Mass murder is simply the act of murdering a big number of people over a relatively short time period or at the same time. This differentiates mass murderers from serial killers who kill many people over a long period of time. Mass murderers are also different from spree killers who commit murder in more than one locations with little or even no break in time between the killings. Spree killers can kill any number of victims in their actions. In the cases of killings by government agents, there are only a few convictions or even none at all in some cases. Different human rights organizations, activists and humanitarian groups have continued to protest against these killings. They have given different moral arguments against them.
Mass Murder by Individuals
These murderers fall into different categories according to the group of people they kill. They include killers of coworkers, strangers, students, and family. Their motivations vary with the killer. Some of the main motives for these murders include revenge, fame, and seeking attention. Love is the common motive for women, such as love for a husband, boyfriend, or a child. Others are terrorists who use suicide bombs. Their motive is driven by their terrorist groups who promise them big rewards for their families. Killings by individual turn to mass murders, when an individual kills four or more people in a short period of time. There is a common myth in the media and other sources that mass shootings and killings by individuals are increasing each year. This is not necessarily true since there have been 20 killings on average each year in the United States. The only increase is an improvement in the use of technology in the coverage of mass killings, which create a false sense of increased killings.
The mass murderers kill deliberately. They take time to plan their actions. The planning may even take months as they make sure not to fail. According to recent cases, the main help that mass murderers get in planning their assault is from the media. The media reports actions of previous murderers in many details including plans, execution of the plan, and how the murderer was arrested. This information increases the motivation of potential mass murderers and assists them in their plan. The killings that follow exhibit more sophistication and planning than the previous ones. The media explained a case of one Patrick Purdy on the 17th of July, 1989, who killed 4 pupils and wounded 29 in so much detail. Later that year on the 14th of September, 1989, Joseph Wesbecker used the same strategies to kill 8 pupils and wounded 13, which was more successful than Purdy (Fox & Levin, 2005).
The moral case for mass murder continues to raise controversy for both the law enforcement agencies and other stakeholders. The main cause for these mass killings is moral instability. The killers show similar features and characteristics. These are depression, social isolation, and interest in weaponry, fascination with violence, resentment and blaming others for their misfortunes. Some of them come from mental hospitals and engage in drugs such as alcohol which increases their mental instability. These people are not stable and, therefore, do not have moral justifications for their actions. Their reasoning simply lacks ethical justification. It cannot be judged by means of utilitarian or deontological issues. The Kant’s categorical imperative cannot even give a logical explanation. Both Joseph Wesbecker and Patrick Purdy did not give any reasons for their killings.
Mass murderers are criminals who should not face any legal leniency whatsoever. This is because they go the wrong way to try and seek attention, fame or simply for personal selfish reasons. They should face capital punishments without consideration of their mental status. A person with complete mental instability cannot go through all that planning and execution and expect leniency due to mental instability. There are ways to seek psychological help. Terrorists and those seeking revenge should also face similar charges without considerations for a jail term. However, many mass murderers end up committing suicide after accomplishing their missions. Others die in the act after intervention by the law-enforcement authorities. Others have had death sentences, life imprisonment, or several life imprisonments. The most successful individual killing was a war crime of Vasili Blokhin who killed 7000 prisoners of war from Poland in 28 days by shooting.
To reduce the cases of mass killings by individuals, there has to be interventions from numerous stakeholders and the society in general. Handling the cases of those who may seem to have observable motivations is possible. Individuals such as terrorists and those seeking revenge are identifiable before they commit crimes. The authorities can apprehend them, punish, and find ways to help them fit in the society. The main challenge is to individuals who commit these crimes without proper motive. We cannot stigmatize all mental patients such as those with psychosis as killers. It is also not possible to identify people in society who may be unstable and simply deny their second amendment rights. It is also not effective to ban assault rifles as many people will purchase them just to make sure they have them before the ban. The only way to go about this is to conduct researches in the sphere of criminology, medicine, psychology, and sociology. The only solution at the moment is to keep mental patients under check without stigma and try as much as possible to keep weapons away from them.
Mass Murder by State, Government Agents, and other Groups
Mass murder by states or other groups is the intentional killings of a large number of individuals who are not soldiers in combat. Mass killings in the case of state, government agencies, and other groups raise controversy on which ones to call murder or not. There were killings by state especially by communist regimes, which were not murders and were simply to ensure a balance in the society, according to the state point of view. Different scholars do not also agree on the causes of these killings in all the regimes such as communists, capitalists, and other types of states. However, we can term all these killings as mass murder since there is no justification of killing thousands and millions of people and use one crime as a scapegoat. Mass executions are also examples of mass murders.
Different scholars and groups use different terms to mean mass murder. Genocide is one of the terms that describe the killing of many people in society. Politicide describes killing or economic and political groups that the Genocide Convention covers. The convection does not cover the mass killing of social or political groups. Communist regimes take advantage of the convention to eliminate certain groups. Democide describes politicide, genocide, and other forms of mass murder. Others generalize all these terms to crimes against humanity. There are other terms such as classicide, terror, communal holocaust, and mass killing. All these are intentional killings to eliminate a certain group of people.
The moral reasoning behind these crimes is also controversial. Different communist regimes are famous for the most killings in history. They explain that these were not crimes since they were simply eliminating the groups of people who were against the reforms. The most famous leaders who were responsible for these killings were Mao Zedong of Peoples’ Republic of China and Joseph Stalin of the Soviet Union. The communist regimes have a death toll of 20 to 70 million of generally innocent citizens. People were pulling back economic growth by rebelling against communism that has reasoned mass murders of those times. This is morally wrong. The leaders were exhibiting dictatorship other than democracy in leadership. They killed whoever rebelled against them other than trying to give them reasons as to why they should support communism. Stalin was responsible for around a million deaths for political rebellion, two million in the Gulags and around 400,000 in forced resettlement bringing his death toll to more than 3 million. Mao was responsible for more than 5 million deaths.
The other type of mass murder is the mass killings of innocent civilians of an enemy during war. This also brings about different arguments in terms of moral reasoning. Such an example is the atomic bombing of Nagasaki and Hiroshima by the United States. This brought about more than 2 million deaths of civilians in Japan. The moral reasoning behind the United States government is that they were trying to stop the supply of soldiers from the civilians from the two areas which were rich economically and in terms of population. This is morally wrong. Any war is supposed to be a matter of the defense troops of a country against the enemy. The two countries in war should not involve civilians even in retaliatory attacks. This can lead to wiping out of an entire population. In this case, a great majority of the civilian population do not take part in war. They go on with their daily economic activities. When one country loses, it should accept defeat and change the regime or policies which brought about the war but not plot against the civilians. This is a sign of weakness and lack of proper defensive strategies.
The third type of mass murder where there is common moral argument is the deliberate massacres of captives of war by the military forces. A good example is the crimes of the Nazi in Germany, where they killed Jews and other war captives. Every scholar and humanitarian groups agree that this is a matter that is morally wrong. The murderers do not have any moral justification. They only kill in satisfaction of personal desires. Adolf Hitler did not have a moral justification behind the killings by the Nazi. He only did this as a show of power and proof of invincibility to his enemies.
The other form of mass murder is terrorism. This is both by terror groups or gangs and government killing of communities or individuals whom they regard to support terrorists. The common terrorist group is the Al-Qaeda. They target other regimes which they consider being against them and view them as taking advantage over them. They conduct their warfare by capturing, torturing, killing and even bombing of civilians. The moral justification behind their actions is that it is religious. They believe that these killings have rewards in the afterlife and regard themselves to be control of a new world order. These actions are morally wrong in general. The terrorist brainwash their followers by wrong interpretation of religious scriptures to their selfish advantages. They spread hatred based on mere allegations without facts. The most devastating terrorist attacks were in New York City in the Washington D.C, USA on the 11th of September, 2001. Their actions led to 2996 deaths of innocent civilians and 6000 injured. Since terrorism has no solid moral justification, it is a crime, and those who take part in it should face heavy punishments (Johnson & Reuband 2005).
Mass murder is a crime regardless of who commits it. There are better ways to solve conflicts other than killing such a large number of people. However, different people try and give justifications for these killings; it simply remains a heinous crime. The perpetrators of mass murder should be convicted and sentenced to death without imprisonment or parole. The killing of only one individual can explain mental instability, self-defense or revenge, and one can have a chance to reform and go back to the society but not a case of mass murder. According to the essay, even state and other agencies can find effective ways to punish individuals, gangs, and terror suspects who have a potential to mass murder other than simply killing them all. There should be enough research to determine the causes for mass murder in general so as to avoid it.