By now, I imagine that anyone with access to a computer or a television has heard about the masked gunman who shot a theater full of people in Aurora, Colorado, killing 12 and seriously injuring roughly 50 others. Everyone knows this happened, but nobody understands why this happened. In the midst of this tragedy, we are all left searching for an explanation.
Rep. Louie Gohmert (R - Texas) said Friday that the shooting is the result of the “ongoing attacks on Judeo-Christian beliefs,” though I find that incredibly hard to believe. Other people are debating the pros and cons of gun control laws. While the Supreme Court recently ruled to protect violent video games, citing the First Amendment and arguing that there is no evidence that violent video games lead people to commit acts of violence, scientists are still trying to determine the effects such games have on developing minds. The gunman was wearing goggles and a gas mask; could the character of Bane have inspired him?
Important to note is the shooter’s age: he is 24 years old. PolicyMic pundit Daniela Quintanilla pointed out that “Within the last 15 years, the United States has suffered 12 mass shootings that have claimed 262 people, including the Columbine tragedy, the Virginia Tech massacre, and the shooting in Tuscon, Arizona that wounded Congressman Gabrielle Giffords.” What Quintanilla didn’t point out was that every shooter on her list had something in common: they were all males under the age of 25.
Eric Harris was 18 and Dylan Klebold 17 when they shot up Columbine High School. Seung-Hui Cho, the Virginia Tech shooter, was 23. Jared Lee Loughner, who was responsible for the shooting that targeted Gabrielle Giffords, was 22.
Though it’s easy to see the pattern in the data, it is far more difficult to conclude what could be leading so many young people to commit such horrible acts against others. In the case of the Columbine, Virginia Tech, and many other school shootings, the perpetrators took their own lives at the conclusion of the massacre and spoke of having been bullied. We can imagine the pain that those young men must have been feeling, though of course that does not excuse their horrific actions.
While The Dark Knight Rises shooting and the shooting of Rep. Giffords lack such explanations, their place alongside Columbine and Virginia Tech indicates that it’s time for a serious conversation to take place about the culture in which these shooters grew up. Studies have shown that boys don’t reach full brain development until at least 25 years of age (sorry, guys), and something, somewhere, is going terribly wrong for them. To simply write off the shooters as sick individuals would be to miss out on the opportunity to figure out what is driving them. Is it bullying that is to blame? Or perhaps violence in the media, or a culture that encourages aggression? We must figure out if our culture is playing a part in making them that way.