Before the Moncton shootings the killer posted warning signs. Why were they missed? How do we not miss them again?
Having lived in both Canada and the USA, this writer has a unique perspective on the Moncton shootings where five RCMP officers were shot and three were killed. It particularly hit home because I spent my high school years in Nova Scotia, across the Bay of Fundy from where they took place.
Canada has not had to deal with mass killings on nearly the same scale that the USA has, and the Moncton shootings showed the differences between the two nations. The story still leads Canadian news media, showing no signs of fading soon. Here in America, we move quickly from incident to incident. We have to, as mass shootings happen far more frequently in the USA.
Another huge difference is that the killer was caught and brought in alive. That’s a rare thing in America; most shooters die with their victims. In the last couple years, regarding high profile mass shooting murders, only the Aurora shooter was taken alive. Not the best way to find out motive or cause, whether or not the killer is insane.
Justin Bourque was the man behind the Moncton shootings. He was captured on social media during his rampage and there were plenty of witnesses to the murders. His motivations are becoming somewhat clearer. He sure didn’t hide what he thought.
According to his Facebook profile, Bourque believed World War III was nigh; Canada was an obvious target due to its abundance of natural resources; and he absolutely hated the police. He posted multiple anti-cop memes, and his targets were ultimately the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Furthermore, the shooter was a big proponent of gun rights extremist memes. All originated from America, including certain gun nut pages this site has singled out previously. All voiced platitudes of the American “Molon Labe” crowd, and they certainly can’t be considered responsible statements.
Regardless, it’s now well known that the shooter gave off plenty of warning signs. He hated authority, loved him some guns, and tipped off friends that he wouldn’t see them again. He went on a camping trip with a group of his peers, cradling his rifle all night long. It spooked them enough to not invite him along again. He was widely reported of saying he was soon going out with a bang.
So how did they get missed? Was it the constant media cacophony? Nobody taking him seriously? Are we desensitized or afraid of people exhibiting clear signs of obsession or aggression? It’s tough to believe nobody noticed his descent into madness. Bluntly, he couldn’t have more explicitly stated his intentions until he carried them out.
Perhaps he had media cover. While Canada’s news media isn’t as fear-centric as America’s, the element is impossible to escape and there are certainly American channels available. Bourque clearly held right wing views, evidenced on his social media accounts, and definitely bought into the whole “guns are for stopping evil government” baloney.
Hardly a day goes by without somebody screaming about their gun rights in the media. The extremely vocal minority of Texas Open Carry zealots, for instance, have been taking center stage lately. Every night there’s a new story about them, and plenty of images of idiots walking around restaurants or Home Depot with AK-47s slung on their backs.
Checking their social media accounts will show many of the same memes and sentiments posted by Moncton’s killer. By acting in such an irresponsible manner, Open Carriers are indirectly enabling others to engage in such behavior. Worse, they are taking it a step further into murder.
This is not to say Open Carry proponents and guns rights activists are solely to blame for the killer’s mindset. But they certainly have a stake in the situation. They provided him with the rhetoric Bourque needed to justify to himself that the Moncton shootings were his necessary path. This is a consequence of trying to make walking around with long guns in public appear as normal in society. Eventually, someone’s going to take it to the next step. America’s extremist gun culture provided ground for Bourque’s violent fantasies to take hold.
Those who advocate irresponsible behavior with weapons must be backed down. They do not realize the effects their idiocy has on others. Weapons are not toys and aren’t meant to be displayed like peacock feathers. Handling firearms responsibly does not mean parading around with them in uncontrolled environments. That is a recipe for an even greater tragedy than the Moncton shootings.
So, even though warning signs were evident, perhaps they blended into the gun furor raging every day in the media, both for and against. But that doesn’t cover everything. What about saying goodbye to his best friend? Cutting himself off from his family and quitting his job? Many of the killer’s friends talked about how shocked they were, but then talked about how they hadn’t seen Bourque for a while in the next breath.
And say they did report Bourque to the police. With his pointedly stated hatred of cops, it’s not difficult to imagine a visit by the local constabulary turning out just as badly. Besides, police visited Elliot Rodger before his own murderous spree, and nothing came of that. It’s easy to blame the police for not knowing, but hard to imagine living with the investigative powers they would need without evidence of a crime. This would turn into multiple pointless witch hunts.
No, the onus is on us. All of us, American, Canadian, or whatever nationality. When someone clearly has issues, whether they be gun issues, police issues, militia issues, family issues, it’s up to all of us to do something. Engage the person somehow. Buy them a cup of coffee, something, anything. Just a simple, “Hey, you okay?” can work wonders.
We need to find ways to look past the rhetoric and connect with the disenchanted and the disconnected. Mental illness can affect anyone at anytime. Judging is not only useless, but harmful. If we successfully connect with a person like this, it can prevent future tragedies.
Certainly there must be stories out there where this situation happened, where someone talked someone else down from doing something awful. We don’t hear about them enough. If you’ve been part of one, and you’re willing to tell it, let us know. Perhaps we can show others the way. It’s certainly better than the “We can’t do anything about mass killings” crap you hear some pundits vomiting forth. Let us know. It’s not the whole solution, but it’s a step on the way. I remain open to better ideas.
Our deepest condolences to all those affected in this tragedy.