Another April, Another Mass Shooting

There was another mass shooting today, a nut with a gun at an immigration office in New York, with at least a dozen killed. Here’s what I want to know: why do these things so often happen in April?

The last time I talked about a mass shooting was the Virginia Tech bloodbath. That was April 16, 2007.

Columbine High School (which I also briefly wrote about)? April 20, 1999. (I don’t count everything that happened in April: domestic terrorist Timothy McVeigh timed his Oklahoma City bombing for April 19, 1995, to commemorate another mass death, the siege in Waco, Texas, two years earlier.)

Multiple Theories

In April 2007, the Columbus Dispatch theorized, “Some experts say that April is a time of change that can trigger a disturbed mind to act out. The sudden increase in light this time of year can drive people with certain mental illnesses to manic behavior, some said.

“‘People in depressed affect, when they are at the bottom of their mood, they can’t function well enough to do anything, even plan a suicide,’ said Randy Nelson, professor of psychology and neuroscience at Ohio State University.

“Spring, like medication, can bring them out of the winter’s depression.

“‘They’ve had bad thoughts for a long time and being affected by the seasonal change could make them do something,’ he said.”

OK, then what about the Virginia Tech shootings that spawned their article in the first place?

“For college students,” they continued, “final exams and deadlines can push stress levels to dangerous levels in April. For those in high school, the approaching end of the school year can be the catalyst for a student to act on festering emotions.”

My Theory

I don’t buy it.

So what do I think the factor is? The Internal Revenue Service.

That’s right, tax returns, which in the U.S. are due April 15 (or the Monday after, if the 15th hits on a weekend).

I’m a word guy — I can blast out an essay like this in about half an hour (which is, in fact, about how long it took me to write this). But taxes? Hey, I’m even decent at numbers: I can estimate easily. What’s 20% off on a $15 item? Well, 10% is $1.50 — just move the decimal point over. Double that is $3, so the discounted price is $12. Easy.

But when I get my tax return from my preparer, I can’t follow it for the life of me. It’s not the numbers, it’s the loopholes and gyrations and special circumstances and special credits for blue-eyed first-time homebuyers that drive hybrid cars.

It’s enough to make anyone crazy. And start shooting.

And then add in financial turnarounds like worthless 401(k)’s, job losses, crazy-inducing immigration laws, failing automakers and newspapers and other industries? Mayhem!

I’m amazed there aren’t more nutballs grabbing guns and blowing off their anger. Seriously. That it’s not happening more actually says something good.

The Dispatch article quotes Chuck Archer, the former president of the Ohio School Psychologists Association. He says “The more we know [about such shootings], the more armed we are against preventing this from happening again.” Which just goes to show how pervasive the American gun culture is: his choice of the word “armed” says it all.

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50 Comments on “Another April, Another Mass Shooting

  1. I buy it. Literally. Got a bid for siding on our house today. The man who came said he didn’t realize when he started this job he’d have to become a tax expert to sell siding. *shakes head* Can anyone say Flat Tax? 😛

    I can, baby! I’m all for a Flat Tax! -rc

  2. One point I’d disagree on. In 1513, when Machiavelli wrote “The Prince”, carrying any sort of gun was uncommon. Yet he said: “For among other evils which being unarmed brings you, it causes you to be despised.”

    Now that could be a word choice of the translator, but the traditional definition of being armed is merely to be carrying a weapon.

    Machiavelli’s point, in part, was not so much that being armed gave you power, but prevented people from exerting power over you. “Because there is nothing proportionate between the armed and the unarmed; and it is not reasonable that he who is armed should yield obedience willingly to him who is unarmed.”

    So, not so much the culture of the gun, but the culture of power. And wouldn’t you describe the feeling having to do your taxes gives you as being one of powerlessness?

    Yep. Not to quibble, but today “armed” generally means a gun. But indeed it “really” means any weapon. -rc

  3. The IRS is sufficient motivation for anyone to grab a gun. I just wish that the gunmen’s target lists were a little more … refined.

    The link is a Google Maps link to the IRS’s main headquarters. -rc

  4. Every tax exemption, exception, deception, deduction, construction, deduction, induction, injection, inspection, rejection, exception (loop til done) has a citizen insisting it is necessary, right and good. Blaming the IRS for enforcing the Rube Goldberg tax code is like blaming cops for enforcing laws (admittedly, there are both bad and good cops and IRS functionaries. That’s a limitation of hiring human beings.)

    Eliminating every deduction would be fine with me, although the chaos in the housing sector and howls of outrage from churches and other charities would be deafening, therefore I’d want something to make up for the loss of special tax treatment for hearing aids.

    And the flattax as an alternative to a progressive tax rate is just a scam.

    I take your point about the IRS just following the laws set forth, and I agree: it’s Congress’s fault — as usual. We don’t agree on the merits of a flat tax; I think just about anything has to be more fair and reasonable than the current system. -rc

  5. I too am all for the flat tax or any other reasonable attempt to simplify taxes and end up with everyone paying their fair share of revenue to our government. Clearly, the current system favors those who can afford tax accountants and lawyers. No one is surprised by the number of tax cheats currently being exposed among the wealthy and the politically connected. With all their advantages such people STILL nonchalantly try to exempt themselves from a duty the rest of us dutifully try to navigate correctly each April.

    As for incidents of gun violence rising each April, in order to believe that to be the case we would have to ignore eleven months of similar news items, wouldn’t we? I think in our age of media saturation we have become easily seduced by simple or catchy explanations (“seasonal affective disorder, suicides increase around christmas time, in anger, the guy reached for a permanent solution to a temporary problem”). In reality, guns come into play for a host of reasons, but the situation of an armed person shooting many unarmed people is the one which stumps “the experts” every time. And it surely stumps those who try to tell us how to prevent it. How many times have you read of someone proposing the idiotic notion that a new gun law would have prevented the latest outrage?! The most clear headed comment I heard about the Virginia Tech massacre came from one of the students there who said that if just one of the students in that classroom had been legally carrying a firearm, 30 other students would be alive today.

    We are all stuck with the awful truth that our lawmakers have no intention of finding and implementing smart solutions to gun violence against the unarmed, nor do they have any wish to create a fair and equitable system of taxation. They are focused, sometimes exclusively, on their next election and returning favors to those who support them. Generally, I believe that WE are the so-called “missing link” between primitive man and civilized man, and will remain that way until we elect representatives who actually represent the peaceful and rather simple wishes of overtaxed and under-protected citizens.

  6. I remember when I was at school that Spring was the time when all the fights would start up. I doubt it’s so much to do with the end of the school year coming up, as it is to do with the heat. As soon as it starts heating up people don’t realise how dehydrated they get, and start to act irrationally and hot-headedly. Even though some shootings occurred in colder states, maybe it’s the relative temperature that matters?

  7. This theory could be tested by looking at other countries. Here in the UK the tax year ends 5th April, but we have until the following January to file a tax return on-line. For the past twenty years or so successive Chancellors of the Exchequer have been simplifying tax rules, so there are very few deductions/exemptions. Online filing means that the system does all the calculations for you, and once you are happy with the outcome (i.e. you’re pretty sure you haven’t made any mistakes) you hit the File button and it all goes through, no problem: you can even pay online by credit card. The tax people check it anyway and get back to you if you made a mistake – even if it’s in their favour.

    I have a complex return to make out because I have income from a lot of sources, but it still only takes me around two to three hours to do my accounts for the entire year and fill in the form. Maybe this is why we don’t get so many massacres as we used to??

  8. I can’t comment on the April/Shootings link, but I can tell you that in South Africa, the old multi-page multi-question tax form has been reduced to a single sheet for individuals: personal and banking details on side one, pre-printed tax information on the other (based on data given to Revenue Services by your employer); fill in any gaps where applicable; mail in pre-addressed envelope supplied or e-file and enjoy your tax refund paid direct to your bank account! Never thought I’d see the day that I actually enjoyed filing my return, which takes all of 20 minutes to complete… 🙂

  9. I suppose I must be one who benefits from the current tax plan, if compared to a flat tax. As one of many who has just completed the 2008 Federal tax return, I find my 2008 Federal income tax liability to be only 11.8% of my gross income (salary, interest, dividends retirement). If I include the rental proceeds from my rental house as part of my gross income item, then my 2008 Federal income tax liability is only 10.6% of my total gross income.

    To put things a bit more in perspective, my 2008 Federal income tax liability is 16.2% of my taxable income.

    At this point in my life, I think I would pay more, at least at the Federal level, unless the flat rate is less than 12% of my gross salary interest, dividend and retirement income.

    While you might be correct with “just about anything has to be more fair and reasonable than the current system,” unless it results in a lower personal tax liability to me, I guess I would not be interested. That might be quite self-serving, but until someone else helps to pay my taxes, I have to consider the effects to my pocketbook.

  10. One thing that I’ve seen occasionally mentioned, but almost never by mainstream media, is that almost all mass shootings involved the use of prescription drugs – specifically drugs of the class that Prozac is in. Either the shooters were currently taking the drugs, or had been taking them and self-decided to stop. The PDR list of bad side effects for this class of drugs is a bad nightmare in itself, and includes delusions, hallucinations, and other forms of INDUCED mental instability.

    Personally, I think there have to be better ways we can help these people than prescribing drugs to them with (even only the possibility) side effects so debilitating.

  11. My birthday is on income tax day (and the day Lincoln died, and the day the Titanic sunk), so I feel the pain.

    But I don’t understand why high school students (or college students in most cases), would be worried about taxes.

    Clearly, April is the cruelest month for other reasons.

    Students who don’t pay taxes themselves (and I certainly had to file returns when I was in college!) feel the stress in their households, since certainly their parents pay taxes. -rc

  12. How would the Columbine shooting fit into that theory?

    That said, taxes sure are a level of stress for me, but usually in Feb-March, since that’s when I tackle them… to see if I’m going to have to scramble for any extra payments being self-employed.

    I find the Federal tax forms are a cakewalk compared to Massachusetts’ forms. So many bloody worksheets, even more so in the last couple years with the healthcare-for-all tacked on to the system.

    I’m obviously not seriously arguing that Columbine — or any specific shooting — was due solely to taxes. Yet I can guarantee that those kids’ parents were stressed, and you know kids are affected by their parents’ stress. -rc

  13. If you read comments posted regarding local and national news stories you will notice a very high percentage are complaining about spending their tax dollars to support other people or programs. These people go to great lengths all year long to voice their objections. It is a good thing they can vent verbally even if many seem to have a hard time finding or spelling the words they use to complain. Many are likely too upset to put their feelings into words and it is amazing to me there are not more of these massacres taking place year round.

    But as you say the tax season seems to punctuate this phenomenon. Often these tax protesting citizens are the same ones who own guns and support the NRA and it’s not any wonder why. They feel that they need for the government to fear if not respect them. Just think of how and why our country started over two hundred years ago.

    Unfortunately it is the innocent people who are slaughtered in the name of this freedom cry and never now what the person was thinking or why he was no longer thinking. And the person who commits these acts of violence has given in to desperation and no longer has a voice. They seem to want to be viewed as martyrs.

    And every time this happens again we ask ourselves, ‘When is this ever going to end?’ I fear it never will. Pray then for the victims of these senseless acts as well as for those who commit them.

    I’m unclear how you’ve been able to check suspects’ names against the NRA membership list. -rc

  14. “Some experts say that April is a time of change that can trigger a disturbed mind to act out. The sudden increase in light this time of year can drive people with certain mental illnesses to manic behavior, some said.”

    What sudden increase in light? Was I sleeping during the class when they talked about sudden increases/decreases in light come spring, fall, summer, winter? It’s GRADUAL! A few minutes a day change from the previous (about 2 minutes/day in NYC, for example).

    As far as the IRS being the cause, you certainly would have more accountants pulling guns and shooting as 4/15 approaches. Not to mention the spouses of accountants shooting at them <G>.

    Glad you picked up on the “sudden” change. Yeah: happens overnight! Didn’t you know? 😉 -rc

  15. Sounds like a reasonable explanation for the shootings in April. Just another reason to support the Fair Tax ( No forms, no headaches, and everyone (including illegal immigrants, criminals, and tourists helps pay the freight.

  16. I am currently reading Neal Stephenson’s Anathem, which I shall paraphrase: The compromise between two reasonable positions is often highly unreasonable.

    This explains to me the current tax code and decreases my hope for reform.

  17. Thomas Stearns Eliot said that “April is the cruelest Month.” I have a family related theory. In our depression spradling family we had five of eight kids born in April. In my 75 years of wandering this earth I have notice a high incidence of April births.

    I would not know how to check the worldwide number of April births, but for some, Birthdays are stressful. Perhaps we should check the birthdays of those involved in these shootings.

    In the future we may have to set up a system of watching those of us who were brought forth in “The Cruelest month.”

    I just think there is a lot of sex in July. Hard to figure, too, since it’s so hot in July…. -rc

  18. While the IRS is a nuisance – and a special source of frustration and angst for entrepreneurs – the back-stories of shooters seldom involve “good taxpayers gone bad.” The commonality among them is that there are a large number of dysfunctional families, disgruntled workers, and mentally disturbed folks who are off their meds that have contributed to these horrific events. There seems to be precious little evidence that the voices in the heads of these killers was the IRS man.

    Certainly there are April events – but I doubt that there is sufficient data (i.e. mass shootings) to demonstrate a statistical correlation. Here is my count (data courtesy AFP) for significant shooting events starting with Columbine. Year and number of victims (not including the perpetrator) included:

    February (2 events) Chicago – 2008, 5; DeKalb, Illinois – 2008, 5.
    March (4 events) Brookfield, Wisconsin – 2005, 7; Alabama – 2009, 10; North Carolina – 2009, 8; Santa Clara – 2009, 6.
    April (3 events) Columbine – 1999, 13; Blacksburg, Virginia – 2007, 32; Binghamton, New York – 2009, 13.
    July (1 event) Atlanta – 1999, 12.
    August (1 event) Chicago – 2003, 6.
    September (2 events) Fort Worth – 1999, 6; Alger, Washington – 2008, 6.
    October (2 events) Washington (sniper shootings)- 2002, 9; Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania – 2006, 5.
    November (1 event) Birchwood, Wisconsin – 2004, 6.
    December (3 events) Omaha, Nebraska – 2007, 9; Carnation, Washington – 2007, 6; Covina, California – 2008, 9.

    In terms of significant events since Columbine – March appears to be the “winner.” Yes, I have left out Oklahoma City and others. I simply didn’t feel up to doing detailed research for the pre-Columbine years, and I figured the blog was about shootings – not bombings.

    I think it is reasonable to blame the wackos themselves and leave the IRS out of it.

    The winner is March, you say? Huh: that’s when quarterly filings are due. -rc

  19. I am just afraid this will spark another round of “let’s take the guns away to prevent this sort of thing from ever happening again” crappola. I would be the first to sign up if I knew for sure that the bad guys and the psychos would as well. Therein lies the problem. Unarmed “good people” will continue to be slaughtered by “bad people” because the bad guys don’t play by the rules.

  20. I think taxes certainly increase stress on adults, but I’m going to go ahead and disagree about taxes being at the forefront of April’s stressors on students.

    When I was in college, the vast majority of other students I knew didn’t have much to do with filing their own taxes, and those who did didn’t seem particularly stressed about it. And as high school students, I remember us as being barely even aware of tax season. Sure, stresses on the parents trickle down to a certain extent, but I think April’s changes in light, the whole springtime making your blood pump faster thing, and the academic stressors — exams, end-of-academic-year, final projects and presentations, that sort of thing, as well as the weather finally getting nice combined with students still being stuck indoors — are more likely to blame here.

    As always, a thought-provoking choice in articles!

  21. A Federal Sales Tax has been suggested as a much simpler alternative, but I’ve heard that most politicians don’t like the idea – “We can’t do that…people would actually realize how much they’re giving us!!”

    I actually think it kind of makes sense. Not nearly so complicated. Want to make something tax exempt? No need for people to save receipts and do all kinds of tracking – just don’t tax it at the store. Many states already make groceries tax free, so apparently cash registers can handle the tax/no tax difference. People with more money to spend will still end up paying more taxes. And maybe, just MAYBE, it might encourage a few people to remind themselves of what a savings account is again.

    And of course, lots less stress every April!!

  22. The point is well-taken that eliminating handguns legally will do nothing except disarm the “good guys”. The fellow that committed this caper had TWO handguns, I assume legally obtained. Remove the enforcement of gun laws from the hands of politicians and that will do a lot to reduce the problem…

    It’s nice to hear something from someone in the area. -rc

  23. I don’t really think taxes are the trigger in the cases that have occurred so far, but they certainly have that potential. If I were Dictator For A Day, I would pass just 2 laws: all politicians have to complete their own tax returns without assistance from anyone else, and all politicians would have to buy their own health insurance. Then a lot of other things will start to fall into place!

  24. Two quick comments: First of all…to the comment that increased light agitates some with mental illness. Sooo, is that why they keep adding to daylight savings time? So that more of us mental defects will react violently. hmmmm

    Second, to your comment that you are surprised there haven’t been more nutballs going postal…

    You left off an important word: YET.

  25. In March 2005, at the age of 64, my father went insane. He became manic and had a psychotic break and was committed for three weeks. He was never previously diagnosed as mentally ill but they decided he was bipolar. He stopped taking his medications that summer and again in May of 2006, he went insane and was committed for three weeks. The mental health experts told us that it is indeed spring (increased light, warmer temperatures) that causes bouts of severe mania and psychotic breaks. In that condition, a person can and will do anything as they are literally insane sometimes through no fault of their own but due to a malfunctioning brain. Extra stresses like taxes (and retirement, a dead dog, and a grandchild born in my father’s case) certainly help trigger the same thing so together, it’s just too much for a disabled brain.

  26. As far as the “sudden” light change: I vote for putting this under Daylight Savings Time, which does bring about a sudden change of light, not to mention throwing everyone’s internal clocks off-balance and making us all cranky (I know I was cranky when I suddenly had to start getting up at what my body considered 4:30 after Daylight Savings, only two weeks after starting a new job where I got up at 5:30, when my previous wake-up time was 8:30. Can we say shock to the system? Clearly motivation for excessive behavior [Youall will be glad to know that the excessive behavior I engaged in was not so severe as to go around shooting people. I think it mostly involved falling asleep in training classes]).

    Yes, I know that DS comes near the beginning of March these days, and this might make you wonder why April. I’ve heard, however, that everyone is thrown off for a few weeks after the change, so it’s obviously from residual effects. (Although someone else posted their research claiming March as a more violent month, which I guess supports my theory even better.)

  27. April 30 is Tax Day in Canada. Don’t know if April is a bad month here for killings.

    I am amazed there has not been a study on this. They like to tell us every year that the car accident rate go up dramatically on the Monday after Daylight Savings Time kicks in. Those pesky statisticians should be able to come up with the stats.

  28. I think you’re right about tax day being the major stressor it is Randy. Add to this the possibility that I ran into head-on a few years back where, with the graduated tax system we have, our combined incomes (military retirement, my wages, and my wife’s wages) suddenly pushed us over a threshold where I suddenly owed nearly over half of what I’d received for the year in my retirement. When the tax system is so complex that it creates an industry of software developers and accountants just to help people calculate their own taxes, it is far too complicated.

    To Ayesha in Boston, wait till you are a homeowner and have to mail a novel to the federal and state tax collectors each April. I’d rather take a dozen final exams than go through this. Then there’s the additional stressor that you might inadvertently make a mistake. It can be very stressing.

    Just my thoughts on this topic. I still have to do my taxes, and spent the day fishing. This next week is going to be busy enough I needed to flush the brain a bit, and fishing, even when they’re not biting, does that for me.

  29. There are two issues here:

    (1) whether our messy American income tax system could be improved with a Flat Tax, and
    (2) whether taxes are causally related to shootings.

    1. To answer #1, consider how you calculate your income tax:

    Step A. Add up income
    Step B. Subtract stuff from A (e.g. $X per child under 18)
    Step C. Calculate Tax from B by looking it up on a table
    Step D. Subtract stuff from C (e.g. $Y for each pack of GOOHF cards made from domestically-produced hemp)
    Step E: You’re done!

    The problem with the Flat Tax is that the complicated part is not “C”; it’s A, B and D. Looking things up in a table not not noticeably slower than multiplying by X%.

    Step A is easy for most wage earners: a couple of 1040 forms, some bank interest statements, and we’re done. The Flat Tax doesn’t matter here.

    Step A *is* complicated for businesspeople, and potentially the source of problems. What is income? If I give Randy $1 for a GOOHF card, that’s income, but if I buy him a beer in appreciation for having read ThisIsTrue for years, it’s not. Or maybe it is; you can vary the facts, come up with all sorts of scenarios and the rules have to cover them. And it *doesn’t matter* at this point of the analysis whether the tax is flat or not.

    Step B can be annoyingly complicated, but the big pain is to business people who complain (quite reasonably) that they should be taxed on net, not on gross. Surely the cost of printing GOOHF cards is a business expense that should be subtracted from income. What counts as an expense gets complicated: Randy may NEED lunch to generate This Is True, but does an ordinary wage worker? And of course TRACKING expenses can be a pain. Surely life would be simpler if the government trusted us all to be as honest as Bernie Madoff.

    Steps B and D have more complications because we, as a nation, choose to do a lot of things (e.g. encourage having kids or owning homes) NOT by overtly appropriating resources, but through tax expenditures, e.g. the mortgage interest rate deduction. Mathwise, the result is the same whether you give Randy $1000 to help with his house payment, or simply let him knock $1000 off his tax bill, but for some reason, we do the latter. Taxes would be a lot simpler if we abandoned using the tax code for such things and simply spent the money openly; if THAT is what one means by a “flat tax” … eliminating steps B and D … then I’m for it.

    It’s not gonna happen; every church, charity, mortgage holder and parent will demand THEIR piece of pie. The leaders of the Flat Tax movement, and its fellow scam the National Sales Tax a.k.a. Fair Tax, know this. If they’d come right out and say so, we could have a good conversation and start experimenting with “flattening” the worst parts.

    We could start by making the Payroll Tax (FICA) a flat tax; at the moment, it’s just about the most regressive tax ever, due to its income cap. We could knock off some of the sillier instances of tax expenditures, such as the oil depletion allowance (wouldn’t YOU like to cut your taxes by the percentage of you that’s been used up?)

    Evolutionary change in basic matters is always better than revolutionary change, and a step-by-step simplification of our tax code would be a good idea. But replacing the table look-up in Step C with a simple multiplication does not address the real problem of our tax code being too complicated.

    (2) As to April 15 being related to shootings, the evidence so far is not compelling to me. The human mind is a pattern-seeking machine so there’s nothing wrong with seeing a pattern in three massacres in the same calendar, but it’s not statistically significant. Also, the causal mechanism is a bit convoluted: parents are stressed, therefore kids start shooting.

    In contrast, the mind-altering medication hypothesis has a pretty straightforward mechanistic explanation.

    I must congratulate Randy for a most thought-provoking post. The offer of a beer stands, if you assume the risk of tax consequences 😉

    Sounds good. I prefer a nice microbrew ale to mass-produced stuff, if that’s OK. -rc

  30. My boyfriend is convinced that allergies can trigger all sorts of bad behavior. And spring (April & March) is when loads of grasses, trees, and flowering plants are releasing pollen.

  31. Yes it IS the IRS when we get taxed to death without any say-so. Our government is kiting “checks” for every whim they can think of and adding more expenses to what they’ve already got in motion. Time to close it all down and see if we can make do without such an expensive government.

  32. I have participated daily in a depression chat group for the past six months. I’m subject to my own thoughts of rage and armed retaliation at our species, and have monitored my personal ups and downs as well as those of others during these past few months. I have never seen taxes mentioned as a stressor — Randy, with all due respect, I think exercising the human love for patterns has led you to try to link aggression and taxes. I do see a correlation between the coming of spring, mental health and an increase in activity. People begin feeling better as the weather improves and are more easily able to make plans to get stuff done. Sometimes those plans include actualizing the massacre about which one has spent the winter ruminating. But I truly don’t think shooting rampages are connected to tax season — people who go on rampages are not thinking about getting back at the IRS, and people who are responsible enough to wade through their taxes aren’t going on shooting rampages!

    While my comments are quite obviously tongue in cheek, I do think that taxes are a significant stressor, which peak late March through mid-April. I do worry that “feeling better” could possibly translate to “actualizing the massacre” one has been fantasizing about, though. -rc

  33. A frightening parallel can unfortunately be drawn between the “Information Age”, i.e, the multimedia barrage of every piece of information, every news item, almost as it happens, with the “New Age of Terror” that is being bred and cultivated even as we speak. With the click of the remote, or a computer mouse, we can all be witness to some of the most horrific images and news stories in history. And without a doubt there are people, politicians among them, capitalizing on this phenomena. It started with the end of our innocence, IMHO, in Dallas in 1963, profligated during the Viet Nam Era, and is flourishing now. Randy is right: it IS amazing that with all the purvasive feelings of anger and fear surrounding us that there aren’t more incidents like the most recent occurence in Binghampton, and Pittsburg, and Oakland…on a daily basis.

  34. While our funny news columnist’s comments are made to be just that, he does bring up a good point.

    The tax code is insane. Thousands of pages of loopholes, exclusions, and deductions. When my grandmother when to take her certified agent from the IRS, the teacher told her with all seriousness that there was no perfect tax submission, and that if an auditor did not find anything in an audit, he would be inspected for bribery.

    If Obama really wanted to change the status quo, he would trash the entire tax code and replace it with a one-page form. Taxes are not supposed to be used to influence our decisions. They shouldn’t be used to promote marriage, buy houses, give to charity, rush on office supplies on December 30th, or exaggerate your medical bills to be above 7.5% of your net income. Due to the perversity of the system, they do all of that. Standard deduction for everyone, and a simple split between investment and normal income for taxing capital gains at a different rate. Anything that can’t be taught in the Freshman economics should be removed.

    Every year that H&R Block and its competition stays in business, is a travesty against humanity and common sense.

  35. It seems that you may be right in your reasoning. These shooters are mad at the injustice they see whether real or imagined, and the income tax is just one other injustice, perhaps the proverbial straw?

    I also have a question. When I was younger (granted a long, long time ago) if you were despondent (a word not used then), and wished to kill yourself, you killed yourself. You didn’t arm yourself with enough to take out an army and shoot strangers, or even family members! It may have been “they’ll see — they’ll be sorry for how they treated me” but, they didn’t. The first mass shooting I remember was when that guy shoot up the McDonald’s and everyone was horrified and spoke about it for months. Now it seems that there are so many, we shake our heads and thank God it wasn’t us.

    There’s more stress now, I guess. And more unfair taxes, too (not higher, just more unfair, which is a big difference). -rc

  36. As much as I’d like to see the tax laws simplified, you have to think about all the accountants that would be put out of work. Think about the people dressed up as the statue of liberty who would be out of a rewarding career. Or all the television stations that would face massive cut backs from the loss of revenue from H&R Block. Certainly TurboTax employees out of work would further strain the welfare system. What about the pencil and eraser manufacturers? Who speaks for those employees? How about the loss of jobs for temporary workers who are employed because of full time workers waiting in line at the Federal Building trying to get the same answer twice from half a dozen IRS workers?

    My tax guy is the biggest promoter I know of the flat tax. He says it will indeed put him out of business — but that’s OK, since it would be so much better for the country, and he’d rather do “productive” work. If he’s OK with taking the risk, so am I. -rc

  37. I’m not convinced that April is “more lethal” than other months. School shootings cluster around the start of the school year and towards the end of the school year. Granted, Columbine has been “the” massacre to emulate for copycat perpetrators since 1999, and massacres seem to beget massacres, so once there is publicity for one… more tend to follow.

    The US has just experienced 3 massacres in 3 days (more since your original column, and perhaps more to follow?)

    I don’t dispute your observation that April has had its share of senseless massacres. I dispute that April is MORE prone to massacres than other months.

    I could cite massacres from every month, but what I think is important is that media coverage tends to fuel the next massacre.

    The Kent State Massacre received huge media coverage (May ’70) and the massacre at Jackson State soon followed.

    I believe publicity of massacres unwittingly perpetuates more massacres. We need to rethink how our massacres are reported, and stop publicizing the names of the mass murderers, in an effort to curtail the copycat effect.

    (Northern IL University had a massacre on 2/14/2008 – I don’t think the choice of Valentine’s Day was a coincidence, but I don’t know what the meaning was for the shooter).

  38. Returning to taxes, though I don’t really think it’s the primary cause:

    “The difference between death and taxes is death doesn’t get worse every time Congress meets.” — Will Rogers (1879-1935) American humorist

  39. A few of these folks – if I recall correctly, the Columbine shooters – are obsessed with death and darkness, and as such are often big fans of one of the darkest souls: Adolf Hitler. His birthday was on the 20th of April. Consider the possibility that some of them have this in mind.

    Great: now I’m wondering if the IRS did…. -rc

  40. I’m not with you 100% on your theory, Randy, but it is an interesting thought. At least some of (if not most of) the shootings in April COULD be related to taxes. It would come as no surprise to me. I’m generally grumpier when I know I have to file. I hate wasting a couple of hours of my time on something so idiotic and un-american. Yes, UN-AMERICAN. It seems like there are way too many people out there wiling to defend the IRS these days. I think it’s perhaps because they have been goaded into feeling like it’s their ‘patriotic duty’ to fill out those stupid complex forms each year and pay their taxes (who in their left-mind came up with these rules anyway!?…it IS enough to drive a sane person insane). What do you suppose our founding fathers would have done if they had to fill out a form 1040?

    I doubt it’s coincidence that the ratification of the Sixteenth Amendment was in the same year the Federal Reserve Act was passed. I wish the people in this country would wake up already and vote for people that want to rid us of both the IRS and the Federal Reserve. Anyone who takes a little time reading about our monetary system, will see the IRS and the Federal Reserve are the source of the financial problems we are facing today.

  41. I think you are onto something, but I don’t think it is just taxes. I work at a community college and student code of conduct issues go through the roof in the spring, especially April. It seems most of the violators are of the age where they probably are still on mommy and daddy’s taxes and not filing their own. I’ve always thought hormones play into it too. Let’s say the answer is D) All of the Above.

  42. (Note that this is an old joke)

    Super Simple Tax form (SSTF)

    Line 1: enter your total income ___________
    Line 2: write out a check for the amount on Line 1 and send it in.

    The version I saw was 1) How much did you make last year? 2) How much do you have left? 3) Send amount in Line 2. -rc

  43. I suspect that it has something to do with the IRS, if you think about the tension that so many people experience in the days leading up to filing, the joy some feel because the are getting “paid” and the despair of those who are doing the “paying” and feel like they have been robbed. That seems like a LOT of emotion being bandied about @ the same time. And EVERYONE is going to be in contact with it in some shape, form or fashion.

  44. Finally! April 15! If Randy is correct, all this senseless serial carnage will stop tomorrow! (until next year, of course)

    Well, not necessarily: the tax return may be mailed, but the stress doesn’t abate immediately. Hell: it might take up to a year to really go away…. -rc

  45. Slate ran an article yesterday about how it seems that April is a deadlier month than any other. They didn’t comment on the Tax day connection though. Rather than explore reasons for April being such a lethal month, they use it as a potential argument for stricter gun control.

  46. As fun as it is to blame tax season for these events, I just can’t accept it.

    “Spring Fever” is a much more likely cause and the onset of spring has already been linked to behavioral changes. This includes notably increased sexual desire, which peaks during the longest days of the year, resulting in the higher number of springtime births that Randy noted earlier.

    Sunlight is a form of actinist. It causes chemical changes in the living things that it hits. Those chemicals build and when they reach a predetermined level over the course of a day, other reactions are set in motion. So, while the length of days increases gradually over time, it is a sudden change when the chemicals in our systems finally reach the necessary levels.

    Sure, tax season is a stressor, and I’m sure there are some cases where it actually is the causal factor in acts of mayhem. But The sun is a far more powerful and pervasive force than taxes could ever challenge.

    Thanks for yet another thought-provoking entry, Randy. It was particularly interesting for me today as my boyfriend had mentioned the exact same possibility to me less than an hour before I read it. Although for him, I went into far less depth when shooting it down. 😀


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