A look back at three horrific tragedies and the vastly different responses by governments following them:

  • Columbine, Colorado, United States, 1999
  • Hungerford, England, 1987
  • Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia, 1996

This episode of the Majority Villain podcast has some pretty adult themes. If you’re a sensitive listener, you may want to have a friend proof-listen the show. Otherwise, we feel the topics here need to be discussed again and again, and we welcome heartily your sincere feedback. As always, you can email me your thoughts, concerns and input: greg@majorityvillain.com.

Please consider following up with more of this content and the nationwide protests that have taken place around gun violence under the hashtag #Marchforourlives.

This episode of the Majority Villain podcast has some pretty adult themes. If you’re a sensitive listener, you may want to have a friend proof-listen the show. Otherwise, we feel the topics here need to be discussed again and again, and we welcome heartily your sincere feedback. As always, you can email me your thoughts, concerns and input: greg@majorityvillain.com.

I love action movies. I love ‘em.

They’re the best for sitting down and dumbing out. For allowing a program to do all your most valuable thinking and enjoy some well-timed one-liners in the process. In fact, I’d say anybody who says they don’t like them is either a liar or a dreadful bore. In any case, these people are to be avoided at all costs.

But that doesn’t mean that action movies aren’t kinda weird though…

Like when there’s a car chase scene or a shoot out you’re always really concerned about the main character. Always. Without discretion, because of course, they’re the main character. Think about it: even if the main character is kind of a shitty person, or even the bad guy - you’re still pulling for them to make it out safe.

But the others? Like the police, or the people on the street - it’s kinda like whatever. Who cares? They’re not real to us.

It’s true. After one of those classic action movie scenes, where there’s a car chase or an explosion, and you just think, “Oh yeah, a whole bunch of bystanders just died,” and the main character is kinda just like “Phew, glad it wasn’t me. Welp, time to keep getting the bad guy here.”

Do you ever wonder what the news would sound like that night in whatever reality it was filmed in? Seriously. How do you reconcile that news?

USA News Anchor: “…and as they say, ‘The early bird gets the worm.’ Ha ha, yes he sure does.
Downtown LA today, a huge gun fight erupted that was B-A-N-A-N-A-S. So, after a bunch of hostages were taken at a Christmas party, explosions and bullets littered the air. Turns out, a group of disgruntled Germans—not to be confused with Nazis—were shooting up the place. But then, an uninvited, brazen, shoeless New York City off-duty police officer way outside his jurisdiction saved the day. He was there to try and rekindle his broken marriage, all the while yelling these hilarious one-liners while the bad guys and everybody were all like, ‘Whaaaa?’ It was cray cray. The damage, a sultry $5.2 million will be picked up by Los Angeles tax payers. Also, a whole bunch of people got shot, soooo that sucks.
Now, over to sports with Chuck McGinnis.”


British News Anchor: “Bollocks that was a close one! MI6 (m-eye-six) is poised to foot yet another massive bill for yet another massive explosion that rocked near the Dome as a boat driven by a special agent was crashed onto a shore of on-lookers shortly after what appeared to be several torpedoes launched recklessly from the craft into the River Thames (tehms). The wanker driving the boat, an unknown agent of her Majesty’s Secret Intelligence Service, abandoned the bloody wreckage to assault a woman in a hot air balloon eventually causing an explosion overhead the group of miffed citizens. Seems he was all trousers, and no mouth. I mean, I thought this kind of shite only happened in America.
In other news, the London Stock Exchange fell three points today.”


Australian News Anchor: “A ripper of a arvo out in the desert today, as two gangs of sadomasochist bogans in togs had a bit of a blood-bath over a lot of petrol and water. Definitely chockers full of crazies, the gangs were a mess of people head to toe in leather and spikes with plenty of fire power. Dozens were dead after a series of trucks and utes had been blown up all across the outback. Would have been a good day for a sickie and a trip to the bottle-o for a quick slab if one had the right foresight to stay home. It’s a hard hit for the Aussies today, but she’ll be alright.

Unfortunately, real life isn’t so funny. More often it’s akin to something like:

“Tragedy strikes the heart of the financial district today as a lone gunman opened fire killing 12 and injuring dozens with a improvised explosive devices and a military-style AR-15. The shooter, a caucasian male in his early 20s, turned the weapon himself as police moved in to arrest him. The shooter’s motives are not yet known.”

In fact, it’s more horrific and scarier and sadder than any movie could ever be. The depths to which humans are willing to sink to find the twisted justice they seek often feels like it is teaching us more about humanity’s capacity to hate than it does about our ability to hope.

Columbine, Colorado, United States, 1999
On April 20th, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold arrived at school with one motive: to kill and maim as many people as they could inside Columbine High School. After a year of preparation, the duo’s plan was finally coming to fruition.

Their plan was to plant bombs in the cafeteria before lunch, remotely detonating them when the room was packed full of their peers, killing them all, and maybe even collapsing that part of the building entirely. When the bombs didn’t go off as planned, the two armed themselves with the arsenal of weaponry that they’d accumulated, and entered the school, concealing it all under their ankle length trench coats.

Moving from room to room, starting at the cafeteria, Klebold and Harris gunned down students without batting an eye, even going as far as to taunt their victims before murdering them. Armed with a Tec-9, Hi-Point carbine, and shotguns, the two made their way through the halls, into the library, and then eventually back to the cafeteria when the police arrived.

Hungerford, England, 1987
Michael Ryan was described by people who knew him as a devout gun enthusiast. On the morning on August 19, 1987, He loaded his guns into his car and drove to Savernake Forest. Once he arrived, he found a woman and her two young children on a picnic. He approached them with his M1 rifle drawn, then led the woman into the forest, and finally shot her thirteen times in the back with his Beretta 92FS.

From the forest, he returned home, after a brief stop at a petrol station where he attempted to continue his spree, but failed, and set the family house on fire and shot the family dog when his car refused to start again. His spree continued on the street that he lived on, where he fired shots at, and killed neighbors and police officers alike.

Eventually, his mother returned home, and after seeing the carnage that he had caused, attempted to talk to her son. This didn’t go well, as he them shot his mother numerous times, before killing her as she lay on the ground.

Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia, 1996
April 28th, 1996, Martin Bryant loaded his two firearms into his Volvo and headed for the Port Arthur Historic Site in Tasmania, Australia. He parked his car, grabbed his bag which contained his rifles as well as ammunition, and walked into the Broad Arrow Café. Bryant ordered food, took his tray outside to the deck, and ate, muttering to himself, as well as to other patrons. Once he finished his food, he walked back inside, returned his tray, sat his bag down, pulling out one of his rifles and opened fire on the innocents inside the restaurant.

Shooting as many as he could, he made his way back and forth between the restaurant and gift shop, firing on the unarmed people inside, before eventually making his way outside to the car park, where he continued his spree.

Firing on anyone he had in sight, with no regard for human life, he mowed down person after person, hiding, running, or stunned in place, while body after body fell.

The obvious line somebody would draw in the sand here is this: Entertainment. Of course, entertainment is entertainment and real life is real. They’re not the same and comparisons are dangerous. People have been arguing back and forth for years about the whether or not violent entertainment in movies or video games have attributed to these kinds of mass violence. Arguing more about it here doesn’t seem very useful either.

In fact, as far as causes go, we’re not going to brazen enough to make any claims about what actually causes these horrible shootings, and there are a lot of claims. For reference, we cite here a New York Times article by Daniel Victor: “Mass Shooters Are All Different. Except for One Thing: Most Are Men.”

So there is the argument that mental illness and a lack of clear access to care lays the foundations for violence. Perhaps for some, though many perpetrators of mass shootings don’t exhibit any symptoms of mental illness, and others that do have a history of therapy.

Then there are those with a history of domestic violence. Perhaps a history of abusing others unchecked might lead to bigger, more abhorrent violent acts. But only about 16 percent of shooters from 2009 to 2015 had previously been charged with domestic violence, according to Victor.

The desire to be famous for the crime is often pointed to as a reason people decide to commit such heinous crimes against others. A variety of shooters’ personal manifestos written prior to crimes repeatedly point to the notoriety they expect to receive for the chaos they are planning.

Then there are those who feel they have been treated unfairly and are angry about it. Victor quotes a forensic psychologist, Dr. J. Reid Meloy, “What’s become clear over the past 30 years of research is that there’s virtually always a personal grievance that will start a person on a pathway to mass murder.”

Even the belief that white men carry out a disproportionate number of mass shootings is a myth according to Daniel Engber, columnist for Slate. Engber states quite plainly that the reason a larger portion of shootings look like they are perpetrated by white people is simply because white people have historically made up a majority of the population. Other factors include the categorical ways white people are defined and the fluctuating nature of how studies of shootings are conducted. All factors which lead to large discrepancies that say the data don’t support it.

Even by Engber’s analysis, the notion that the one consistent feature in mass shootings are inflicted by males, rings true. A number consistently between 90-94%. That, most experts say, is the most alarming number to take away.

Columbine, Colorado, United States, 1999
When escape was out of the question, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold simultaneously committed suicide, overheard counting to three by one of the students in hiding, and finally pulling the triggers in unison.
After all was said and done, 15 students were dead including the two shooters, and 24 injured.

Hungerford, England, 1987
Michael Ryan traveled down the street, shooting indiscriminately at people in their gardens, and people walking down the street, before finally holing up in a college that was out of session for the summer. After a standoff with the police, Ryan eventually took his own life with the pistol he started his spree with, shooting himself in the head.

Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia, 1996
Eventually, Martin Bryant made his way down the road, murdering as he went, even killing a woman and her two young children who mistook him for someone attempting to help them while they ran from the carnage.
After an 18-hour standoff with police, Bryant was captured. He murdered a total of 35 people, injuring an additional 23 in the process.

Post Port Arthur Legislation
Within weeks after the atrocities in Port Arthur, Australian officials banned semi-automatic and other military-style weapons across the country. The government funded a buyback program paying civilians handsomely for their assault-style weapons. Nearly 640,000 prohibited firearms were sold back to the government with an additional 60,000 freely given. The total drop of guns in private hands was likely in the range of 20%. In 2002, lawmakers took this further by restricting caliber, barrel length and capacity for handguns intended for sport. According to Slate, in the 18 years before Port Arthur, Australia was victim to 13 mass shootings. Since the buyback program was instated they’ve seen non.

Post Hungerford Legislation
In the months following the Hungerford shootings, Parliament passed the Firearms (Amendment) Act of 1988. Strict regulation was instated barring semi-automatic and pump-action rifles, weapons firing explosive ammunition, short shotguns with magazines and self-loading rifles. Those wanting access to some firearms with newly prohibited accessories needed certification, registration and proof of locked storage. The UK has seen only a handful of shootings since Hungerford. Nearly all have resulted in new restrictions on firearms.

Post Columbine Legislation
The year following the shooting at Columbine High School, pro-gun control advocates were empowered to make change. Over 800 bills were proposed to make certain nothing like this would ever happen in the United States of America again though some of those were designed to protect gun owners. Many proposals called for revamped background checks, robust mental health screening requirements, and ending gun show loopholes. Sadly, a mere 10% of those proposals would eventually pass through congress. A similar story years later was following the Sandy Hook shooting when 24 pieces of legislation were proposed in the first 75 days following the shooting. One passed: requiring registration of assault weapons and limiting magazine capacity.

“Now is not the time.” It rings out like the pang of a gunshot.

When after each incident in America, survivors and those directly affected are told to wait for change there is no greater shame.

When it comes to guns the United States doesn’t ban being male. It doesn’t regulate race (officially, anyway). It doesn’t regulate those with mental illness though we do prohibit people with a history of domestic violence from owning a gun, though even that was challenged in the Supreme Court as recently as 2016. According to gunpolicy.org, 75% of guns are owned by civilians, and there is enough ammunition to shoot every person on Earth—twice. Something former UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan once called “weapons of mass destruction”, of the nearly 875 million firearms in the world, of which roughly 35% reside in the United States. By other accounts, that number is close to 50%. Take that statistic a step further where only 3% of Americans own roughly half of the United States supply of weapons. In other words: One-tenth of 1 percent own nearly one-quarter of the planet’s handguns.

On Friday March 23rd of this year, President Trump announced the issuance of a new rule banning bump stocks - an accessory that makes firing a semi-automatic weapon function more like an automatic one. It’s the same part that was used in the Las Vegas shooting in October that killed 58. It’s a step in the right direction, but if we’ve learned anything, it’s that we’re dealing with a problem that has many fronts. Some of those fronts are deceptive, but others are clearer than they’ve ever been before.

Maybe some day we’ll turn on the news and hear something much different…

News Anchor: “Tragedy strikes the heart of America today as yet another mass shooting comes to pass. As usual, our politicians wander aimlessly behind the rest of us as more lives are taken, and in exchange—only more prayers can be given. The only change is no change as briberies under the guise of contributions come in from small fractions of smaller factions claiming to protect blood and country. They persuade with ease members of our legislative bodies to ignore real world statistics by blurring the vocabulary, pointing fingers, changing the subject, and by saying ‘now’s not the time’ when the time of tragedy remains perpetually ‘now’, because we will continue to lead the developed world in mass shootings and the radical number of privately held firearms, both licit and illicit.
And yet until we let a thousand flowers bloom around solutions to the tragic reality of gun violence in America, the answer will not be found purely in legislation, just like it was never found in shallow, albeit good intentions. Changes will need to be made to the way we care for ourselves and one another, or nothing will help our family, friends and neighbors who take their own lives with a firearm at rates higher than even that of homicide, and still more of those in uniform whose suicide rate doubles that.
We must be uncomfortable with this level of comfort surrounding the issue of mass shootings in America—especially as the rest of the developed world does not have this same problem. Otherwise, our careless, self-righteous indignation will continue to numb just like the way a cheap whiskey dulls the conscience.
From our studio to your home: Good night and good luck.

All music, art, and show clips were taken via the Free Music Archive, Flickr, and Youtube under Fair Use and Creative Commons Licensing. Today’s show image by sari_dennise, with music provided by Evil Bear Boris, Blue Dot Sessions, and Kai Engel.

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As usual, you can find us @MajorityVillain on Twitter and Facebook, and you can always send me an email: greg@majorityvillain.com. We read every single email we get, and promise you a thoughtful response.

Until next time… Status quos are for suckers. 

National Center for Health Statistics,
-Suicide and Self-Inflicted Injury

-Assault or Homicide

-National Vital Statistics Reports

Open Secrets, Profile for 2016 Election Cycle:
National Rifle Assn



Mass shootings and gun control (6/2/2010)


How Many Gun Bills Pass After Mass Shootings? (9/13/2013)

Massacre Energized gun debate not lawmakers (Article from 2000) http://extras.denverpost.com/news/col0419g.htm 

What Explains U.S. Mass Shootings? International Comparisons Suggest an Answer

Mass Shooters Are All Different. Except for One Thing: Most Are Men.

Australian Gun Stats
“Statistics do not demonstrate that crime rates in Australia have increased substantially since the government instituted a gun buy-back program in 1997.”


Just 3% of Americans own more than half the country's guns


United States — Gun Facts, Figures and the Law

How Many Gun Bills Pass After Mass Shootings? (9/13/2013)


Massacre Energized gun debate not lawmakers (Article from 2000) http://extras.denverpost.com/news/col0419g.htm

Mass shootings and gun control (6/2/2010) http://www.bbc.com/news/10216955