Watch your thoughts, for they become words;
Watch your words, for they become actions;
Watch your actions, for they become habits;
Watch your habits, for they become your character;
Watch your character, for it becomes your destiny.
This quote, attributed variously to Frank Outlaw, Mahatma Gandhi, and Lao Tze, can apply equally well to to societies as it does to individuals. Take, for instance, gun crimes.
After a heinous gun-related crime in the United States, great care is taken to point out the ways the shooter differed from the rest of the population. Perhaps, he had a drug problem, or maybe it was bipolar disorder, or schizophrenia, or borderline personality disorder. Perhaps, he recently lost his job, or had post traumatic stress disorder from serving in a war. Perhaps, she suffered from post-partum depression, or was part of a hate group. Perhaps, he and a buddy were bullied in school.
There's always something that separates each killer and makes him different from the rest of society, a one-off crazy crackpot. But at what point do these individual acts become a pattern? When do the acts become a habits, and when do these patterns reflect the character of a violent nation?
According to the Brady Campaign to Prevent Gun Violence,60 mass shootings have occurred since Gabrielle Giffords was shot in Tucson on Jan. 11, 2011. Are 60 events in 19 months enough to be a pattern? How about 30 people being killed each daily?
If these individual events have, in fact, become a pattern or even part of a national character, then perhaps, it's time to deal with the characteristic, rather than just (and solely) punishing individual acts.