from the same kinds of sick kids, and every other country has changed its laws to stop them from happening again, and in every other country it hasn’t happened again. (Australia is the clearest case?a horrific gun massacre, new laws, no more gun massacres?but the same is true of Canada, Great Britain, you name it.)

    If we were to ban cars, there would be no more traffic fatalities. If we were to ban grain augers, no more farmers would lose their limbs to them. If you don’t understand the benefits of a technology, you don’t understand what you lose when you prohibit it.

    I’m aware that there’s a massive cultural difference among the unwashed urban hordes who have no understanding of the virtues of firearm ownership–namely that the gun prevents the physically weak and frail from being the plaything of the strong, which is the state of nature–but more often than not I come away feeling that these people are religious zealots and imbeciles.

    1. Ban guns because guns are bad because they kill people… Well duh, yeah, then surgery and cars must be banned also! Ideological idiots are what they are, we waste our words on them…

  6. GBR actually confiscated guns after the massacre, and something like that won’t be allowed in the United States.

    America is a huge piece of land with large, diverse (over 300 mil, the largest democracy on earth by far) population that attracts criminal interests for obvious reasons. And criminal activity can flourish because the borders are porous and communities can be detached and decayed as the federal government watches helplessly. More privacy laws and due process rights mean the police can’t so easily bust random homes looking for illegal guns and ammos.

    This means that the nation can’t be “reset” to a situation in which both the citizens and criminals will have less or no guns. The second amendment is there. Any excessive attempts to “grab” guns or pry into privacy (background checks) will be struck down by the courts or be neutered. If they do succeed, then the weapons will gain value among the criminal elements and more will be purchased abroad.

    Truth be told, If America was JUST the flyover section without Illinois, there’d be minimum gun violence. Same deal if most of the minority population was Asian or ethnic groups from Europe. They’re not as interested in guns.

  7. How much you want to bet he was a registered Dem?
    So far 90% of mass murderers have been Hard Left or Left leaning.
    If you’re going to suggest a ban, start with registered Democrats.

    1. This. The majority of hard left-wingers are seriously mentally ill people, with a wide variety of personality disorders.

      They also make up the majority of drug abusers, and mental illness combined with heavy drug use is a toxic, lethal combination.

  8. Just learned via Wikipedia that Isla Vista has had three mass murders–two by sons of “directors” and another that was more of a serial murder–all three perps stark raving mad, of course..

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