The Misconceptions of an AR-15 & Understanding the Mind of a Mass Shooter

When individuals think of an AR-15, the first thought that comes to mind is assault rifle. When in reality, AR stands for ArmaLite rifle.

Many people believe that this rifle is a scary gun due to it’s look, the number besides AR, and that it is associated to many different mass shootings. Although, the number “15,” simply stands for the model number and, according to John Gramlich in his article:

“ Rifles — the category that includes many guns that are sometimes referred to as “assault weapons”– were involved in 4% [of gun murders and] handguns were involved in the majority (64%) of the 10,982 U.S gun murders and non-negligent manslaughters for which data is available, according to the FBI [in 2017].

In correlation to this, the majority of gun deaths are actually suicides.

The AR-15 also has a huge misconception that due to it’s large look, it is not only dangerous looking to the human eye, but it is severely harmful. Yet, according to Drew Welty in his article:

“AR-15s shoot the .223 or 5.56 caliber which is a very small caliber for a combat rifle. It gets its power from how fast it shoots its bullets rather than how large the bullet is.”

He continues to add that many individuals argue that this gun should not be in the hands of civilians as it is not necessary. He drives his point across by persuading his audience by saying, “A brief misconception that I also see quite often is one about hunting. I’ve seen countless people say that AR-15s have no hunting use. The first thing wrong about this is that the second amendment is not about hunting. It’s about self-preservation in the face of a tyrannical government.”

In agreement to Welty’ argument, Emerson Bolen, in his article:

believes that an individual should not have to state a reason to wanting to own a ArmaLite rifle as it could be of great use besides hunting and self-preservation, but for self-defense in times of absolute peril. He begins by expressing… “Speaking of “who needs an AR-15 and high-capacity magazines,” just go back to Ferguson, Missouri, where business owners stood guard in front of their shops with semi-automatic rifles, shotguns, and handguns which were spared as the rioters moved on to unprotected businesses to vandalize, loot, and burn. It happened back in 1992 during the Watts riots when Koreans stood guard to protect their neighborhood.”

Despite these counter opinions, many individuals are left with the rebound of what about mass shootings? And according to Emerson Bolen, “Mass shooting are a sympton of a sick, decaying society.

According to Jessica Mcdonald in her article:

“Grant Duwe, a criminologist at Baylor University, calculated that of 185 public mass shootings in America between 1900 and 2017, at least 59% were carried out by people with symptoms of a serious mental illness or by those who had been previously diagnosed with a mental disorder.”

We are all familiar of the Parkland shooting on February 14th, 2018. But what many people are not familiar with is Nikolas Cruz’ troubled path. On January 13th of 2013, Lynda Cruz had told the Broward County Sherrif that her son had anger issues. The caller Lynda Cruz called to, according to the Washington post:

“Advise that her son has anger issues and ADHD. Alleged, she was thrown against a wall because she took away Nikolas’ Xbox game system.”

We are first able to see Cruz’ thoughts on a mass shooting in 2016, two years before he completes his task in 2018. On February 5th, 2016, there was an anonymous report that Cruz had stated he was going to shoot up the school (Stoneman Douglas) on Instagram.

On September 28th, 2016, the sheriff received two reports related to Cruz allegedly hurting himself. It became apparent as;

“A school resource officer report[ed] that a peer counselor told him that Cruz ingested gasoline in an effort to commit suicide and was cutting himself. He also allegedly said he wanted to buy a gun and possessed hate-related symbols. A mental health clinician said Cruz didn’t need to be held under the Baker Act. Eight hours later, a sheriff’s deputy responds to Cruz’s home on allegations that Cruz is hurting himself and talking about buying a gun.”

For those who do not know, the Baker Act, according to the University of Florida Health;

“Is a Florida law that enables families and loved ones to provide emergency mental health services and temporary detention for people who are impaired because of their mental illness, and who are unable to determine their needs for treatment. The Act was named after Maxine Baker, former Miami State representative who sponsored the Act in 1972. People who require the use of the Baker Act have often lost the power of self-control, and they are likely to inflict harm to themselves or others. It is important that the Baker Act only be used in situations where the person has a mental illness and meets all the remaining criteria for voluntary or involuntary admission. It does not substitute for any other law that may permit the provision of medical or substance abuse care to persons who lack the capacity to request such care.”

In September 2017, under the screen name of “nikolas cruz,” he commented on a Youtube video saying, “I’m going to be a professional school shooter.” His comment was later alerted to the FBI.

On January 5th 2018, the FBI received a tip that Cruz might attack a school. The tip was orchestrated by someone who was close to Cruz. The caller, “Reported concerns about Cruz’s “gun ownership, desire to kill people, erratic behavior, and disturbing social media posts, as well as the potential of him conducting a school shooting,” according to an FBI statement.” The ending result was the FBI ignoring the warning.

Regardless of the multitude of warning signs that Cruz had pertaining to his mental health, he was not given any help nor was he deemed as person of interest to the FBI or eligible to be held under the Baker Act. This action of turning a blind eye, led him to open fire on February 14th, 2018. Killing a total of 17 students and faculty.

Like, Nikolas Cruz, Adam Lanza, who was also mass shooter used a Bushmaster XM15-E2S rifle which is an AR-15 semi-automatic .223-caliber semi automatic rifle. To justify that Lanza was not mentally ill is morally wrong as, before he arrived at Sandy Hook Elementary to cause damage, he killed his sleeping mother as she was laying in bed.

According to Peter Langman in his journal, The Enigma of Lanza’s Mind and Motivations for Murder;

“The hypothesis that Lanza was schizophrenic originally was based on several behaviors and traits he exhibited that are associated withschizophrenia. These include the lack of expressed emotion (flat effect) and the failure to speak in situations where speech would be appropriate and expected (poverty of speech).”

He continues to reveal thoughts from Lanzas’ former classmates:

“If you looked at him, you couldn’t see any emotions going through his head”(Halbfinger, 2012)”

“He began having episodes that sent him into complete withdrawal. Loud noises, bright lights, or any sudden change or ex- citement could send him into a nonresponsive state… “It was like he would go into a trance,” one student remembered. “It was a little scary… He just seemed vacant. Like he wasn’t there” (Lysiak, 2013, p. 43).”

In relation to the idea of killing his mother, there are not many things that could suggest he was planning on killing his mother along with the students and faculty at his school. Although, there are some warning signs within his past writing that could suggest hostility toward his mother as well as women in general.

Langman also adds that, “When Lanza was in fifth grade, he co-wrote a series of stories titled “The Big Book of Granny.” In one of the stories, “Granny’s Son shoots Granny in the head with a shotgun” (Sedensky, 2013b, p. A221). Ten years later, Lanza shot his own mother in the head.” Langman questions; “Was this a coincidence, or did he have long-standing matricidal thoughts?”

Also, In 2011, “Someone posted a sarcastic message online in response to something Lanza wrote. The other user wrote about having sex with Lanza’s mother. Lanza responded with: “We will fuck her together! Then kill her and dispose of the corpse” (Coleman, 2015a).”

Although these pieces of information may suggest reasons as to why Lanza would kill his mother, it is not coherent enough to be used as evidence in his mothers murder. Perhaps he had killed her due to the motivation of delusion.

Many individuals even question why Lanza targeted children and not college students. He had in every power to target college students yet, seemingly, due to his past, it is believed that he focused on children because he had a fascination with killing children.

Also, In the “Big Book of Granny” cited earlier, a character named Dora states, “I like hurting people… especially children,” and “Let’s hurt children” (Sedensky, 2013b, p. A221). Though care has to be exercised in using action as a source for analysis, these quotes suggest that Lanza’s homicidal thoughts toward children may have existed long before he actually decided to carry out an attack against them.”

There may have been many ways that we as a society could’ve prevented Lanza from becoming a mass shooter, but we cannot overlook what was going on in his mind. He was 20 year old with autism, anorexia and an unsettling mind. He was a man who was never given the chance to obtain medicene and mental health care, and according to Arielle Levin Becker and Jacqueline Rabe Thomas, in their article:

“Lanza’s family appeared to have access to medical and mental health care, but often rejected the recommendations of providers, in some cases because of Adam’s vehement resistance.”

Both Becker and Thomas adds that Lanza, “Had delays in communication; never slept through the night by age 5; didn’t like to be held, kissed or hugged; and wouldn’t speak in groups. [And] In middle school, his social withdrawal and isolation intensified.”

According to Sporting Classics Daily in the article:

Even though the AR-15' looks big and scary, it actually just “Look[s] like [a] military rifle, such as the M-16, [which] function[s] like other semi-automatic civilian sporting firearms, [that can] fir[e] only one round with each pull of the trigger.”

According to the Treatment Advocacy Center, in their article:

“In 2018, the US Secret Service National Threat Assessment Center released a report on Mass Attacks in Public Spaces — 2017. It analyzed 28 such incidents that had taken place in 2017. It reported that 18 (64%) of the attackers “experienced mental health symptoms prior to their attack; 9 (32%) were psychotic and 7 (25%) had been hospitalized for treatment or prescribed psychiatric medication prior to their attacks.”

It is clear that many perpetrators of mass shootings have experienced a multitude of deranged behaviors before their attacks. Which can be overlooked by individuals in the media when discussing the outcomes of these mass shootings. Many individuals tend to pinpoint the blame to the gun rather than the person holding it.

It is significant to understand the mind of a mass shooter before placing blame. It is crucial to look at all aspects to fully determine what our country should be fearful of. A gun that looks more scary than it is, or what flounders in the mind of the distraught?

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