This past Friday night, Elliot Rodger, 22, went on an alleged killing spree near UC-Santa Barbara, where his actions led to at least
10 six deaths and six injuries. We now know that he was motivated in part by an extreme hatred of women, to the point that he would "take great pleasure in slaughtering all of you."
As in the aftermath of many high-profile mass killings, the usual questions are being asked: how could this have happened, where were his parents, what can we do to prevent this. However, the one thing that isn't being talked about is the eerie similarity this shooting has to the École Polytechnique shooting, also known as the Montreal Massacre.
On December 6, 1989, 25-year-old Marc Lépine walked into an occupied classroom at the École Polytechnique and proceeded to separate the men from the women. He then shot all nine women present and went into the hallway looking for more women to kill before he eventually shot himself.
Lépine's motives were practically the same as Rodger's: he left behind a suicide note in which he said that "feminists were responsible for ruining his life" and as he walked into the classroom he said he was there to "fight feminism." Moreover, Lépine was even mixed race; Rodger was mixed race as well, and in his Youtube manifestos that have since been leaked, Rodger speaks of feeling different and self-conscious about his heritage, among other things.
While it's too soon to tell what kind of impact the UCSB shooting will have, if any, the Montreal Massacre led to major reforms among law enforcement agencies and federal gun laws.
Case in point: the Montreal Massacre sparked a national conversation about gun control, and led to the Firearms Act of 1995, which, "encouraged owners to create a safe storage space for their guns, to purchase and sell firearms legally, as well as register them ... The law also stood to educate the public about the risks of gun access, and raised public safety far above the privilege of private ownership."
According to the Canadian Coalition for Gun Control, while it is difficult to establish direct causation between the passing of the Firearms Act of 1995 and the national rate of gun deaths, crime statistics seem to indicate it did play a role in decreasing firearms deaths in subsequent years. Between 1995 and 2007, the most recent year for which data is available, total firearms deaths in Canada decreased by almost one-third, from 1125 in 1995 to 723 in 2007.
Meanwhile, in America, just in 2007, there were 31,224 total gun deaths. Some might argue that it's unfair to compare statistics from the U.S. and Canada given the considerable difference in size in the two countries' populations, which is fair. However, India, for example, which has a much, much larger population than the U.S. but far stricter gun control laws, has a negligible amount of gun deaths when adjusted for fatalities per 100,000 people (a common ratio in gun crime statistics).
The United States has not passed any significant gun legislation since 1994, and while experts have found that gun crime has decreased since then, when there are still annual fatalities numbering in the tens of thousands, there is still something very wrong with the picture.
The UCSB is about a lot of things: misogyny, gun control, mental health, etc., and the aftermath of the Montreal Massacre is just one glimpse of the potential impact the UCSB shooting could have. We shouldn't let history repeat itself ... again.
Top image of École Polytechnique memorial plaque via Wikipedia.org. H/t to Kinja user RedOak for educating me about the Montreal Massacre.