When news emerged that a middle-aged white man in Lafayette, Louisiana, opened fire at a showing of the Amy Schumer vehicle Trainwreck, I immediately had this sinking feeling that the movie choice wasn’t a coincidence—that this was, like the Elliot Rodger and George Sodini killings, an act of rage at women. While Trainwreck is a fluffy rom-com, it’s also a popular topic of chatter in the feminist-sphere and therefore likely to be noticed by the seething misogynists who monitor the online activities of feminists with unsettling obsessiveness.
That fear is now moving from the uneasy-feeling column to the likely possibility column, with Dave Weigel of the Washington Post reporting that alleged shooter John Russell Houser was a rabid right-winger—he even went to one of those unranked conservative Christian law schools—who had particularly strong anger toward women for their growing independence and rights. Former talk show host Calvin Floyd had Houser on as a frequent guest, knowing that his off-the-wall opinions would generate audience interest: “The best I can recall, Rusty had an issue with feminine rights,” Floyd said. “He was opposed to women having a say in anything.” Houser also had a history of domestic violence.
It would be nice, as Jessica Winter argued in Slate after the Charleston shooting, if this country could have a grown-up conversation about gun control in the wake of crimes like this. Instead, we’re just going to hear a bunch of ridiculous rhetoric about how more guns will fix this problem, as if Lafayette isn’t one of those parts of the country where everyone and his poodle is packing heat. But since that’s not happening, maybe we can talk about the continuing role that misogyny plays in the relentless drumbeat of gun violence in this country.
As my colleague Ben Mathis-Lilley noted today at Slatest, there were 14 other gun-based murder-suicides in the past week in this country, resulting in the loss of 36 lives. If you look down the list of the killings, an unmistakable pattern pops out: “shot and killed his 37-year-old wife … shot and killed his ex-wife … shot and killed his 62-year-old wife … shot and killed his 23-year-old girlfriend … ” and so on. Most of these killings involve men killing women that they were in relationships with, had lost relationships with, or likely wanted relationships with but were rejected. This last week also featured a bizarre story of a woman who not only survived being kidnapped and raped by a man but also saw her boyfriend and a random other man killed in the rapist-murderer’s rampage.
Hearing that some man’s entitled attitude toward women led him to kill is so common that it hardly counts as newsworthy. We don’t know exactly why Houser shot up a theater that was showing a movie written by an unapologetic feminist, but this moment should still be a wake-up call about the problem of misogynist violence in our culture. If we’re not going to talk about gun control, then let’s talk about how to get fewer men to see guns as the solution to their inchoate rage at women.