No, it was not yesterday’s attacks at Virginia Tech. It was Andrew Kehoe‘s murderous rampage in Bath, Michigan, in 1928. Of course, the Clock Tower Sniper had been famous for killing the most as well, but his total of 15 didn’t hold the real record, either. Alas.
Thinking over the whole phenomenon of mass murder in North America, it’s clear that schools of all kinds are particularly favoured targets. From Columbine to Dawson College, from Texas University to Montreal University, students in particular have been targeted for slaughter in a way that no other group has been.
Why is that?
Is it a crime of convenience? Most crimes of violence are committed by young men, it’s true, and surely schools are full of young men. No; the mass murders are not generally carried out by those attending the institutions. Think of some famous examples: Kimveer Gill never attended Dawson College, nor did he single out authority figures; he shot indiscriminately, killing only Anastasia deSousa, putting the lie to his claims to “fight the bullies.” Charles Carl Roberts was well past the age of gradeschool and had never attended an Amish school; he was just looking for a place he could be sure of finding little girls. Charles Whitman was a grown man and ex-Marine when he went up that clock tower and began shooting; he’d already killed his mother and his wife.
No, it’s not revenge because of what happens to the students in the schools, and it’s not latent violent tendencies manifesting in the throes of a testosterone surge; I suggest it’s because these murders are carried out by those who wish to take out the largest number of the most helpless victims, so they choose schools because while they are bound to be full of people at certain times, it’s unlikely that any of those people are going to be armed or physically intimidating enough to put up a fight (yet another reason to target women, who tend to be smaller) and they are trained en masse to obey adults. Mass murderers are psychopaths, remember: doing this kind of cold math comes naturally to them. You never hear about anyone just happening to attempt to run amok in Bull’s Eye Gun Supply do you?
Do I think the solution is to arm the innocents, turning them into potential killers? No, I think the solution is to disarm the perpetrators. There are only so many people you can kill by hitting them with a big rock. And these mass murders are not, let me point out, conducted by career criminals; they are committed by tightly-wound people with clean records and easy access to powerful weapons.
You can’t buy certain kinds of music in WalMart, but you can buy guns.
Andrew Kehoe was one such tightly-wound man.
“He never farmed it as other farmers do and he tried to do everything with his tractor. He was in the height of his glory when fixing machinery or tinkering. He was always trying new methods in his work, for instance, hitching two mowers behind his tractor. This method at different times did not work and he would just leave the hay standing. He also put four sections of drag and two rollers at once behind his tractor. He spent so much time tinkering that he didn’t prosper.”
And from the Crime Library:
Over time, Kehoe gained a reputation in the town for thriftiness. That trait helped get him elected to the school board in Bath in 1926.On the board, Kehoe campaigned endlessly for lower taxes which, he claimed, were causing him financial hardship. His creditors tried to work out an agreement with Kehoe but were unsuccessful. Soon, he stopped paying his mortgage altogether. To complicate matters, his wife Nellie was chronically ill with an undiagnosed illness. She required frequent hospital stays, which depleted the family savings further. Kehoe envisioned losing his farm and plunging into debt. In his mind, he blamed higher taxes for all his financial woes. He couldn’t understand the need for bigger and better schools. He saw many of the town expenditures as wasteful and ill conceived. But above all and without respite, without any valid reason or logic, he blamed the Bath Consolidated School for his troubles.
Read the tale of the Bath School Disaster which left 45 people dead and 58 injured; Kehoe had no WalMart, he had no automatic pistols, but he did have a persecution complex, an enormous, fragile ego, an obsessive need for control and low competence for exercising it, and several tons of dynamite and pyrotol.
Any way you mix them, it’s an explosive combination.
(here are some additional thoughts on the relationship between the zeta male, mass murders and cyberspace)