by James A. Bacon

Mass shootings have become so common in the United States that incidents with only five or six victims warrant no national attention and are soon forgotten even in local media. A barrage of gunfire Friday night at a graduation party in Chesterfield County, which left one dead and five others injured, falls into that category.

More than 50 shots were fired. Police have identified four different calibers of shell casings at the scene, indicating that four different guns were used, and suggesting that up to four different assailants might have been involved. The shooting victims were all males. Two females were injured when struck by a vehicle as they fled the scene, reports the Richmond Times-Dispatch.

The party held for a Thomas Dale High School student attracted between 50 and 100 people, including many underage, from the Richmond and Petersburg areas. Police inquiries found that, prior to the shootings, two separate “fights or disturbances” had broken out between females. The shots were fired very shortly after the second fight.

Most media attention focuses on incidents in which the mass-shooting perpetrators are isolated, alienated loners, often suffering from mental illness. As mental illness is on the rise, this phenomenon is a legitimate source of concern. But the Chesterfield incident was of a different type — indiscriminate shooting by young people getting into heated arguments — that gets far less commentary.
Let me advance a hypothesis: what we’re witnessing in the Chesterfield type of mass shooting is not mental illness, but a breakdown in socialization. It’s as if large segments of the population have been raised by wolves. Family structures and social environments are so dysfunctional that many young people never learn to resolve disputes without lashing out physically. Combine the readiness to resort to violence with the ubiquitous availability of guns, and you get a lot more shootings.

There is little agreement in our society about what to do about gun violence, but there does seem to be a consensus about the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill. Although no one is sure how to do it, most agree that it’s a good idea. But what do we do about the Lord-of-the-Flies problem? What do we do with kids who aren’t mentally ill, but feral?

Many kids today have been raised in environments in which adult authority has collapsed: where two-parent families are a rarity, where church-going is on the decline, where schools tolerate defiance and misbehavior, where the morality of the street prevails, and where the criminal justice system views criminal behavior as the product of systemic injustice.

I’ll tell you what is “systemic” — it’s the breakdown in the ability of people to control their impulses. That problem runs so deep in our culture that I don’t know what can be done about it. But we can start by understanding the nature of the problem.

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49 responses to “Lord-of-the-Flies Crimes”

  1. Nancy Naive Avatar
    Nancy Naive

    Yes, family values ran much higher in the early 1900s when orphanages were plentiful.

  2. This was not a ‘mass shooting’ — it was a shoot out between ‘mutual combatants’ as the Chicago Woke DA termed such criminal incidents.

    1. It may not be what you and I consider to be a “mass shooting,” but it is classified as such.

      “The Congressional Research Service defines mass shootings, as multiple, firearm, homicide incidents, involving 4 or more victims at one or more locations close to one another.”

      Thus, the Chesterfield incident gets lumped in with school shootings. When the media tells us that X number of “mass shootings” occur every year, the public assumes they are referring to school shootings.

      1. WayneS Avatar

        Since there was a single homicide, this shooting does not meet the definition of “mass shooting”.
        It was a multiple shooting, but I agree with kls that it most-likely involved mutual combat between/among two or more ‘factions’, be they families, clubs, gangs, etc.

        It doesn’t really matter one way or the other, though. People were shot at a party – an event that is supposed to celebrate something positive. It was tragic and stupid.

        1. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
          James Wyatt Whitehead

          School boards should remind parents to NOT have a graduation party beyond immediate family. Seems to be a good idea. Numerous graduation party shootings around the country this spring.

        2. Nancy Naive Avatar
          Nancy Naive

          Coulda been a wedding. Coulda been a TOW.

          1. WayneS Avatar

            Or a baby shower?

          2. LarrytheG Avatar

            coulda been ANY type of “gathering” these days… not the type of gathering… it’s the gun culture that is now endemic in our culture.

            After all – in all these shootings.. there seems to be a bad guy and a good guy trying to stop him, right? 😉

  3. Virginia Gentleman Avatar
    Virginia Gentleman

    Obviously, there is much debate already about what to do about guns – so I won’t go there. But we really need to find a way to teach morality and family values without judgement. I think the religious community could be an answer if somehow they can find a way to shift their thinking away from legalism and passing judgement and moving towards acceptance and love. My Bible preaches loving God with all our hearts and loving our neighbors the same way we love God. Somehow, humanity has forgotten these principles and decided to judge people. If we can rid ourselves of judging others – especially when coupled with judging their own interpretation of which sins are worse than others, and simply find a way to teach love and acceptance – I believe that you will start to see people look towards the community again. And then, you can begin to teach morality and family values. But there is a whole lot of self reflection and mending that has to occur.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      I agree with you. As for the Bible, Old Testament eye-for-an-eye solutions are being applied by young people who never read a bible. As Jim wrote, too many of them are feral. Like pretty much any school shooter you can name.

  4. James McCarthy Avatar
    James McCarthy

    The conclusion of the “systemic” problem being inability to control anger or urges carries more truth than the mental illness canard. Marry that urge with the availability of firearms and multiple behavioral examples and – voila!!!- shootings. Mass shootings are described as those involving the deaths of 4 or more individuals. That is not at all comforting to any who are killed where the body count is fewer. Not being a psychologist or other analyst, the causes of the outbreaks require further evaluation before attributing it to family culture decline.

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      ‘Further evaluation?” No they don’t. Look at What did they have in common? Young parentally uncontrolled kid or gang member -member of a group of parentally uncontrolled kids – brings gun to school unchallenged at either the home or the school. As a society we can deplore the lack of a proper family environment. We can control whether a gun gets into the school. We just don’t yet.

  5. James Wyatt Whitehead Avatar
    James Wyatt Whitehead

    231,000 firearms background checks in Virginia from January to end of May. The number of background checks is lower than the same period from last year. 822 checks in the Virgin Islands. 1.7 million background checks in Illinois between Jan and May.

  6. walter smith Avatar
    walter smith

    Systemic racism of white Libs. Breakdown the family by subsidizing illegitimacy. Raise a few generations without the influence of fathers. Watch young males who only know how to resort to violence. Disproportionately black (75-80% vs 20-25% white) which disproportionately affects blacks because the higher incidence rate occurs mostly in black neighborhoods and amongst blacks, then use the “disparate impact” numbers to claim the higher black arrest rate is due to racism and cut policing, and increase crime everywhere!
    From the same people who brought you that a woman can have a penis and a man can have a baby, cuz SCIENCE!
    Oh, and No Fault Divorce is a mistake.

  7. LarrytheG Avatar

    Funny how people seem to accept the idea that fully automatic weapons can be regulated in such a way that few people can buy them and that includes these mass killer types – who CAN buy 100-round magazines.

    What’s the difference? Where does it say in the Constitution that we can regulate/restrict fully automatic weapons but not 100-round magazines?

    1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      Have you ever considered hardening the schools so that guns can’t get in? Look at the two years and millions of young lives damaged trying to keep COVID out of schools. Guns are far easier and quicker to detect.

      But it will solve the problem without new gun laws, so it won’t be a culture war issue and much of the left/press is not interested.

      1. LarrytheG Avatar

        can you tell me the difference between regulations that make it difficult to buy an fully automatic weapon and a weapon with a 100-round magazine?

        how about other weapons – like mortars or grenade launchers? Are they also ‘arms’ that the 2nd Amendment guarantees the “right” to?

        where is the dividing line in the Constitution?

        or is this something that is “interpreted” as opposed to the plain meaning of the ‘text’?

      2. LarrytheG Avatar

        After the schools, doctor’s offices, libraries, grocery stores, etc?

        so the idea is that we’ll eventually have to harden any place a wacko with a gun figures is the next weak point to attack?

        yessiree.. .. all we need now is to ‘harden’ medical buildings and hospitals, right?

        Have you also considered how you would “harden” an elementary school for recess and playground?

        or when buses/parents bring/pickup kids?

        how would you “harden’” that other that building walls around the school and yard and have gates with guards to allow vehicle pickup and discharge/

        1. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          Nice “what about” list.

          Does that mean you won’t take a school solution?

          Israel took action on multiple fronts to harden schools In 1974, after the Ma’alot Massacre in which terrorists took 115 people hostage at Netiv Meir Elementary School. Twenty-two children and three others were killed and 68 injured.

          It is since then much, much harder for a person with a gun to get into an Israeli school than into an American school. And everyone, friend and foe of Israel and those individuals with grudges or wanting just to make some statement, knows it.

          After Sandy Hook, the Connecticut legislature knew enough to request and receive an input from Israel on school hardening. I don’t know what actions they took with such advice. But maybe the General Assembly can do the same and act on it.

          The quoted article below was written four years ago and published in TownHall.

          ” The civilian police force handles the entire security system of all schools from kindergarten through college. The Ministry of Education funds shelters and fences, reinforces school buses, and hires and trains guards.”

          “Guards don’t just stand around. They check everyone entering, and engage threats.”

          “And yeah, they’ve got guns. The lawful purposes for carrying guns are very clear: protect school personnel and students, create a sense of security, deter the ill-intentioned, and provide self-defense.”

          “Common sense. Except to the illogical dullards who claim that “adding guns to schools won’t fix anything” and are fixated on the NRA and the ridiculous notions that gun laws magically stop criminals and crazy people from obtaining one of the 300 million guns in our country.”

          “But more to the point, Israel’s Police Community & Civil Guard Department have a preventative care program that encourages safe behavior and offers violence protection strategies in normal situations. Yet students are also trained in how to respond to an active shooter situation.”

          “Barricade, barricade. Are desks movable? Is the teacher’s desk movable? Can they barricade inside of 20 seconds? If the shooter gets in, the kids should take whatever they’ve got and attack. They can’t just sit there frozen or they will die. America does earthquake drills, why not active shooter drills? More kids have been killed by shooters than earthquakes.”

          “Barricading works, says Goldstein.In an active shooter situation, where a gunman is roaming a campus, five minutes is a lifetime, enough time for law enforcement to get to the scene. “In those five minutes, the shooter will have to move from class to class, reload, clear malfunctions, all that stuff takes time. And during gunfire lulls, kids must be taught to do something. Don’t freeze.Moving once gets you out of that deer-in-headlights space. Take command of the classroom.”

          “There is no other way, says Goldstein, and “sometimes children must take matters into their own hands.If the school has no proper security – two guards in case one gets shot, and no active shooter protocol, and no doors to withstand an attack – then the child needs to run as fast as they can AWAY from the shooter.”

          “Because right now, America is the deer-in-headlights. Gun control debates are a distraction and impractical, and criminals ignore laws anyway.Crazy people are obviously not being dealt with properly – students at Parkland even predicted this would happen.”

          “The only solution is for America to toughen up.”

          “Instead of handing out participation trophies, let’s make our kids into the self-reliant, pro-active defenders of themselves and others.”

          So kids are not allowed to be snowflakes in Israeli schools. Their version of SEL includes teaching kids self defense in an active shooter situation.

          By the way, only hired guards, Ministry of Education personnel, the police and the army are authorized to carry firearms in schools in Israel. Just like in the U.S.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            You’re equating terrorists in Israel to the US?

            Killers are going to go after what they perceive to be the weak points. You harden one thing and they’ll go to the next.

            To truly harden s school – to protect the kids and teachers for recess and playground what would you do? Surround the school with a wall? Perhaps that’s what they do in Israel?

            Then you’re talking about armed guards , right?

            This is how you want our schools, then our libraries, and doctors offices to be?

            You say “what about”. I ask you what makes you think that killers will only target schools ? Look around you.

            They target workplaces, grocery stores, doctors offices, whatever in their mind they can conceive and you’re trying to “outhink” them?

            We give people guns who, on social media, they have professed to get weapons and kill.. and your respect is to “harden” where you think they might go to kill?

          2. James C. Sherlock Avatar
            James C. Sherlock

            “You’re equating terrorists in Israel to the US (school shooters)? Answer: Yes. Nice non sequitur in what about grocery stores, though.

  8. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    You finally admit that the “ubiquitous availability of guns” is a major factor.

    You mention the inability of people to control their impulses. These were teenagers! There is nothing new about teenagers having trouble controlling their impulses.

    As most conservatives do, you trot out the need to keep guns out of the hands of the mentally ill as a solution. Serious mental illness is a factor in less than 10 percent of mass shootings.

    Without knowing anything about the kids involved in the shooting, you repeat your lament about the collapse of society. For all you know, these kids could have come from two-parent homes and done well in school.

    I don’t have a lot of faith in religion as an answer. For centuries, people have been killing other people in the name of religion. In modern times, some examples would be Northern Ireland, the Middle East, and the Balkans.

    So, we are back to guns. Kids have been getting into fights since there were kids. That is probably especially true in party situations involving alcohol. Instead of duking it out as in the past, now they pull out guns and start shooting. A similar incident happened in Philadelphia over the weekend. Two guys got into a brawl at a bar (not unusual) and each pulled out a gun and started shooting wildly.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      the mental illness thing is a distraction IMHO especially when there are few suggestions from Conservatives as to HOW such mental health “checks” would have prevented these guys… everything after ” we need to do more on mental health” gets very, very “fuzzy” in terms of specifics.

      Many of these shooters are NOT even considered to have a “mental” issue UNTIL they kill a bunch of people and THEN they are said to have “mental problems”.

      Well, no SH_T!

    2. WayneS Avatar

      So, we are back to guns. Kids have been getting into fights since there were kids. That is probably especially true in party situations involving alcohol. Instead of duking it out as in the past, now they pull out guns and start shooting.

      When you were a kid firearms were far less regulated than they are today. They were much more accessible to everybody/anybody, including teenagers and young adults. In most places, handguns, rifles, and shotguns could be purchased at hardware stores or via direct mail-order – and without any kind of background check.

      Something changed in our society that has made people more willing to shoot each other over minor disagreements than they used to be. I don’t know what it is that changed, but it isn’t guns. Firearms still function today the same way they did in the 1940s and 50s. The only thing that has changed about guns between then and now is that today it is much more difficult to [legally] obtain one.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        Guns are much more lethal today. One can shoot many more rounds in a short period of time. When I was growing up, rifles and shotguns were fairly common. Handguns were rare. There was one old rich eccentric guy who carried a pistol in this car. He also carried a lot of cash on his person. Everyone knew about it and the consensus was that someday he would get shot with his own pistol during a robbery.

        1. ‘Guns are much more lethal today’ How so? did a .30-06 not hurt as much years ago as today? was the .45 ACP made of inferior material then as compared to now? both did a pretty good job against German and Japanese, then Koreans and Chinese, then North Vietnamese… and then AQ.

        2. Matt Adams Avatar
          Matt Adams

          “Guns are much more lethal today. One can shoot many more rounds in a short period of time.”

          That is unequivocally false. The first semi-auto rifle was designed in 1885. The M1928 (Thompson) was developed by BG John Thompson in 1918, it was the primary reason for the passage of the ’34 NFA.

          The 1911 was developed in 1911 and you could get one for $17 dollars in the 60’s.

          It would be safe to say that just because you weren’t aware of handgun’s doesn’t mean people didn’t own them.

        3. WayneS Avatar

          The Remington Model 8 semi-automatic rifle had a detachable magazine and was first offered for sale in the U.S. in 1905. It was available in .25 Remington, .30 Remington, .35 Remington and .300 Savage, all but one of which are demonstrably more ‘lethal’ than a .223 round.

          The AK-47, a .30 caliber select-fire rifle has been around since, well, 1947 – and is/has been available in a semi-auto version for quite some time.

          The .30-06 M1 Garand came around in 1937.

          The .45 ACP Thompson sub-machinegun and its semi-auto variant have been around since 1918.

          The famous 1911 .45 ACP pistol was first produced in 1911.

          The .30-06 round has been around since 1906, and the .45 ACP pistol round was first produced for sale in 1905.

          And, for sheer straight-up stopping power, a 12-gauge shotgun slug is hard to beat. Shotguns have been around since the firearm was first invented, but the first hammerless shotgun (what we would consider “modern”) came out around 1878, so let’s use that as the birth date for the shotgun & shells we know today. You weren’t around prior to 1878, were you?

          Each and every one of the above-listed weapons/rounds are more powerful and more lethal than an AR-15 chambered for .223/5.56 mm.

          And the AR-15, which apparently has some kind of magical non-ballistic properties which make it “much more lethal today”, has been in production since 1960. That’s 62 years, which means it is not “new” by any stretch of the imagination.

          Guns are not more lethal today than they were when you were a kid. That is a myth invented by anti-gun propagandists.

          1. Matt Adams Avatar
            Matt Adams

            I would like to know if an AR-15 platform chambered in 22LR maintains this “more lethal” title.

          2. WayneS Avatar

            Based on everything I’ve read in the Washington Post, the answer is “yes”…


      2. Matt Adams Avatar
        Matt Adams

        “They were much more accessible to everybody/anybody, including teenagers and young adults. In most places, handguns, rifles, and shotguns could be purchased at hardware stores or via direct mail-order – and without any kind of background check.”

        Amen, I mean FPOTUS JFK was shot and killed with a mail-order military surplus rifle.

    3. f/k/a_tmtfairfax Avatar

      I was at an out-of-town wedding this weekend. I talked with one of my brothers-in-law. He’s a bit older than me and graduated from HS in the early 1960s. We were discussing various gun safety/control issues. He surprised me when he told me that some of his classmates (males) often brought handguns to school and often had long guns in the trunk of their cars or behind the seats in their pickups. Another relative who attended a different school system around the same time said the same thing occurred when he was in high school.

      (I also have a recollection that Larry discussed something similar a long time ago.)

      So, while I agree that it’s guns, it’s also more than guns. While this would sail over the heads of today’s media, I figure that you “guys” would get it.

      1. WayneS Avatar

        My high school (early 1980s) had a shooting team. The rifles were kept in a safe in the office but students carried them on a school bus on the way to the range for practice and meets.

        Many students stored rifles or shotguns, and ammunition, in their vehicles so they could go hunting immediately before or after school.

        I never heard anyone even threaten to shoot someone else, never mind actually doing it.

      2. A good friend got on the bus to Yorktown HS in Arlington with the rifle and ammo, placed it in his locker during day before going to rifle practice in the basement…… and yet no shootings ever happened during his time there in the early 1970s.

    4. James C. Sherlock Avatar
      James C. Sherlock

      They didn’t always “duke it out” in the past, Dick. See

      You should look at those recountings and see if you think the kids came from good homes.

      In the meantime, any chance we can agree that we have the technology to harden schools sufficiently to keep guns out? Any reason we shouldn’t?

  9. LarrytheG Avatar

    I agree there are two distinctly different types of shootings but “analysis” from Conservative types needs some help.

    First off, how much of this kind of ‘social’ shootings occur in other developed countries? Not much. In Mexico, and 3rd world, yes.
    So we seem to be moving away from developed countries and more towards 3rd world in terms of guns and killings.

    Second, for the lone wolves. How many people are mentally ill? How many commit mass killings? How many of these guys who have committed mass murders were said AFTER THE FACT to be “mentally ill”? More to the point, for the guys that we say were mentally ill – how would we SPECIFICALLY determine their problem BEFORE they kill people?

    There is an easy answer that has little to do with finding out who is mentally ill or not. Do a 21-day waiting period and CHECK THEIR SOCIAL media!

  10. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
    Dick Hall-Sizemore

    My favorite conservative columnist is Brett Stephens of the New York Times (he came to the Times from the Wall Street Journal). In today’s edition, he laid out a series of common-sense actions that should appeal to reasonable people of all political stripes: “I’m hardly the first person to suggest that no one should be able to legally buy a gun in the United States who can’t legally buy a beer in the United States. I’d also argue that every would-be gun buyer should be required to purchase a gun safe while also passing a criminal-background check, a psychiatric evaluation, a three-day waiting period and an extensive gun-safety course.”

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      The idea that we cannot “regulate’ “arms” purchases is totally bogus.

      We very much “regulate” who can buy an automatic weapon as well as who can buy a stinger missile or a grenade launcher or any number of military weapons that most folks cannot buy, not the least of would be those that can buy 100-round magazines a few hours or days before they use them on innocent victims.

      1. Dick Hall-Sizemore Avatar
        Dick Hall-Sizemore

        One has to be politically realistic if anything effective is going to get done.

        1. LarrytheG Avatar

          Agree. But the idea that we can’t regulate is bogus. We already do. And we need to update it as all regulation does need from time to time.

          If someone said that it’s “un-constitutional” to deny fully automatic weapons to anyone who wants to buy them including these guys that buy AR-15 with 100-round magazines – how would that fly “politically”? Perhaps that’s the answer. Advocate for allowing anyone to buy a fully-automatic weapon and see how many will like doing that!

        2. WayneS Avatar

          Being politically realistic, you should be able to recognize that requiring every would-be gun buyer to undergo a mandatory psychiatric evaluation is not going to fly.

        3. James C. Sherlock Avatar
          James C. Sherlock

          Hardening schools is simultaneously both technically and politically realistic, and the most effective solution under consideration. We just have a hard time finding out about it in the media because it does not fit the chosen narrative of the left. It will not stoke the culture wars. And it will work, denying that narrative in the future. You will note little comment on this blog about it.

          1. LarrytheG Avatar

            Such BS! “hardening” schools is just the start. Wherever the maniac decides to go shoot-up next will then also be advocated to be “hardened”. It’s not the media. It’s the idiocy of those who refuse to deal with the obvious realities of giving deadly weapons to those who want to murder indiscriminately.

            The ONLY developed country in the world that “thinks” this way.

    2. WayneS Avatar

      The minimum age to purchase a handgun is already 21.

      Since the term “assault rifle” was not liberally sprinkled throughout the news coverage of the Chesterfield shooting, I’m going to assume that at least one, if not all, of the four firearms used were handguns.

      If the perpetrators were, indeed, “teenagers “, then it is already illegal for them to own/carry a handgun on their own.

    3. walter smith Avatar
      walter smith

      Bret Stephens left the conservative ranch a long time ago. But the major media likes Bret Stephens, and David French and Jennifer Rubin…all of whom are not “conservative” anywhere near true conservatism.
      I have a better idea. Why don’t we outlaw murder?
      What…really? Since when?

    4. Matt Adams Avatar
      Matt Adams

      What you think is commonsense is not always commonsense.

      1) The same org that regulates Firearm purchases, regulates Alcohol. Once upon a time you could be 18 and purchase a beer. The 26th Amendment allowed that age to be 18, it wasn’t until 1984 that the Drinking Age Act raised it to 21 by Federal Law, previously it was determined by state.

      2) There are plenty of other means to secure a firearm that don’t require the purchase of a gun safe. Which at a minimum for a long gun is a $200+ shipping investment. So I guess only wealthy people can own firearms now? An ejection port through gun lock ($7.99) works just as effective.

      3) If you purchase a firearm through a dealer a background check is completed on every purchase. Psychiatric evaluations would be a HIPPA violation (contact the FPTOUS you voted for whom signed the bill in the Law in 1996). The only data that is released via an NICS is if the person has been involuntary committed or has been adjudicated to be within the federal mental health prohibitor. Those items were amended in 2016 to the HIPPA Law and prohibit access to any diagnosis of the patient.

      4) Waiting periods and safety courses are state mandated rules, if you want it in your state vote write your Assembly person.

  11. f/k/a_tmtfairfax Avatar

    On a different note, the NC Senate will vote on a bill that would provide increased penalties for organized crime retail theft rings. The bill already passed the state House unanimously. I guess Soros hasn’t corrupted all of North Carolina’s Democrats yet. That’s good news for everyone except the ACLU that opposed the bill because more crooks would be imprisoned.

    1. LarrytheG Avatar

      You’re actually crediting Democrats? lordy!

  12. James C. Sherlock Avatar
    James C. Sherlock

    Excellent column.

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