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Common Dreams

Mass Murder Without Guns

In the wake of the latest Colorado massacre, pundits are leaping to their keyboards to argue against gun control. On CNN James Alan Fox wrote:

Mass killers are determined, deliberate and dead-set on murder. They plan methodically to execute their victims, finding the means no matter what laws or other impediments the state attempts to place in their way. To them, the will to kill cannot be denied.

Urging us to wait until our heads have cooled Oliver Burkeman reminded his Guardian readers: “some people will go to extreme lengths to do unthinkably terrible things.”

I leap to my keyboard to agree and elaborate. Because if a homicidal maniac is determined to commit mass murder, he (and I do mean “he”) is going to figure out a way.

Suppose we banned assault weapons and automatic rifles tomorrow. We might still wake up to the following horrific headlines:


An unidentified white male dressed in camouflage clothing burst into a movie theater tonight and assaulted the audience. Armed with four crossbows, three strapped over his shoulders, he launched his deadly bolts at the stunned and frightened crowd. Reloading swiftly, he mercilessly picked off victims as they cowered in the rear of the theater.


Students were assembled peaceably in the cafeteria of Aaron Burr Junior High today, eating lunch and texting, when a fourteen-year-old boy armed with a slingshot burst into the room. The boy, who has not been identified because he is under age (although he will be tried as an adult) got off twenty-two rounds before the football coach rushed from the field and subdued him. “I was studying for my geometry exam,” wailed one student. “I was so scared. I hid under a table but I got a really bad bruise on my leg.”


Hurling watermelons from a corporate booth, into which he had gained improper access, 22-year-old Paul Walter Smith decimated an unsuspecting crowd, crushing dozens of baseball fans and staining the clothes of others. Smith had apparently smuggled the watermelons up in an unguarded, unsupervised freight elevator. “They always find a way,” sighed a police officer. “It’s just useless to take precautions.”

Because after all, guns don’t commit mass murder. Very well-prepared and determined lunatics commit mass murder. And they’re going to do it even if all they have is a pointed stick , or a banana.

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Caroline Hamilton

Caroline Hamilton has a Ph.D. from Berkeley. Her work has appeared in the Journal of American Studies, C-Theory, Salmagundi, the Paris Review, and other literary and scholarly journals. Her last piece for Common Dreams was "Mass Murder without Guns."

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