I was asked to speak about the recent school shooting at Uvalde, Texas, where 17 children and two teachers died. It is extremely difficult to comprehend how someone could do this, and so the question I was asked is why?
People generally want to look for easy answers, but it is a difficult subject. While sensible gun controls may help, this may not be the “solution”.
Research shows that K-12 students who engaged in mass shootings were found to be suicidal in 92% of instances and college/university students who engaged in mass shootings were suicidal 100% of the time.
Aggression, social rejection, narcissism, fame-seeking, low self-esteem, and depression are commonalities with mass killers, specifically mass shooters. Also Identification or idolizing antisocial fictional characters is also a common behavior within these types of offenders.
Among the 25 most-cited school shooters since Columbine, 75 percent were reared in broken homes. Psychologist Dr. Peter Langman, a pre-eminent expert on school shooters, found that most came from incredibly broken homes of not just divorce and separation, but also infidelity, substance abuse, criminal behavior, domestic violence, and child abuse.
These are issues that could be addressed by fostering a more spiritual outlook on life along with promoting the qualities of compassion, kindness, resilience, etc.
Aum Namo Bhagavate Vasudevaya
So, a topic that’s not a happy topic. And I’m talking about it in response to a few questions that I got, otherwise I probably wouldn’t have chosen it. School or mass shootings, why? And it’s in relation to something that has just occurred in America, where seventeen children were murdered, and two teachers, by a very troubled and demented individual. And it’s kind of like, well, why? And there’s been a whole succession of these. It’s sort of like, what’s going on? And the question, and the idea, is there some way to prevent it? If I ask you that question, how could it have been prevented? And not just this one, even previous ones, how could they be prevented? It’s sort of like, there’s no easy answer, particularly if you look at it a bit more closely.
In America, the big debate between two opposing political parties is, we gotta stop the sale of guns. And it’s just like, that would be an extremely slow and long solution, if it was actually a solution at all. Because there’s a particular problem in America, in that their constitution enshrines the right to own and to bear arms.
And of course, that was written in there because there was a history of abuse and grave violence and the killing of people by England imposing their rule and control. And so the people living in the colonies rebelled, and had to fight a war. And the people that wrote the constitution, they wanted to make sure that—they knew that governments can become tyrannical, and they wanted to make sure that people always had the means to savagely push back and even to fight off an oppressive government.
And so the idea of being able to have, as a right, to have guns, and to—I mean one of the things the British did was try to confiscate guns. Of course, it was in their interest, them wanting to control. And so this is part of their constitution. There are, from what I’ve heard, more guns in America than there are people. And so it’s kind of like, what, now you’re going to make legislation to impose heavy controls? And, what, you’re going to take everybody’s guns away? It’s just not going to work.
And this idea that okay, we—at least we need to stop these weapons of war, as they’ve been called now, the AR-15. It’s kind of like, well is that really going to make a difference, when 77 percent of all the mass shootings are done with handguns, almost 80 percent. So even if you took away the AR-15s then how you going to deal with what’s remaining. “Oh, we’re going to have all these controls on how to make it so that people can’t buy them.” Well, I think the figure is 80 percent of all the school shootings that were performed by young people, 80 percent were with guns that they borrowed or stole from friends, relatives, parents.
So it’s like a real complex issue. And there is a certain argument to be made that perhaps the big problem is not the weapon of choice, but it’s, “What’s driving people to do this?”
I don’t know, for you guys is it kind of shocking or horrific? I mean you all have children, or not all, but some of you have children, and some of you have grandchildren. And what drives a person to single out little children and shoot them, and hear the screaming and the begging, and they just cause this carnage? It’s sort of like what’s going on with that person? This is a way bigger issue, and in many ways a much more important issue than the weapon of choice.
Do you know what the first mass killing was in America? It’s kind of mind-blowing. It’s over a hundred years ago, where somebody was on a school board, and they—I think. I may have this wrong—he got dislodged, or fired from the school board, and so he was so upset he planted explosives in the school and blew it up. No guns. As they say, where there is a will there is a way. And it’s sort of, once again, it’s like why would you do that? I mean I understand if you’re angry at the board members who got rid of you, but why the children? And in that one I think there were 49 children killed in a massive explosion.
So I mean, some of the things that I’m raising here are—it’s problematic, how do you actually deal with this? For me it really points to a deeper systemic problem, in society, and of the individuals who are making up society. But people like to just, you know, what you hear in the news. And what the media often gets involved in is the political football that everybody’s kicking around and trying to win a game. But there’s this massive unwillingness to really look at things behind it. I mean how can you shoot an eight-year-old or a ten-year-old and ever think that that’s okay?
If you have ever been with someone that killed, for instance, an animal, for most people that experience is already kind of disturbing. Unless you’re hardened to it, it is disturbing. And even people that do it habitually, if you talk to them about it, they know there’s something deeper going on there.
So in America, there were a couple of people who were behind establishing the building of a massive database on mass killings, and interviewing people and collecting data for the purpose of trying to find a solution. It’s called The Violence Project, and the focus is just on these mass killings.
For me, it’s a little disturbing. I actually get a little bit irritated with political responses, and how people that seek political power, want to use social issues and things that really need addressing, but actually they’re just manipulating them in order to gain power and influence. Like in the last couple of years there’s been this massive movement in America where everybody’s focused on the police killing black people. And that’s got a certain appeal to it, and people can get all fired up by it. Two years ago the number of people, black people that were killed by white police officers, was five—people that were killed that the circumstance may point to some misuse of a weapon or power. In that same year 10,000 black people died from guns: 10,000 (that’s like 30 something a day), were dying at the hands of drug dealers and gangs. And we’re talking about children and innocent people that are caught in the crossfire. It’s like—it’s an epidemic of violence. And nobody’s out in the street protesting about that, but they’ll protest when a policeman shoots somebody. I’m not saying that the policeman is doing anything right, but it’s kind of like, well, how sincere are we to seek change when we are so narrow in our focus.
And the similar thing happens in relation to the issues that we’re discussing now. If the solution is not going to be political per se, it’s going to have to be, involve, the broader society.
So in The Violence Project they collected information on 172 mass public shooters from 1966 to 2019, and covered more than 150 psycho-social history variables regarding the shooters, including such things as mental health history, trauma and demographic details. So these guys have done an amazing amount of work. They also, in many cases, the people that undertake these shootings are suicidal, and engaging in these mass shootings is part of an attempt to commit suicide themselves, and so the majority do not survive. And so then you have to go to family members, people that knew them, that worked with them, to interview them. They’ve done all these really in-depth interviews, looking to garner information. And the problem is it’s not pointing to any clear solutions.
“The trend over time—”
—and I’m reading from some of these reports
“The trend over time shows a marked increase in mass shootings, with more than half of those studied occurring after the year 2000.”
So, since 1966 up to the year 2000, over half of all the killings happened since 2000. 2000 to 2019.
“…and 20% of them are in the last five years of the study period. The death toll from mass shootings has also risen sharply, from an average of eight deaths per year in the 1970s to 51 per year from 2010 to 2019. [That’s averaged out] Sixteen of the 20 deadliest mass shootings occurred between 1999 and 2019.”
So in the last 20 years, 16 of the 20 largest ones.
“Two-thirds of the mass shooters in the database had a documented history of mental health problems, and while this may seem high [they state] researchers point out that roughly 50% of Americans have experienced some kind of mental health problem at some point in their lives.”
So there you go, 66 percent of the killers had mental health issues. But that’s not very shocking when 50 percent of the entire population has or will suffer a mental health problem. And when you consider so many people are kids it’s a shockingly high percentage. K through 12. Do you know what that means? Kindergarten through the 12th grade. What’s the equivalent here? That’s like the last year of high school. So:
“Students in this category who engaged in mass shootings were found to be suicidal 92% of the time, while college and university level students who engaged in mass shootings were suicidal 100% of the time”
So that’s kind of like, oh so you think that some gun legislation is going to deal with that issue, the fact that the person has got suicidal ideas and is looking to act on it?
“In terms of past trauma 31% of persons who perpetrated mass shootings were found to have experiences of severe childhood trauma [not moderate, severe] and 80% of them were in crisis.”
Another thing that you always hear is the majority of shooters are white males. It is absolutely true that the majority of mass killers are male. I think it’s about 97 percent. But when they break it down by race categories the whites are not the biggest percentage of killers. They’re large because they’re the largest group in the population, but there are other groups, at least one other one, that has a higher rate of committing them. There’s another new statistic that’s out.
“The police expect that when there is a mass shooting another one is expected to occur within 13 days.”
And they categorize mass shootings as where four or more people die including the gunman.
So in looking at the issues related to the individual perpetrators,
“Aggression, social rejection, narcissism, fame-seeking, low self-esteem and depression are the commonalities with mass killers, specifically mass shooters.
So they all have these commonalities: aggression, social rejection, narcissism, fame-seeking and low self-esteem.
“They have a tendency to identify or idolize anti-social characters.”
—even fictional characters, they idolize them.
This is a bit overwhelming when we consider that is actually all of these problems. The idea—I mean hearing that the first mass school killing was undertaken by a board member who was meant to be a responsible individual, who planted a bomb in the school because he was pissed with the board, the education board, and killed 49 kids.
So it’s sort of like, if you look at all these complexities, anybody that wants to just go on about, like controlling guns is going to solve the problem. I think that easy access to guns is a massive problem.
I mean there was another killing just after this school shooting where somebody went into a hospital and killed three people, and then shot himself, killed himself. The guy had had a back injury and he had had an operation, but after the operation, he was still in pain, and he was trying to get hold of the doctor and complain, and he was having a hard time getting hold of the doctor. And so he got so angry he went and bought a gun and went to the hospital, shot the doctor, and he said anybody else that would get in the way, which included another female doctor and another staff member in the hospital.
And it’s kind of like well even if you had a legitimate gripe with that surgeon, you had a legitimate complaint, why do you think killing somebody is okay? And what about, just anybody that got in the way of you doing that, you thought it was okay to kill them too? You don’t see their family, the husband of the doctor that got killed, the children, the family members that are just utterly traumatized by what happened. And what you can see in these situations is extreme self-centeredness, where it’s all about me and my massive problems in life, and I just can’t handle it anymore.
The guy that did the last school shooting, he had a little bit of a speech defect. He had a really bad lisp, and I think he might have stuttered a little bit. And of course, everybody knows that children can be absolutely horrific with each other, and to think otherwise is just not very informed. As much as we want to educate and try and help children not be like that, they have a tendency to be like that, to be quite hurtful in the way they speak and treat other kids. And so this guy was ostracised because of this.
So this is one of the characteristics of these people that perform these activities. They feel cut off from everyone. They feel like they’ve been degraded, humiliated and ostracised. So feeling rejection from your peers is very common. So how are you going to regulate that? Are you going to pass some law. Obviously, you can’t do that.
So another point in another study:
“A great deal of mass shooters in the United States have also been known to commit their massacre with the gaining of fame as one of their motives. Fame seeking is one of many traits mass shooters tend to have in common.”
Take everybody’s phone away. No more selfies, self-promotion. I mean you ask most kids, “What do you want?” They want to be famous. They’d like to be an influencer, a model, a rock star. Most kids have those kind of dreams. People dream about fame. So it’s kind of like, whoa! So all these guys, they then turn that desire for fame to notoriety, to do something that everybody will pay attention to, and you will forever be known as the one who killed all the kids. And then what happens, because media organizations can make money, they hype the stories, and there is like hyper-focus.
You would think adults in a sensible society would get together and say, “Well, let’s deprive them of the one thing that they seek. Let’s have a decision on how we are going to report this, and it’s going to be limited and controlled.” I’m not talking about hiding, but why give them what they want? And then the same newspapers are all on about, “Oh, we need to stop them having guns!” Hey you’re just promoting the crap out of this person. You’ve got them all over the place. You’re giving them exactly what they wanted. And other people are reading these things and hearing these things and going, “I’m going to do that too.”
I got so much stuff here it’s depressing.
Of course, we understand from a—the only way that you’re going to find an actual solution is for people to foster a more spiritual outlook on life. The work that I’ve done in prisons, and some of the people that I’ve met, either on our programs or through going to prisons, some other people that have had big turnarounds in their life definitely show that a person, every single person, can be reformed. Every single person can manifest a condition of love, and caring, and compassion, and kindness, and be motivated to do good. Every single person is capable of this.
So what is it that we need to do as a society to bring about these changes? I mean our current situation and the model that we’re following is not helpful. We have this massive social breakdown, the breakdown of the family. While families are always far from perfect, all clinical psychologists who are not acting politically, meaning promoting some political or social ideology, that are actually just straight practitioners, talk about the effect on children who grow up in a one-parent family. And in fact a big percentage of these mass murderers and these school shooters come through these environments. A big percentage of them have not had an active father figure in their life, someone that actually really instills discipline.
I’m not saying that the mother doesn’t instill, but women have different psychology. They are caring nurturers. I mean in a regular family—and everybody can remember, probably, from their childhood, mum’s going, “How many times do I have to tell you to stop doing that?” and the kids are still doing it, and then dad walks in the room, “Hey!” and suddenly it stops. We have different roles. I mean we live in a time when they’re trying to erase all of the natural differences. They’re trying to re-engineer the psychology of humans, and they won’t be successful. They will just cause more havoc because of it. But there are structures that are needed.
And one of the important things is also examples to follow, good examples to follow. There’s some guy—somebody showed me a video—there’s some guy on Youtube. He grew up without a father and it was a struggle for him in his life, and he realizes how much help he actually needed. And so he’s put out all these instructional videos for young boys who don’t have fathers in their lives. And they always begin with, “Hey dad, how do you…?” and then whatever that’s going to be, like learning how to shave, and dealing with biological changes, and how to fix a car, and how to deal with, in relationships, and how should I deal with this situation, and how do I talk to girls. And he’s just got like a whole bunch of them, just based on his personal experience.
But there is this need for people to have structure in their life, to have examples in their life, and not to be in la-la land, these fantasy expectations that life should be perfect. Life is filled with imperfection. Life is filled with challenges. A few people, because of karmic things, get it, what appears to be, easy; but everybody else has got to put in the hard yards. They need to do the work. They need to do all these things. Nothing comes easy.
But when you’ve got people that are making a million dollars a year, even three million dollars a year, as an influencer, it’s like what the hell has happened there? And then all these kids watching that, and now this becomes their go-to: if I can just be an influencer, maybe if I become a porn star, I can make all the money and have the wonderful life. This is just really removed from reality.
And of course, the biggest thing that it arises is how in this type of living there is no awareness of my eternal spiritual being. Everybody has become overly obsessed and engrossed with the body and the ideas of the body and wanting the body to be the perfect fly trap, to trap those that they consider desirable. And so there’s all these struggles.
I mean have you seen some of the photos going around of this guy that did the school shooting? He’s got the pouty look and sucking the cheeks in, and he’s standing behind a thing that looks like a halo behind him and got the phone up and taking all these creepy pictures, and he thinks that that look is desirable and cool. It’s like whoa! People have seriously lost the plot.
And we live in a time when that has become magnified by social media and big tech, who are knowingly taking over people’s lives, preying on insecurities, studying how to make people more addicted, doing all of these things just to exploit them. There’s going to be some massive suits, lawsuits, coming down the road.
There was one that was just successful in Australia where an Australian politician sued a guy that was putting out all of these videos calling him all kinds of things and there was no truth to it. And it was Google, the owner of Youtube, that was then promoting and serving those and broadening the audience. So the guy that was making it, in the end, he made an apology, and he paid a hundred thousand dollars, but Google got hit—did you guys see that? Was it for seven hundred thousand dollars? Google has been ordered by the courts to pay for actively promoting and expanding these malicious and untruthful videos. This is just the beginning. It’s going to be happening in Europe big time. And this is actually highly beneficial. It’s not a positive move in a positive direction. It’s just sort of stemming all the water that’s flooding and overflowing the dykes. It’s kind of like it’s just shoring up the dykes.
We have this problem also with parents becoming disconnected from their children. They don’t even know what their kids are doing. They think that their kids are, because they’re at home, that it’s all okay. They don’t know that their sons and daughters are dealing with all these creepy people on the internet, that they’re watching all these horrific things, that they’re (as these guys stated in the report) marinating in porn. If your kids are in their bedroom with a device, don’t think that they’re in your house. You don’t even know who they’re dealing with and what’s going on, and what effect and influence they’re being subjected to.
So if we want to breed resilience, compassion, and kindness in people, it’s not going to happen society-wide unless there is a transformation of individuals. I mean what we need to do in our own lives is to become, as the saying goes, to become the change that you seek, for us to begin actively engaging in transformative activity. Compassion and kindness are really important. Lowering expectations of the world and of others. The only thing that you can count on in life is that you are going to die. Make the time between now and when that event happens, make that time worthwhile.
Worthwhile doesn’t mean you go out and seek to live it up and go wild, eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die as the famous line goes. No. That’s not what we’re promoting at all. But make that time something of value. And the measurement of value will be by what you can do for others. We have an eternal spiritual nature, and that spiritual nature is not to take, but it is to give. And so when people act on the basis of kindness, people become happy. Whereas if you act on the basis of taking, you become unhappy. It’s universally true.
But until people begin to actually cultivate a deeper and more spiritual approach to their life these problems are not going away. They are going to become worse, and no amount of regulation and law is going to change anybody.
I’ll tell you one thing (and a lot of people will get upset with me saying this), 50 years ago and before that, the majority of the people in the world, regardless of what country or culture, everybody had this idea of, “As you sow, so you shall reap,” that I will be held to account for all of my choices and all of my actions. I will not be able to escape justice. Within the context of different religions or different spiritual perspectives that was a common idea. Now, with a degradation of religion, the undermining of any idea of religion or God or some higher truth, it’s kind of like: well, what do you expect, when nobody thinks that they’re ever going to be accountable for anything? What’s the thing that’s going to curb extraordinarily bad or evil behavior? I mean it’s not the only answer, but it’s important.
Okay how’s that? It’s a bit of a crappy subject. But I think what we should be experiencing is the alarms going off. We need to start, in our life, in our circle of influence, those people that are closest to us that we actually have some influence over, particularly young people. It’s hard, and you have to make sacrifices, but if you don’t do it, who’s going to do it? As the saying goes, think big, act small. Think big, meaning, of a higher reality, and then acts small on a personal level. Okay?
Until the next shooting. It’s so bad. And it’s accelerating. People want to point the finger also at—a lot of these people are involved in violent video games, but not everybody that’s involved in violent video games becomes a school shooter. (You haven’t done that recently have you? No.) But one needs to understand the effect of things. This is a statistic from 1992.
“The average American child or teenager views 10,000 murders, rapes and assaults on television each year.”
So you can imagine, since 1992 that’s probably escalated a lot. And you can’t say that doesn’t affect people. There was a study done in Canada where there was no television reception in this particular area. This is quite a famous study. And so they wanted to gather statistics on the population— because they were going to move in television antennas so that they could pick up the signal. And they did research on that, then over time the change that manifest in children. It was a negative effect.
Thank you very much. So let us do the thing that we know makes a difference. Let us chant these spiritual sounds which fortify us. They provide us with the spiritual nutrition to deal with this emptiness and desolation that people experience, and they awaken us to another reality, a higher spiritual reality and experience.
So I will chant the Aum Hari Aum mantra.