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Catherine Tinsley: "Origins of a mass-shooting disaster" (The Hill)

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I study disasters — disasters that arise from natural causes like hurricanes and those produced by human mistakes and mismanagement, like the massive BP oil spill. By any metric, any mass shooting, such as the one that occurred at the Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh, is a tragic disaster. From the point of view of our collective welfare, the most disturbing aspect of mass-shooting disasters is that we fail to hold parties accountable for the conditions that enable them, insisting instead that the blame lies with the shooter. But blaming the shooter for the Pittsburgh tragedy is like blaming a match for starting a fire. Of course, that spark is the precipitating event, but a “spark” is an absurdly insufficient explanation for the devastating results. Besides a spark, disasters require enabling conditions. The context surrounding the precipitating event can either protect from the hazard or enable the spark to become a conflagration. Just as a match requires a source of oxygen and steady diet of flammable material before it can create a fire that becomes dangerous, a would-be shooter requires a gun and a steady diet of hate before he or she can execute a mass shooting.

Read more of Catherine Tinsley's op-ed on The Hill.