ARE MASS SHOOTINGS SIMPLY BLACK SWAN EVENTS?
Yes, we all agree that the shooting in Connecticut was a terrible tragedy. For more than 48 hours, little else was on the news. How awful it was that such young, innocent children were brutally killed along with their courageous and teachers. President Obama and others have called for action which will eliminate mass shootings from our lives. While there is much that can be done to reduce the frequency of such events, it is my contention that they are still going to happen.
An aroused public is likely to demand new legislation to limit the lethality of rifles, shotguns, and handguns. Other legislation will be designed to eliminate the opportunity for dangerous people to buy weapons at gun shows without the necessity for being qualified by background checks.
At the same time, every day the news brings to us some tragic event where people are killed or seriously injured or property is destroyed. Our weather forecasters told us that Hurricane Sandy was coming. No doubt the action of the governors of New York and the governor of New Jersey and the mayors of affected cities saved many lives. But there was absolutely nothing they could do to stop the property damage. While there has not been a domestic airline crash in several years, we inevitably read both crashes taking place in other countries. (Just recently a well-known Hispanic singer was killed when her plane crashed in Mexico).
Almost weekly we read of earthquakes in one or another part of the world. Hundreds often die when these events occur. And while individuals can prepare to survive after such events, there is absolutely nothing they can do to stop them from happening.
Here comes the That Black Swan, or S**t Happens!
The black swan theory or theory of black swan events is a metaphor that describes an event that is a surprise (to the observer), has a major effect, and after the fact is often inappropriately rationalized with the benefit of hindsight .
Wikipedia tells us:
"What we call here a Black Swan (and capitalize it) is an event with the following three attributes. First, it is an outlier, as it lies outside the realm of regular expectations , because nothing in the past can convincingly point to its possibility. Second, it carries an extreme 'impact' . Third, in spite of its outlier status, human nature makes us concoct explanations for its occurrence after the fact, making it explainable and predictable ."
Certainly, when the children who were killed went off to school that day, neither they, their teachers, their parents, nor anyone in their community expected the events that happened only shortly after school started. No one would dispute the extreme impact that the event has had not only on the parents of the children and the residents of the town, but on an entire nation. Finally, the event fits very precisely with the black swan classification, in that it is is explained by the lack of appropriate legislation to prevent criminals and the disturbed from obtaining weapons.
In recent days there have been a number of explanations for the killer's motive in first killing his mother and then going on the rampage which so tragically result in the deaths of 28 at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
Even though it has been described in detail, no one has chosen to identify the one person whose human error ultimately enabled the severely disturbed killer to achieve his goal. The Incomprehensible negligence of the perpetrator's mother, knowing of the perpetrator's disability while enabling access to firearms, was the proximate cause of the tragedy which followed. Many in Newtown are are beginning to point the finger of blame at her, seldom naming her as one of the victims.
There are ultimately three categories of those who commit firearm crimes.
1. Children, from toddlers through adolescents;