What kind of thing is the Newton massacre?

I've had a number of messages from folk over the last couple of days asking for my take on the terrible recent events in Connecticut.

Til now I've refrained from commmenting because it's incredibly hard to say anything without seeming crass or exploitative of the grief and sadness of those closer connected to the shootings than I am

And this difficulty is exacerbated by the broo-haha in both mainstream and social media.

So I wanted to make just a couple of points:

1. It's well documented that these kinds of massacres spread through copying (hence "copycat") rather than independent choice.

2. The notion of morally or psychologically pathalogical individuals commiting these kinds of acts is too easy a short-cut and often wrong. As Richard Florida points out, at a population level, mental health is not positively associated with such massacres (though for example poverty is).

So, my American friends, if you want to stop this kind of thing happening again there are at least 2 kinds of thing you need to do together:

i. stop lionising the individuals who commit these kinds of acts in media coverage (both MSM and online)

ii. change the environment to make it harder for individuals to have access to the tools that make it easy to commit such crimes (and, yes, this means regulating the availability of automatic and semi-automatic weaponry – the kind of weapons that make it easier to kill lots of people at once…)

As is so often the case, being clear what kind of thing you're dealing with helps develop better responses to it…