Tragedy in Oregon

I share President Obama’s disgust about our nation’s inaction regarding gun violence. The bipartisan Manchin-Toomey bill came close to defeating the filibuster. Its provisions would have been helpful in reducing gun violence.

If you want to learn more about the policy dilemmas in mass shootings, the links in these two Washington Post Wonkblog columns I did on the Isla Vista shootings may be of interest. By horrible coincidence, I lectured about this case this morning to University of Chicago medical students.

One more thing. I don’t even want to know the name of the Oregon perpetrator until I learn much more about and honor the beautiful people he injured or killed today. There’s no reason to put the killer’s name in lights.

Oh yeah. A second thing. Any politician who argues that mental health is the core issue in preventing gun violence should be asked whether he or she supports ACA’s Medicaid expansion. That’s the single most important issue in America regarding access to mental health and addiction services.


Author: Harold Pollack

Harold Pollack is Helen Ross Professor of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. He has served on three expert committees of the National Academies of Science. His recent research appears in such journals as Addiction, Journal of the American Medical Association, and American Journal of Public Health. He writes regularly on HIV prevention, crime and drug policy, health reform, and disability policy for American Prospect,, and other news outlets. His essay, "Lessons from an Emergency Room Nightmare" was selected for the collection The Best American Medical Writing, 2009. He recently participated, with zero critical acclaim, in the University of Chicago's annual Latke-Hamentaschen debate.

12 thoughts on “Tragedy in Oregon”

  1. Tragedy? No, it was an atrocity. The difference is that atrocities are deliberate. To call an atrocity a tragedy is to deny the agency of the perpetrator. Whose name I absolutely agree should be buried, though good luck with that. In fact, it's looking like this creep was inspired by coverage previous creeps got.

    I understand that exploiting outlier incidents like this is pretty central to the strategy of the gun control movement, but I'm predicting that this particular shooting won't be exploited for very long, but will instead be buried. Too many of the details that are leaking out aren't compatible with the sort of spin the left would want put on it, like the guy being an immigrant, or his going around singling out Christians to execute.

    1. I'm not sure why you think any of this would be uncomfortable for "the left." Yes, it appears he was an immigrant. That by itself doesn't make me the slightest bit inclined to ignore the incident; it's also misleading, since he was brought here as a young child and functionally grew up in the U.S. The fact that he may have been specifically targeting Christians also doesn't make any difference to me.

      As usual, your ability to predict what liberals think is badly defective. Hopefully it's still under warranty and you can get someone to give it an overhaul.

    2. Don't look now, but Reuters quotes his online dating profile:

      "He described himself on the site as a 26-year-old, mixed-race "man looking for a woman." He said he was "not religious, but spiritual," and was a "teetotaler" living with his parents and a conservative Republican. Socially, he said, he was "shy at first" and "better in small groups." He described himself as "always dieting" and looking for "the yin to my yang."

    3. That seems like a remarkably mean-spirited thing to say. If I brought up Obama's response to Charleston, or to the shooting in the Sikh temple in Wisconsin, you'd probably say that of course he sympathized with these victims because they were minorities killed by Americans. (And he was outraged by the shootings in Newtown, Aurora, and Tucson because at least some of the victims may not have been religious, and of course, were killed by Americans.) I would hate to live in your world. But you can take small comfort from this, your guns are totally safe – there will never be meaningful gun control in the US during your lifetime. And, partly as a result of that fact, you will have ample opportunities in the future to demean the character and decency of people who think that maybe we could reduce mass killings through some sort of gun control. Should you choose to burn me, I'll be happy to have made your day at least a little brighter.

      1. At all is too common, but in a nation of 320 million, once a month or so is pretty darned "outlier". Could we reduce the number? Sure. But I don't think there's much chance of that happening as long as the media are determined to make anybody who does this famous.

        Could we reduce it with gun control? About as plausibly as with press control. Both violating explicit constitutional rights.

        1. in his strident, unfeeling, uncaring way mr. bellmore points out the necessity of amending the constitution to clearly allow for the more stringent regulation of firearms in general. he also points out that mass shootings are, indeed, outlier events in that the more typical gun death is either self-inflicted or inflicted by a relative or a roomate, most commonly with a handgun. the outright ban of handguns (and i'd be happy to see that ban include possession and use by law enforcement agencies with a possible exception of a sidearm for use only by lawfully constituted military use) would reduce the number of deaths by an enormous amount.

          it is insane that we allow this to happen, and believe me, we allow this to happen because it doesn't have to. the only rthing i can think of that is comparable to our incredible death rate due to firearms is the death rate due to vehicular accidents and, unlike with firearms, our government allows itself to study those deaths so as to find ways to prevent them and the manufacturers are legally obligated to make their vehicles safer based on those studies.

          i would like to thank mr. bellmore for making things absolutely clear.

          1. We don't need to change the Second Amendment.
            We just need to change the Supreme Court.
            "A well regulated militia" seems like a good idea to me.
            Requiring basic fitness and adequate training, and forbidding being drunk on duty, are both perfectly sensible regulations.

          2. Riight. You've got a huge number of people who think we have a right to own guns to fight tyranny. They're politically powerful enough that almost every state in the country has ended up with concealed carry reform by the democratic process, and open carry is spreading fast. More jurisdictions respond to mass shootings by relaxing gun control laws than by enacting them. The gun control movement is as weak as it's ever been, and gun rights organizations stronger than ever.

            So, you figure you'll just elect somebody President by having them lie about their intentions regarding gun control, then replace one Supreme court justice, and razor blade the 2nd amendment out of the Bill of Rights by judicial decree. Problem solved, and public opinion be damned.

            And you expect this to end well? Maybe you forgot the backlash back in '94, where you paid for the AWB by losing control of Congress? What do you think the backlash from what you propose would be like?

            Navarro, I suggest you take a look at a graph of gun ownership in the US, and then compare it to a graph of gun crimes. And then think a while. When gun crime has plummeted at the same time as more guns than ever are owned, your plan to enormously reduce gun deaths is to ban guns, because guns are obviously driving the murder rate?

  2. "I don’t even want to know the name of the Oregon perpetrator until I learn much more about and honor the beautiful people he injured or killed today."

    This utterly reasonable viewpoint, which I see more and more frequently expressed, has gotten under my skin a bit:

    1) The sheriff in Oregon pompously declared in a press conference last night that he was not going to mention the name of the perpetrator. Good for him. This sheriff is the same [expletive] who wrote a comparably pompous tone to Biden after Sandy Hook blasting the idea of gun regulation. Media coverage is not the issue here — shooters are not "glamorized" in the media; they are uniformly portrayed as creeps. In any event, the solution to mass shootings does not involve modulating the tone of media coverage. In this case, it really doesn't matter whether we mention this shooter by name or not. He's dead now. It's the height of fantasy to imagine that we can teach him a lesson by giving him bad PR. [Update: Josh Marshall weighs in on this same point today.… ]

    2) The media is also shamed into not reporting too much on the details of the shooting, or heaven forfend, showing pictures of blood or dead bodies. Should we remember these people as the lovely people they no doubt were? It's nice to think so, but I don't think it would help anyone very much. The families of the victims are not sad because of unpleasant press coverage; they're sad because their loved ones have been shot to death. Perhaps it would better for us as a country if we saw nothing but photos of grisly carnage in the media for a month every time one of these things happened. The families of victims could turn off their televisions, and the rest of us could think about what kind of country we've made for ourselves.

  3. During the Aurora theater shooter trial, the local news media, which covered the trial every day, referred to the defendant only as "the defendant." They very rarely mentioned his name. This was a small move on their part but one I appreciated.

  4. Unfortunately, the killer's British connections means that he will get huge press coverage from tabloids and broadsheets even if the US press restrains itself.

Comments are closed.