Another mass shooting, another day of endless video loops from helicopters and long shots of police cars and emergency vehicles lined up, and another ceaseless round of people on cable TV trying to come up with new ways of saying they have no new information but here’s the same clip over again.
This time it’s the Capital Gazette of Annapolis, Maryland. This time it’s five journalists dead at the hands of a man with a shotgun. This time he’s alive and in custody, and this time the authorities are telling us that he had a grudge against the paper: he lost a defamation suit against it in 2015.
Without diminishing the horrific act itself and the loss of life, let me ask a simple question: does it really matter what the shooter’s motive was? Does knowing why he did it somehow lessen the pain or amplify it? We’re always asking “Why?” but the answer, even if we know it, doesn’t make any difference to the dead, and in comparison to the result, it often seems trivial or even insulting to the memories of the lost to wonder why. The result is endless speculation and, like the live TV coverage, an endless loop of non-information.
But in this time of polarization, of meaningless attempts to control the madness of guns and death through legislation or “thoughts and prayers,” there is one simple reason why a man with a gun can walk into a newspaper office, or a mall, or a school, or a movie theatre, or a church, or a church basement, and in less time than it takes to write it, kill or wound people and scar the rest of us: Because he can. What more do you really need to know than that?