Millions of words will now be written about James Eagan Holmes, the Aurora shooter, in an effort to understand why he did what he did. I’ve talked to a couple of experts in mass shootings and one of Holmes high school classmates and what comes across is a portrait of a quiet loner who was unable to form intimate bonds with anyone in society. What his emotional bonds are with his family remain to be seen but no one has come forward to say they were close to Holmes and there are probably hundreds, maybe thousands, of reporters, producers and journalists working the story.

Mass shooting experts say the motive for these crimes (which by the way is an exclusive male preserve) is always clear — notoriety.

And that makes sense when you consider that most of these mass shooters are alienated from their own lives. Holmes is an extreme example — a classmate of his I spoke to who went to middle and high school with Holmes — says he cannot recall anytime that the two did something outside a school setting, and he doesn’t remember anyone who did. I believe this type of extreme societal isolation is extremely rare.

It’s tempting to call Holmes a psychopath or sociopath or to blame mental illness but I don’t believe any of those labels apply. In fact, those who work with the mentally ill are insulted by people grouping Holmes with them. They point out that the vast majority of mentally ill people are not violent. We like to think people who commit these types of act just snap but experts say there is no ‘snap’ involved; rather, shooters like Holmes plan over months, sometimes years and there is evidence to suggest that is exactly what he did.

The finale they plan always involves a high profile target. Holmes chose the Batman premiere and the midnight showing. The Norwegian shooter chose the island full of teenagers. The Virginia Tech killer chose his classmates.

But back to Holmes high school classmate– what did he think of his one-time school chum? “He was standardly normal, almost forgettable,” said Sumit Shah of San Diego.

He said that, in high school, Holmes was pretty much like everyone else. He carried on conversations, got good grades, joked with his classmates. Hell, he even knew how to play the piano. He wasn’t the class valedictorian or prom king but few of us are. Its only in retrospect now that Shah realized that neither he nor other classmates he spoke to knew anyone who could be described as Holmes best friend. He didn’t have any. No one went to his house after school and there were no girlfriends in his life.

It appears the same description applies post high school. He coasted through life with few people noticing he was even there. He wasn’t the Joker. He was a ghost. He got absolutely no attention which probably explains why he chose a high-profile target to shock our sensibilities. He finally got people to notice him, that’s for sure.

  1. Julia Ablarde says:

    I agree with your assessment Paul. I do not think he was mentally ill. This act was well thought out and planned for a long time. I do wonder though, if he was a sociopath. He did not appear to have any remorse for his actions, and must lack a conscience.

  2. Alejandro Sirkanovich says:

    at the end of the day, with any of these mass shootings, it comes down to one thing: thousands of you can fulminate for years on why he did it; but the reality is you’ll never know enough to do anything about it. But these things CAN stopped entirely. And it’s very simple. Too simple for anyone to do it because it’s fuels society to fulminate about problems rather than solving them. It keeps many more people busy talking and writing and politicking to keep debating about it, rather than just use the simple solution. If you adopt the solution, what will all the journalists, and pundits and bloggers have to keep themselves busy? Although, it’s not really their fault, they just feed off it.

    The simple answer is….ban the automatic weapons. Ban all guns except hunting weapons. Ban them for everyone except law enforcement officers. not really that hard to do–just make it a crime punishible by a fine up to $100,000 or 10 years in prison simply to OWN one of those guns. that will get the gun nuts to turn their guns in quite fast. If they don’t, well, no need to do anything but wait till they surface with their guns. Then slap them with the 100k fine or prison. A little publicity after the first few arrests, and those guns will disappear fast.

    Let the gun nuts cry about how they should have their guns. First order of business–amend the constitution to change the second amendment. Change it to”the right to bare arms” or maybe “the right to arm bears”– (let the gun nuts work on that one. )

    Once the new law banning guns is in place, just wait for the gun nuts to be stopped for drunk driving, or speeding, and let the cops see the Glock on their seat, or sticking out of their ankle holster. Then arrest them, get their 100k, and let the media publcize it. Oh, baby, they’ll ahem and decide very quickly that well, even though I do deserve to own my gun, well, I don’t really want to pay 100k or spend 10 years in prison. And the’ll curse the government again, but of course they do that anyway, so nothing lost there.

    Then just let events take their course. Sure, there will be an incident here or there where one of the “bad guys” robs a 7/11 with a Glock, or shoots someone on the street. But we’ll live with that, just as we live with the mass killings now.

    People with automatic weapons kill masses of people. you can’t get rid of the nuts, but you can get rid of the guns.

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