The July 4 massacre in Highland Park, Illinois produced much of the same national angst that such massacres usually engender.
There were calls from the left for tighter controls on firearms, especially assault rifles that deranged killers such as Robert E. Crimo III tend to gravitate toward.
There was the typical right-wing counter-argument that mental illness, not guns, is the problem.
And neither side likes the social media cesspool that seems to be the source of many of these massacres.
This is not, however, a debate on one or the other. There are too many guns in this country, and they are too easy to acquire. Too little is being done to address the types of mental illness that can turn violent. And the internet is a double-edged sword that is a marvel of communication, but also provides many outlets where delusions and societal grievances can find validation.
None of these worries and arguments stick in our throats quite like the incomprehensible decision of Crimo’s father to sponsor his son’s desire to acquire firearms.
Crimo, from all the reports we’ve seen, was not one of those killers whose actions came as a shock. There weren’t just warning signs that he might kill innocent people. There was the equivalent of air raid sirens and flashing neon lights that no one could claim to have missed.
Crimo had been a troubled person for several years. The situation got so bad that he threatened to kill himself and, a few months later, members of his family. He had gathered a stock of knives.
Even though his father, Bob Crimo, didn’t know what his son was doing on the Internet, he couldn’t miss these other warnings. He chose to ignore them, or he gave them the most naive interpretations. In interviews after the massacre, when called to account for allowing his son to acquire what became murder weapons, he described his son’s previous threats as a “childish outburst and equated collecting knives with nothing more unusual than collecting coins or baseball cards.
Perhaps it is too easy in retrospect to say that Robert Crimo had all the hallmarks of a mass murderer. But there’s no denying that guns would be one of the last things he needed to have at his disposal, if only for the expression of his suicidal thoughts. An AR-15 is hardly an appropriate means of appeasing a disturbed individual.
Bob Crimo may not have broken any laws, but he certainly did not exercise any good judgment. He may deny guilt for his son’s murderous acts, but few others will let the father off the hook.