Why Did The Shooter Do What He Did?


After we read about a serial killer or mass murderer, the first question people always ask is, “Why?” What set him off? Why did he kill all those innocent people? Unfortunately, no matter how many different ways you try to fill in the blanks, there’s never going to be a satisfying answer.

Want to blame music or video games? Well, okay, how many people listened to those same songs or played those same games and didn’t go on a murderous rampage? In almost every case, you’re talking about millions of people. So, even when you do find someone like Sebastian Bosse, the crazed gunman in Germany who injured 37 and was known to be obsessed with “Counter-Strike,” you have to think that he was attracted to the game because he was disturbed, not made disturbed by the game.

The same could be said of violent television shows and movies and probably will since it has been revealed that Cho Seung-Hui was apparently copying parts of a movie called Old Boy. But again, millions of people have probably seen that movie and it didn’t produce a slew of murders. So, it’s not the movie, it’s the person.

What about the killer’s rants against the rich? That’s exactly the sort of thing you’d find at liberal websites like the Democratic Underground and Daily Kos, isn’t it? Sure, but if hating the rich turned people into mass murderers, then there are 30 or 40 million liberals who would have already gone on killing sprees

Other people — liberals again — will point to guns as the cause of the crime. But, if guns cause crime, then they must malfunction 99.9% of the time because law abiding Americans with guns are very seldom dangers to their fellow citizens. That’s because guns don’t cause crime; they’re just tools — and they’re particularly dangerous tools when a person like Cho Seung-Hui has one and his fellow citizens are banned from having weapons of their own. If you want a perfect example of how gun control puts decent people at the mercy of criminals, you really don’t need to look any further than what happened at Va. Tech.

Well, if it wasn’t video games, guns, violence put out by Hollywood, liberal morals, or guns, why did Cho Seung-Hui do what he did? It must be goth culture, Dungeons and Dragons, bullies, or something else like that. Right? Wrong. The world’s full of goths, people who play D&D, and people who are bullied. How many of them snap and murder 32 of their classmates for no discernible reason?

Here’s the thing: you’re never going to get a satisfactory answer that explains why Cho Seung-Hui did what he did. How could you? What is the reasonable explanation for why a run-of-the-mill college student decided to walk into a building full of strangers, chain the doors shut, and then gun them down? There isn’t one.

What you have here is a strange, seriously disturbed individual who frightened some of his fellow students and teachers with his writing and behavior. His behavior and his thinking were not normal and so you can’t reason them out normally. Were he still alive, perhaps you could sit him down with a psychologist for a few months and tease some sort of twisted rationale out of him, but it wouldn’t make sense — not in the way that we want it to.

In a situation like this, we want to know the exact events that set the murderer off so we can stop people like Cho Seung-Hui before they kill again. But, in the spiderweb of a mass murderer’s mind, you never know what sort of muddled thinking and bizarre associations may be present.

Seung-Hui could have been upset because he fantasized about a girl and she didn’t give him the time of day, because of bad grades, or even because of a misinterpreted remark that the average person wouldn’t have thought about for two seconds. On the other hand, despite all of his planning, if Seung-Hui had a happier week, he may have never gone through with his plans to murder those students.

The reality is that we’re never going to really understand the “why” behind Seung-Hui’s actions any more than we truly understand why Klebold and Harris murdered kids at Columbine, Ed Gein had a necklace made out of human lips, or why Ted Bundy eventually chose to rape and murder his way across the country.

You can chalk it up to evil. Psychologists and profilers can study these cases to see what they can learn, but don’t expect it to really ever make sense because there’s not going to be a rational, logical explanation behind it.

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