We have had another large-scale mass shooting this week to complement all the small-scale mass shoortings and just regular old garden-variety gun homicides and suicides. This mass shooting was at a gay bar in Colorado Springs that was fixing to hold a drag show and it was Trans Day of Remembrance.
The shooter was the grandson of a former California state senator who is a Big Liar and 6 January insurrectionist. He had threatened his mother with a pipe bomb among other weapons, got into a stand off with police over it, whiteraculously wasn’t shot, in fact, he was never prosecuted for it. Hunh.
Because El Paso, County Colorado where the shooting took place and the shooter lived is a Second Amendment Sanctuary City, the sheriff’s office proudly and loudly refuses to enforce Colorado’s red flag laws, which would’ve taken away this fellow’s access to guns had they done so.
There are two questions that need addressing: the factors that cause individuals to perpetrate violence and the factors that cause some societies to be so violent while others are not. This post will focus on the individual. A later post on society.
Causes of Individual Violence
While there are many causes of violence, psychologists have organized them into four basic categories. It would be neat and everything if they behaved themselves, and didn’t overlap, but they don’t. So, bear with as we lightly outline them.
Biological Causes of Individual Violence
Biological causes of violence fall into three categories, themselves: neurological, physiological, and chemical. How these factors cause violence is, eh, unknown. But, it is thought that there should be a biological predisposition towards violence that when in an environment that nurtures its development and growth will spring forth and wreck havoc on those nearby.
However, correlations have been established between brain damage from environmental factors and violence. Some of these should seem familiar:
- LEAD & OTHER TOXIC CHEMICALS: Since discovering that lead can lead to brain damage, we’ve limited the use of lead-based paint and eliminated lead from gasoline. It is thought that lead in gasoline and paint may have contributed to the high crime rates of the 1980’s and regulating them helped bring the crime rate down in subsequent years.
- TRAUMATIC HEAD INJURY: The famous case study of Phineas Gage shed some light onto the role of the prefrontal cortex on impulsive and violent behavior. Subsequent case studies have supported those conclusions.
- DIETARY DEFICIENCIES: When nutrients are missing or absent during critical developmental years, individuals that survive them are more prone to violence. This is especially true during pregnancy, but is also one of the factors behind the development of the Head Start program and one of the reasons it is so criminal for Republicans to try and defund it.
- FETAL ALCOHOL SYNDROME: When pregnant women continue to engage in alcohol and drug use, especially in certain stages of fetal development, it have severe impacts on the development of the fetus and subsequent real live person. These people are often prone to violence.
While violence correlates highly with those who have lived through these injuries, (a) it doesn’t mean that all will become violent and (b) with the right support, these folks are a lot less likely to resort to violence.
Socialization Causes of Individual Violence
Socialization is the process by which children learn “scripts” to guide their behavior, matching the script to the social situation. These scripts are patterns of thinking, feeling, and behaving that are learned in early life. Research has correlated violence committed by people in a child’s life whether directly or indirectly with a propensity for violence in that child’s life. So, a child growing up with a parent or caregiver prone to using violence in relationships, is more likely to use violence themselves. Children idolizing celebrities and fictional characters that use violence to achieve goals are more likely to use violence themselves.
This is the whole idea of being a role model for children. We need to model non-violent behavior if we want non-violent adults to result.
Cognitive Causes of Individual Violence
Cognitive factors are the ideas, beliefs, and ways of thinking that result from the environment where a person spends a lot of time either as a child or as an adult. People who use violence often don’t see the world as you — presuming that you’re a person who doesn’t use violence — and I do. Violence prone individuals suffer from hostile attribution bias, the tendency to perceive hostility in those around them, even when no hostility present. It is characterized by extended periods of angry rumination, which could’ve been the name of the gang my mother ran with. Because of their fixation on anger, it is actually more difficult for these folks to think of nonviolent alternatives to react with. Hunh. Go figure. They believe that reacting with violence is acceptable.
Situational Causes of Individual Violence
Situational factors are environmental elements that influence behavior and cognition. The typical situational factors are neighborhoods, schools, families that have violence occurring regularly. Poverty is also a factor. Having weapons close at hand — surprising, no? — also makes it more likely that violence will be used. Of course, situational factors would include violent rhetoric coming from politicians and media personalities.
Factors Contributing to the Club Q Shooting
Let’s review what we know about the shooter:
We know somethings about the shooter’s family:
- MATERNAL GRANDFATHER: 6 January insurrectionist and Big Liar. News articles suggest that it is unclear how much contact the state senator had with his grandson
- FATHER: His main concern after learning that his estranged son was a mass shooter at a gay nightclub was that it meant his son wasn’t gay. Also, he’s a former MMA fighter and porn actor. Said the father, He’s pissed off, he’s pissed off at me, he wants to poke at the old man. Interesting to note that poke can also be used for sex and that the actual phrase for fighting using poke is to take a poke at someone while the phrase for fucking is to poke someone. Freudian slip, anyone?
- MOTHER: He did threaten to blow his mother up with a pipe bomb. I understand that in some communities it is an indication of tender love and affection.
Conclusions: It’s a fucked up family like so many of ours, and there was at least a theme of violence in the family if not actual real violence. It’s easy to imagine that the lad had an abusive upbringing with a father’s who main concern is his son’s sexual orientation. It seems like our shooter learned his scripts early and well.
With a father overly concerned about his son’s sexuality, it shouldn’t be surprising that the boy targeted a gay nightclub. He’s probably been defending himself against accusations of being gay his whole life, whether they were true or not. He probably perceives hostility easily and has focused a lot of his anger at his parents on the gay community as the cause of so much of his personal hell.
Given his history of violence and use of weapons, it is probably a safe conclusion that he sees violence as a solution to many of his problems. Angry rumination is his only real friend.
Where to start with the situational factors? Oh, I know. He lived in a Second Amendment Sanctuary county, for fuck’s sake! It’s not like weapons weren’t easily at hand or anyone was taking any steps to make sure guns were kept out of the hands of people likely to use them for violence.
He lives in a country with increasing anti-LGBTQ+ rhetoric, increasing violent rhetoric, with a conservative movement that embodies hostile attribution bias and actively promotes violence as a solution to all of its problems.
Once again, we see a mass shooter who was giving very clear warning signs that he was going to blow and take as many people with him as possible and the powers-that-be who could do something — had the tools to use to do it — did nothing.
We live in a country with increasing amounts of gun violence that is increasingly becoming political in nature. We know the factors that cause violence to occur, yet we do nothing about it. It’s almost as if the right wants there to use this violence for their own nefarious purpose, but that would be paranoid talk, wouldn’t it? Or would it? See the next post on violent societies.
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Categories: Gun Violence