Dealing with Deadly Shootings

by | Mar 11, 2023

Our citizens are justifiably sickened and infuriated by so many deadly shootings.

We need to think more about violence in America, and specifically, we need to think about modifying the Second Amendment. Our citizens are justifiably sickened and infuriated by so many deadly shootings.

When the Founding Fathers passed the Second Amendment, they had no way of knowing three things:

  1. That due to technological advances, guns would become many thousands of times more lethal than single shot rifles, e.g., about 600 rounds per minute versus 3 per minute, which translates to 3,000 rounds in five minutes versus 15 rounds in five minutes.
  2. That lethal weapons would be readily available even for unsupervised and mentally disturbed people, including teenagers.
  3. That our society would become significantly more irrational to the point that many people (consciously or implicitly) think nothing of operating like this: “I am angry and unhappy, so I am now going to kill lots of people because I want to.”

Observe the total lack of ethics here. We have a culture infected by mindless emotionalism that permeates websites and discourse. It also permeates TV, movies, public meetings, debates, and even whole families. Insults often dominate discussion. Sadly, the institutions that have done the most to set the stage for irrationalism are universities (modern intellectuals) where the opportunity to use reason and discuss ideas, including conflicting ideas, is supposed to be a primary. These places of “education” have failed. Conformity is primary.

What do many of our leading intellectuals teach today?

“Free will is an illusion. You cannot be certain of anything. Everything is relative. All values and philosophies are subjective including the concept of individual rights—e.g., We thought 9/11 was morally wrong but the attackers thought it was right It’s all  matter of opinion. All living Americans should feel guilt due to slavery, even if they did not cause it. You must not hurt anyone’s feelings. Rights only belong to groups, and all groups must come out the same. Merit is passé. Better shut up if you disagree with the majority.”

This has been abetted by the increase in important political figures who are raving emotionalists and who routinely use insults in place of rational debate. No wonder we have a culture inflicted with gun violence. The cultural atmosphere today is deplorable. People are taught that feeling bad is a good enough reason to lash out—and hostile, emotion-based reactivity is tolerated and even celebrated.

Some criminologists have studied mass shooters and found that they all come from very bad homes. This study used “the method of agreement” by identifying what all the shooters had in common. The method of agreement is important in science, but it is also incomplete. We need a study of people who come from bad families who did not shoot people. In other words, we need a study that shows what is different about shooters and non-shooters. Why didn’t non-shooters from bad families become murderers? Maybe they knew it would be morally wrong. The most important question to ask, then, is: how did they learn that? This knowledge might suggest interventions (see my point #6 to follow).

The next question to ask is: what can we do now in the realm of law? The Second Amendment is not going to be repealed anytime soon, if ever, even though it is unclear what function “militias” even have today.

I support the following.

  1. Have far more rigorous requirements (e.g., background checks) for people who buy guns. Limit the types of guns available [based on the context necessary for self-defense.]
  2. Treat anger when accompanied by threats more seriously particularly in schools, Train teachers and administrators how to assess students who might have dangerously high levels of anger. Teach students how and when to report threats by fellow students.
  3. Raise the age limit for gun ownership.
  4. Make the police more competent and trustworthy. Have many more, very well-trained police at schools, churches, stores, and public events. (The Uvalde disaster seemed to be the result, among other possible causes, of a huge mob of policemen rushing around with no plan and no one in charge. Obviously, the various police units did not have the kind of training that was needed.)
  5. Change the culture. Start by teaching everyone (starting in kindergarten) that no one has the right to use force against another except for immediate self-defense against an attacker, and that, otherwise, only the police can use force in retaliation against those who initiate it.

For a related viewpoint, see Calls To Restrict Gun Ownership Are Part of a Strategy To Ban Guns All Together. – Editor

Edwin A. Locke is Dean's Professor of Leadership and Motivation Emeritus at the R.H. Smith School of Business, University of Maryland. He is a Fellow of the Association for Psychological Science (APS), the American Psychological Association, the Society for Industrial & Organizational Behavior, and the Academy of Management. He is the recipient of the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award (Society for I/O Psychology), the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Academy of Management (OB Division), the J. M. Cattell Award (APS) and the Distinguished Scientific Contribution Award from the Academy of Management. He, with Gary Latham, has spent over 50 years developing Goal Setting Theory, ranked No. 1 in importance among 73 management theories. He has published over 320 chapters, articles, reviews and notes, and has authored or edited 13 books including (w. Kenner) The Selfish Path to Romance, (w. Latham) New Directions in Goal Setting and Task Performance, and The Prime Movers: Traits of the Great Wealth Creators. He is internationally known for his research on motivation, job satisfaction, leadership, and other topics. His website is:

The views expressed above represent those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of the editors and publishers of Capitalism Magazine. Capitalism Magazine sometimes publishes articles we disagree with because we think the article provides information, or a contrasting point of view, that may be of value to our readers.

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