‘‘Mass shootings provoke instant debates about violence and guns and mental health and that’s been the case since Charles Whitman climbed the tower at the University of Texas in 1966,’’ he said, referring to the engineering student and former Marine who killed 13 people and an unborn child and wounded 32 others in a shooting rampage on campus. ‘‘It becomes mind-numbingly repetitive.’’
‘‘Rampage violence seems to lead to repeated cycles of anguish, investigation, recrimination, and heated debate, with little real progress in prevention,’’ wrote John Harris, clinical assistant professor of medicine in the College of Medicine at the University of Arizona, in the June issue of American Journal of Public Health. ‘‘These types of events can lead to despair about their inevitability and unpredictability.’’
And there is despair and frustration, even among those who have set out to stop mass killings.
‘‘We do just seem to slog along, from one tragedy to the next,’’ Tom Mauser said last July, after the Aurora shootings.
Mauser knows all about the slog. He became an outspoken activist against such violence after his 15-year-old son, Daniel, was slain along with 12 other at Columbine High School in 1999. But he has grown frustrated and weary.
‘‘There was a time when I felt a certain guilt,’’ said Mauser. ‘‘I'd ask, ‘Why can’t I do more about this? Why haven’t I dedicated myself more to it?’ But I'll be damned if I'm going to put it all on my shoulders.
‘‘This,’’ he said, ‘‘is all of our problem.’’
Carolyn McCarthy enlisted in the cause in 1993, when a deranged gunman killed her husband and seriously injured her son in shooting rampage. She has served in Congress since 1997.
Known as the ‘‘gun lady’’ on Capitol Hill for her fierce championship of gun control laws, McCarthy says she nearly gave up her ‘‘lonely crusade’’ after hearing about the Virginia Tech shooting. And when she heard about the January 2011 shooting of former U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords she says, ‘‘I just sat there frozen and watching the television and couldn’t stop crying.’’
‘‘It’s like a cancer in our society,’’ she says. ‘‘And if we keep doing nothing to stop it, it’s only going to spread.’’
After the Binghamton shootings, Colin Goddard resolved that he had to get involved, to somehow try to stop the cycle. Reminders are lodged inside him: three bullets, a legacy of Virginia Tech.
He now works in Washington for the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence.
‘‘I refuse to believe this is something we have to accept as normal in this country,’’ he said. ‘‘There has to be a way to change the culture of violence in our society.’’