Mass shooters are NOT crazy (but our response to them is)

First, I would like to apologize to Tom and Caren Teves, whose son, Alex, was killed trying to protect his girlfriend when a gunman opened fire in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater in 2012.

I spoke to them several times in the years since.

During the prosecution of the killer, Tom asked the news media not to mention the murderer’s name, not give him the publicity he sought. That all such killers seek.

“Stop showing cowards and start showing heroes,” he said, “so that another father doesn’t feel the hole in his body that I have and I know will never go away.”

I did that for a while.

I see that I slipped up in something I wrote about the mass shooting in Buffalo, N.Y. We all did, having concentrated so much on the racist, xenophobic “replacement theory” that motivated him.

The easy assumption that is wrong

A person pays his respects outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022.
A person pays his respects outside the scene of a shooting at a supermarket, in Buffalo, N.Y., Sunday, May 15, 2022.

And then we were distracted further by the grotesque social media post by Republican Arizona state Sen. Wendy Rogers that suggested the shooting that killed 10 and injured three others was a “false flag” staged by the federal government.

We were reminded of just how grotesque that was by state Rep. Jennifer Longdon, a Democrat, who was paralyzed in a shooting attack in 2004.

She tweeted:

Once again, Arizona is in the glare of the national spotlight due to vile misinformation propagated by a state senator. “It is repugnant and horrific and MUST be condemned by every TRUE patriot in our nation. #Enough

Just about every time there is a mass shooting those of us in the media fail.

For one thing, we almost always allow for the easy assumption that anyone who would do such a thing is insane.

No. Often, as with Buffalo, there is research, planning, preparation. Clearly, they’re different. But it frightens us that they seem so … normal.

Mass shootings are not aberrations

Then there is the easy access to weapons capable of killing the most people in the shortest time.

The killers aren’t crazy, but our response to them is.

We pretend that they are an aberration when we know they are not. The Buffalo attack was already the 198th mass shooting in 2022, according to the Gun Violence Archive. There were nearly 700 in 2021.

These days, we are so accustomed to these shootings, and so sure any attempt to pass common sense firearms legislation will be blocked by Republicans, that we no longer even bother having a discussion about instituting universal background checks, legislating limitations to high capacity magazines and certain weapons, or dealing with currently untraceable “ghost guns.”

It goes on.

The names we SHOULD remember

Not only that, but someone like state Rep. Longdon reminds us of something even more important that is too often neglected or marginalized.

The victims.

The killers manage to become widely known, just as they hope.

The victims, not so much.

And in case you’re wondering – and we all should be – the men and women killed in the attack in the market in Buffalo were:

Margus D. Morrison, 52; Andre Mackneil, 53; Aaron Salter, 55; Geraldine Talley, 62; Celestine Chaney, 65; Heyward Patterson, 67; Katherine Massey, 72; Pearl Young, 77, Roberta Drury, 32 and Ruth Whitfield, 86.

Reach Montini at

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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Mass shooters are not crazy, but our response to them is