When boredom prompts murder…

“We were bored and didn’t have anything to do,
so we decided to kill somebody.”

These words were reportedly uttered by one of Chris Lane’s murderers. The Australian baseball student was killed by three teens – in their ennui, they chose Lane as their intended victim.

While the statement reads as shockingly cruel and cold, it isn’t necessarily novel or distinct. In a NBC News report “Boredom blamed for murders A true killing impulse?” author Dave Cullen, who wrote an excellent book on the Columbine murders participated in the article, in which he talked about the use of boredom as a motive for murder.

What Cullen hears in a statement like that of Lane’s killer is “an extreme lack of empathy, an extreme callousness that people can’t even conceive of, and then explaining it away by slapping boredom on there.”

But Cullen warns against making assumptions before we know all the facts. “Maybe he couldn’t really explain himself at all and wasn’t really prepared to and so he thought he was going to at least act cool in the moment.”

There are lots of questions that come up when we hear about shootings like this – we start to look for reasons and solutions. Some blame gun rights, others want to blame video games and violence in the media – I heard someone mention Grand Theft Auto as a possible reason – a game where participants are encouraged to act in anti-social behavior for points.

Another cry heard again and again is a variation on “kids today” or “youth today.”

In Lane’s home country, Melbourne’s Herald Sun columnist Susie O’Brien writes, “It is just horrific to think that the promising life of Melbourne baseball player Chris Lane has ended just because three bored teenagers were looking for kicks. What an appalling reflection on the youth of today.” She also raises the question of our country’s high crime rate by musing, ” We have to wonder just what is happening in the United States at the moment” (a sentiment that many are echoing – especially in light of Australia’s stricter gun laws).

And O’Brien wonders if this is a generational issue. She writes “A generation of lost young kids are growing up without secure families…Court officers have been alarmed by the total lack of regard for the court process or police – so how do we get through to these kids when they don’t care about what is happening to them?”

She doesn’t offer any answers in her piece, because it’s a hard question to figure out.

Some will smugly say that prison will cure these kids of their boredom – some have even gleefully made prison rape jokes. The outrage and disgust are justifiable and understandable – and maybe there’s a space for this kind of venting, even if I find this kind of venting to be gross and inappropriate. But unfortunately, we’ll probably stop at the Internet trolling and do nothing else.

It’s distressing and depressing to hear stories like this – and we’re all left wringing our hands and crying “what can we do?” in vain.

Cullen’s points about the lack of empathy and callousness are key when we’re trying to figure out what’s to be done. What can we do to ensure that kids understand the worth of human life is to firstly ensure that kids value their own lives. It’s too late for Chris Lane, his family, his killers and his killers’ families. And we will never obliterate gun violence among kids – but we owe it to Lane and every victim of gun violence – past, present, and future – to understand gun violence and work towards prevention.

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Filed under commentary, Nonfiction

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