Preventing Mass Killings


Commentary by Dr. Gerhard Falk


Mass Murder


MURDER: Its Forms. Conditions and Causes by Gerhard Falk is a book  based on an extensive study of this frightful phenomenon.

We reviewed over 900 murders occurring in the course of forty years in this country. By using case histories and statistics we came to the following conclusions.

Mass murder is almost always conducted by white men aged 18-30. I found only one black mass killer in our sample. No women were involved in mass murder. The killers killed people they knew as well as many whom they did not know. Mass murderers hated themselves and did not care if they themselves committed “suicide by cop.” Almost all mass killers came from middle class families. Therefore the motive for mass killings differs from the motive for one on one murder. Mass killers suffer from relative deprivation. Relative deprivation is the belief that we are deprived of our rightful social standing and/or income or occupation and are demeaned by significant others who have more prestige, more money, better jobs, more friends,  etc. Those who suffer from relative deprivation feel anger at everyone and want to not only kill others but want to hurt others as much as possible before they leave this unjust and miserable world.

Mass killers want to commit “suicide by cop.” They also want to gain some attention and recognition. Unable to achieve any of these goals, they prefer the negative attention that mass murder  brings with it, even if they lose their lives, as they hate themselves and everyone else as well. This strategy works for these suicides. An excellent example of this kind of mass killer was James Huberty, who killed 21 patrons of a restaurant in San Ysidro, California, on July 19, 1984. The police shot and killed him. Yet, today he is still remembered on your computer, where his name and  mass murder is permanently recorded. Huberty is also found in criminology books and academic journals. Huberty was a college graduate in sociology. Unable to find work commensurate with his education, he accepted a job in a factory in his native Ohio. During a recession he was laid off and became an unemployed college graduate.  Therefore he told his neighbor he would leave this country. He then drove to California with the intent to go to Mexico. Arriving in San Ysidro, he changed his mind, as he knew no Spanish and stayed in San Ysidro looking for work. The only job he could find was night watchman. It upset him terribly to have to take so low a job. He became angry and began arguing and fighting with his co-workers until he was fired from this low level job.  Therefore he took his rifle and a handgun and murdered almost all who were eating at McDonald’s that day.

Huberty and so many other mass killers cannot be prevented from further mass kilings by shouting slogans or depriving law abiding citizens of firearms. The problem has nothing to do with the possession of guns. The issue is suicide by those who despise their own lives because they regard themselves as failures in our competitive society. To end these mass killings, we need to identify the potential killers who usually tell others how they hate themselves and how they want to kill themselves and others. These people can be identified if those who know them will report those who talk about intentions to kill themselves and others, bringing them to the attention of law enforcement and preventing them from ever owning a gun. In addition, we have suicide prevention counselors and psychologists, who can be far more effective in preventing mass murder than politicians.

There are, of course, many Americans who are not satisfied with their social standing, income and prestige. Such people often use alternative status systems to deal with their disappointments. These alternative status systems may be becoming president of a bowling league, chairman of a branch of the Knights of Columbus, or getting elected to the local board of education.  That is how the vast majority deal with status problems in this country. Gun control cannot achieve anything, but help from family and friends and professionals will put an end to these massacres. Believe me. I know.

Shalom u'vracha.

  Dr. Gerhard Falk is the author of numerous publications, including The American Jewish Community in the 20th and 21st Century (2021).

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