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NOVEMBER 16, 2012 3:51PM

What Can We Learn From Anders Breivik's Sentence?

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On July 22, 2011, 32-year-old Anders Breivik calmly slaughtered 77 children and adults in a meticulously planned and bloody barrage of bombings and shootings purposed with stamping out the alleged corruptions of Islam, feminism, Zionism, Marxism, multiculturalism, and other evils destroying European civilization. He was found guilty and accorded Norway’s maximum sentence of “preventive detention” in August of this year. This means he must spend at least 10 years in prison or 21 years (100 days for each count of murder) there at most unless he’s deemed unfit for release after that time and detained longer or even for the remainder of his life. Most experts believe that he will never get out.

One might expect the
unapologetic perpetrator of such monstrous mass murder to, at best, languish in a cramped cell with spartan accommodations and endure rough handling from his jailers. Instead, he lounges in digs many would envy.

His cell looks less like a dungeon than an Ikea display of optimal small-space habitation, and he even had full use of a computer in his comparatively spacious, three-room quarters right up until being sentenced for his crimes. After his computer was removed and he waited for a replacement electric typewriter, he had to use a flexible (to prevent its deployment as a weapon) rubber “nightmare” pen that cramped his hand to write out tortuous treatises defending his murderous mayhem, and he didn’t like it.

In fact, in a scolding,
27-page letter to prison officials he presented a stinging litany of complaints about the "inhumane" indignities he was forced to endure including not only the rubber pen, which he called “an almost indescribable manifestation of sadism,” but also the routine censoring of his mail and phone calls, strip searches, cold coffee, “unwelcoming” prison guards, noisy fellow inmates, and having to wait as long as forty minutes for guards to switch on and off his TV and lights each day from controls located outside his cell.

Had Breivik committed his ghastly crimes in just about any other part of the world he would no doubt have far more to complain about, were he even left alive to complain, but he’s in Norway, and Norway has one of the most lenient
justice systems in the world, based, as it is, on the lofty principle of “restorative justice” aimed at healing everyone affected by a crime, including the perpetrator, and arguably remarkably effective at preventing violence in prison and recidivism upon release.

Yet, even Norwegian justice is grounded on the conventional belief that, except in very rare cases of obvious
insanity, people commit crimes of their own free will and can therefore be held responsible for them, and Breivik was adjudged sane and responsible for his atrocities. More specifically, he was judged not to have a psychotic condition that caused him to enact his murder spree, and he was consequently sent to prison rather than a psychiatric facility.

But what if Breivik didn’t have free will and couldn’t help but do what he did on that infamously “Bloody Friday” in July? How so, given the fact that he very deliberately planned and perpetrated his massacre? How could he not have been free if he wanted to kill all those people and was able to carry out his homicidal intentions with chilling efficacy?

Because, says philosopher and free will scholar Robert Kane, being free to do what one wills is only a “surface freedom” and not necessarily “free will” as philosophers understand it. That is, if one is free to do what one wills but is determined by causes one doesn’t control to will what one does and to act out that will, how is that free will?

As philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris argues in his recent book Free Will, “free will” is the belief that “(1) Each of us could have behaved differently than we did in the past, and (2) We are the conscious source of most of our thoughts and actions in the present,” and, says Harris, the notion that we have this magical capacity is undermined by a growing body of scientific research showing that our thoughts, choices, and actions inevitably originate from interacting physical, biological, psychological, social, and cultural conditions of which we aren’t fully conscious and over which we exert incomplete control.

And if this is true of all of us, it’s certainly true of people such as Anders Breivik who commit criminal atrocities. For as Sarah Lucas recently wrote in the Humanist, if we apply Harris’ argument to the Breivik case, we conclude that “had you been born with Anders Breivik’s genes, grown up in the same environment, been dealt the same life experiences and woken up on that July 22 morning with an identical brain, you would have committed his crimes (after all, you would have been him).”

Sam Harris’ argument is controversial, to be sure, but what if he’s right and people can’t help but commit the crimes they do given their nature when they commit them? How should society deal with them? Should it ensconce them in almost palatial prisons like Breivik’s or subject them to harsher treatment? And if the latter, how much harsher should that treatment be?


Many would argue that justice isn’t only about inflicting upon the perpetrator what he or she deserves but also providing society what it needs to heal after the crime. In Breivik’s case, it’s difficult to see how Norwegian society would rest satisfied with Breivik’s present circumstances and readily heal from the terrible trauma he inflicted.

Many would argue that justice is also about deterring future crimes, and, again, it’s difficult to see how Breivik’s cozy living arrangements will deter other dementedly xenophobic souls bent on violently rescuing European civilization from ruin at the hands of barbarian invaders from without and ideological traitors from within.

Moreover, what if Harris is wrong and Breivik freely chose to murder all those people. Was justice served in his case? That is, even if Breivik spends the rest of his life in prison, did he reap the punishment he deserves, and will his punishment deter others from committing similarly egregious crimes and provide Norwegian society with the healing and stabilizing sense that justice was served?

The horrendous case of Anders Breivik raises pressing questions about the nature of justice, free will, and responsibility more than most, and we would do well to spend more time contemplating them.

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Nice job of outlining the considerations related to mass murders.
I very much agree with you that Brevik's treatment is too kind.

Perhaps, there is some credence to the position some take that DEFECTIVES should just plain be eliminated. A bullet to the head.
Well, Lyle, I'm not sure whether I do or don't think Breivik's "punishment" is "too kind." Since I'm inclined to agree with Harris in determined will, I'm rationally inclined to believe that Breivik did what he had to do given his nature at the time. Thus, I have difficulty believing that people should be forced by the state to suffer for committing crimes they couldn't help but commit. But then, I feel very strong outrage over what he did and over how proud he seems to be about it, and there's a part of me that agrees with the possibility you suggested that people like him should "just plain be eliminated" for the common good.

The Breivik case certainly has me giving the whole area of crime and punishment more thought.
I somewhat agree that people are faced with complex circumstances outside their control which have the "potential" to determine an outcome. Given all the abuse and borderline torture I endured at the hands of my family while growing up...I should be in prison-for having retaliated against the perpetrators. However, I did not. I exerted supreme self control and declined to indulge in all the vengeful impulses which were justifiably twitching in my nerves and brain. This proved to me that I do have freewill, and that I am the controller, regardless of what is being done around me.
Aristoxenus, why didn't you give in to your temptation to retaliate?
It must come as a great comfort to the families of Breivik's victims that each of the lives of their loved ones are worth 100 days of confinement. If in Norway 77 murders are worth 100 days of confinement each, how much would 77 rapes be worth? Maybe 20 days each?

I haven't read Sam Harris' book, but from what I've heard from other people I can't make any sense of it. If there is no such thing as free will, then the reason Sam Harris believes that is because of conditions of which he is not conscious and over which he exerts incomplete control. Stated simply, if there is no free will, then we believe X not because we freely believe X to be true, but because we can't help but believe in X.

I happen to think that Breivik should be hung by the neck until dead, shot, or otherwise disposed of. But since there is no free will I can't be blamed for holding that opinion; I can't help but hold it, in the same way that Breivik couldn't help but murder all those people.
Thank you for your work on this. You raise excellent points to consider and I certainly would not want to lead anyone to believe I could address most of them. That said, I would like to tackle the big question you pose- what can we learn?

As always with mass-murderers we must rely on the mountain of statistical data compiled by the FBI for over three decades. I distill their findings here: Profile of mass-murderer is thus:
1) History of failure, frustration
2)tendency to blame others
3)socially isolated
4)precipitating event (loss of job/relationship)
5) access to weapons

That's it. But therein lies a great deal of information. Clear, concise and indicting. Nothing about genetics or talk of "will". Additionally, FBI stats put the rate of serious mental illness in mass-murderers at around 11%.

As a former Forensic Social Worker working closely with criminals in incarcerated settings I give my formula for Rehabilitation:

1) Hope
2) commitment to live in the here and now
3) path to wellness (modeled by others & self-defined by individual)
4) ability to be mentally stable
5) healthy connection to others

Not easy to be sure, but if you are looking for something about asking for forgiveness or taking responsibility for the crimes, you need to go back to the profile. This societal need for an apology is masked revenge and will continue to pit the murderer against the world, replicating the circumstances he has already experienced.

So the question is not what "we have learned" but what have I learned- about myself. What do I want from my experience of this killing? Do I move closer to humanity and acceptance or do I stay embittered?
Thank you for your work on this. You raise excellent points to consider and I certainly would not want to lead anyone to believe I could address most of them. That said, I would like to tackle the big question you pose- what can we learn?

As always with mass-murderers we must rely on the mountain of statistical data compiled by the FBI for over three decades. I distill their findings here: Profile of mass-murderer is thus:
1) History of failure, frustration
2)tendency to blame others
3)socially isolated
4)precipitating event (loss of job/relationship)
5) access to weapons

That's it. But therein lies a great deal of information. Clear, concise and indicting. Nothing about genetics or talk of "will". Additionally, FBI stats put the rate of serious mental illness in mass-murderers at around 11%.

As a former Forensic Social Worker working closely with criminals in incarcerated settings I give my formula for Rehabilitation:

1) Hope
2) commitment to live in the here and now
3) path to wellness (modeled by others & self-defined by individual)
4) ability to be mentally stable
5) healthy connection to others

Not easy to be sure, but if you are looking for something about asking for forgiveness or taking responsibility for the crimes, you need to go back to the profile. This societal need for an apology is masked revenge and will continue to pit the murderer against the world, replicating the circumstances he has already experienced.

So the question is not what "we have learned" but what have I learned- about myself. What do I want from my experience of this killing? Do I move closer to humanity and acceptance or do I stay embittered?
mishima666: I think Harris would say that BECAUSE there's no free will, we believe X if it seems true to us. That is, we don't "freely choose" to believe X any more than we, as adults, freely choose to believe or not believe that the moon is made of green cheese. We believe X because evidence or reason compels us to believe or not believe it.

And I think he would agree with you that you "can't be blamed" for believing in free will and for wanting to see Breivik summarily dispatched in a painful manner.

Finally, if you'd like to know more about Harris' argument before you dismiss it outright, you can find a video lecture he gave at Caltech summarizing it embedded in a column I wrote here. http://www.examiner.com/review/sam-harris-caltech-talk-on-free-will
marshallj4, thank you for your "statistical profile" of people who commit mass murder as well as your suggestions for counteracting these tendencies before it's too late to prevent tragedy. Still, I think it's helpful to examine the interacting multi-dimensional factors Harris identifies that cause these tendencies and to, at the very least, understand that they and not blameworthy free will cause mass murder.
The problem in Harris' argument lies not in his claims that factors not under our control, such as biology, abusive childhoods/environments, internal impulses, etc., can and DO have an influence on our actions. The problem is the extreme certainty of his conclusions. Certainly it is true that "our thoughts, choices, and actions inevitably originate from interacting physical, biological, psychological, social, and cultural conditions of which we aren’t fully conscious and over which we exert incomplete control. " But the key word in that sentence is INCOMPLETE. We do have SOME control over our choices of action, and even, to some degree, control over our choices of thought. Sure those impulses vary from person to person, the neural pathways set by environments that may not be a choice (particularly in childhood), and the degree to which each person can exert control varies widely as well — everyone can (and should) expect that I have more control over my actions and reactions than a schizophrenic patient off her medication. If she were to lash out and physically injure someone, she would be less to blame than if I did the exact same thing. But it's completely false to say that all murderers didn't CHOOSE to murder. Some no doubt act on impulses outside of their conscious control, but some DO make the deliberate choice to do so. Someone who murders their spouse for the insurance payment rather than the less profitable option of divorce had a choice, because there was a decision-making process involved.

I commend Harris' effort to complicate the oversimplification of "free will" that resides in most of our minds, but in taking it to the "if I were exchanged, atom for atom and experience for experience, I would do the same thing for the same reasons" extreme is just as problematic. Brievik's childhood, genes, and experiences could have been the same up to the point that he made the decision, but his thought process could have concluded that it was too risky for him and he decided to not do it. In fact, he very likely DID complete that process and come to that conclusion several times before he changed his mind. Everyone here can think of decisions they made in the past that could have gone some other way. I turned right to take the longer route to the freeway instead of the more direct route, but I could have gone the other way, and have many times. There is a PROCESS of thinking and acting for a reason. Many things influence that process, make certain paths easier to travel than others, create habits and tendencies and impulses and preferences, but that INCLUDES our own consciousness, which is just as capable of influencing the process as the way our parents raised us. At what point does the "you have no control over yourself" stop? Was it BEYOND MY CAPACITY to choose to wear a university basketball team T-shirt today instead of the one featuring Grumpy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which I actually wear?

And that IS the question. Where does consciousness begin and impulse end? At what point do you control yourself and make a deliberate choice, versus following patterns beyond your ability to control? That IS a question worth asking and I don't think the answer is universal or simple. That means that the answer is neither "always" nor "never".
Ruthie, thank you for your very thoughtful comments. Let me do my best to briefly address them.

"We do have SOME control over our choices of action, and even, to some degree, control over our choices of thought."

I think what Harris and many other scientists, philosophers, and even mystics would ask is, "Who is doing the controlling?" And I think what they'd say is that there is no little "homunculus" inside our heads controlling anything, and that when we make choices, it's really a combination of biological, psychological, social, and cultural factors causing those choices because those factors are what WE are. We aren't something influenced by these "external" factors. We ARE those factors. They--i.e., a biopsychosociocultural system--choose to do good or to do harm, and different constellations of these factors in different people--i.e., different biopsychosociocultural systems-- will cause different actions.

"I have more control over my actions and reactions than a schizophrenic patient off her medication. If she were to lash out and physically injure someone, she would be less to blame than if I did the exact same thing."

I think Harris would disagree. I think he'd say that just as your hypothetical schizophrenic patient's disordered nature caused her to injure someone, so some disordered--albeit it in a different way--nature of yours would cause you to injure someone too, and neither of you would be any more to blame for it than the other.

"But it's completely false to say that all murderers didn't CHOOSE to murder."

Sure they choose to do it. But Harris would no doubt say, and I'm inclined to agree, that their nature causes them to make the choice they do. In other words, it's a "determined" choice rather than a "free" one.

" Someone who murders their spouse for the insurance payment rather than the less profitable option of divorce had a choice, because there was a decision-making process involved. "

Yes, a "decision-making process" warped by probable psychopathy and disinhibited greed.

"taking it to the "if I were exchanged, atom for atom and experience for experience, I would do the same thing for the same reasons" extreme is just as problematic."

Well, how could the same exact person--i.e., one that has the same exact configuration of "atoms and experience" in that exact same environment at that same point in time NOT act in the same exact way? You suggest that he could have "concluded that it was too risky" and stopped himself. But how could the same exact person Breivik was when he committed his crimes not have committed them? If he was the same exact person, how could he not come to the conclusion he did to follow though with his plan rather than the alternative conclusion you suggest?

"Everyone here can think of decisions they made in the past that could have gone some other way. "

Yes, if I had been a different person at that precise point in time than I was.

"that INCLUDES our own consciousness, which is just as capable of influencing the process as the way our parents raised us."

Yes, our consciousness influences the process, but what causes our consciousness to do this in the precise ways that it does?

"Was it BEYOND MY CAPACITY to choose to wear a university basketball team T-shirt today instead of the one featuring Grumpy from Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs which I actually wear? "

I think Harris would say that it was beyond your capacity to act contrary to your basketball team T-shirt selecting nature of and at that particular point in time. Can he prove this? I don't see how. On the other hand, can you prove otherwise--i.e., that we do have this capacity?

Harris' perspective makes intuitive sense to me, although I guess it doesn't to you. And I don't know if that means that we're left with only our intuitions to work from, or if cleverer people than I am may be able to conclusively test our respective intuitions someday.
This is really the rather old theological problem of Free Will vs. Determinism. Or Newtonian Physics vs. Heisenberg. It seems clear that the Universe is not "material" and Deterministic, planned , or mechanical. So the answer is truthfully, that there IS no answer, and we have to do as we collectively wish. A form of voting, I guess. Nothing else is more "fair" or "reasonable". For Mr. B., a lifetime of a "time out" , under perhaps a more monastic regime, would seem to be the best we could do for him. Suicide should be an option, though, to be humane.
Shawn, I don't see how Heisenberg Uncertainty confers free will or why Newtonian mechanics must obtain in order for all human choices to be determined, but I agree with you that not only should we probably rely upon some kind of consensus opinion in deciding what to do with the Anders Breiviks of the world, but also that such an opinion would probably dictate that a Breivik's incarceration be made significantly less cushy but, hopefully, not torturous.
He should be put to death. I am not so sure that identical situations lead to the same outcome. People who have had absolutely wonderful upbringings do ghastly things and some who have ghastly upbringings are wonderful. As for the brain, nothing is simple about it. It is more complex than the universe in which it exists. Nobody has explained to anyone's satisfaction how matter leads to consciousness. At any rate, in America his fellow criminals would kill him. Something that one can only hope will help to Penn State's Jerry Sanduscky. Let God figure what to do with both of them.
"I am not so sure that identical situations lead to the same outcome. People who have had absolutely wonderful upbringings do ghastly things and some who have ghastly upbringings are wonderful. "

David, I think Harris would say, and, again, I'd be inclined to agree, that the "situation" includes more than just the "external environment" but also includes one's internal nature of body, brain, and mind. Thus, just as some enjoy "absolutely wonderful" moments dining on shellfish whereas others can die of anaphylactic shock resulting from their severe shellfish allergy, so people, by dint of their internal nature, can respond to the same kind of upbringing in wildly contrasting ways.

"Nobody has explained to anyone's satisfaction how matter leads to consciousness."

But does one need to believe in physical determinism to believe that all choices are the inevitable result of prior causes ultimately extending beyond the culpable control of the chooser?
Questions pertaining to "Free Will" and Anders Breivik interest m less than his accomplice Pamela Geller. What should be done to prevent her from following his example? We all know she's heading rapidly in that direction.
Questions pertaining to "Free Will" and Anders Breivik interest m less than his accomplice Pamela Geller. What should be done to prevent her from following his example? We all know she's heading rapidly in that direction.
@Lyle, "Perhaps, there is some credence to the position some take that DEFECTIVES should just plain be eliminated. A bullet to the head."

Was this not precisely the belief that Breivik acted out?
@Lyle, "Perhaps, there is some credence to the position some take that DEFECTIVES should just plain be eliminated. A bullet to the head."

Was this not precisely the belief that Breivik acted out?
Somebody wrote above:

"Nobody has explained to anyone's satisfaction how matter leads to consciousness."

This is true. How this relates to 'free will' is a bit uncertain or confusing, but certainly we don't understand well either what 'free will' really is. I think that we cannot explain it coming out of matter either.

I think that instead of trying to argue about Breivik's 'free will', whatever that 'free will' happens to be, we should try thinking what could be done so that this kind things wouldn't happen again.

I don't think that any punishment would help much.

Almost all the research in the punishment theories is telling the same thing, that strong punishments don't prevent hard crimes. Prospective mass-murderers are not afraid of punishments, even of capital punishments. I think that it goes somehow like this: If you really want to kill someone, you are not thinking about consequences; the thought of killing someone so overwhelming or such 'a hard thing' that any punishment following that kind of deed is 'a minor or a little thing' compared to that killing.

I think that we should study well the way, which Breivik followed, we should try to find out, why he did what he did. Somehow he started to behave strange ways. He might never been just a 'normal man', but certainly he is not completely 'abnormal'. By studying his case we might be a little bit more able to prevent these things happening. I think that he should be interviewed many many times to be able to tell why he did what he did.
i suspect breivik didn't give much weight to the nature of his punishment. if so, society is free to punish not with deterrence in mind, but with broader questions along the lines of 'what kind of society are we.'

i think norway got it roughly right, but murdering 77 people as an attention getter, is my idea of insane.
There's another infamous Norway case that your article made me think of. There's a documentary on the interwebs (and reviewed on Salon) called Until the Light Takes Us about a group of black metal fans and musicians in Norway, a small portion of whom started murdering people and burning down churches. They interview one very charismatic killer who received Norway's hardest punishment - 21 years - for murder and arson. He briefly escaped prison a few years back and was found in a stolen car with weapons taken from an army base, suggesting he has followers on the outside helping him. That caper got him an extra year. The interviews with him are deeply chilling - he basically believes the world is a group of worthless slaves and only he and a select few have the potential to be superior to everyone else. The crazy part? Despite being completely unrepentant, despite the prison break that highly suggests he'll do this again, he's out walking the streets now. Don't see how that's 'progressive' for the next family whose lives he ruins.
There's another infamous Norway case that your article made me think of. There's a documentary on the interwebs (and reviewed on Salon) called Until the Light Takes Us about a group of black metal fans and musicians in Norway, a small portion of whom started murdering people and burning down churches. They interview one very charismatic killer who received Norway's hardest punishment - 21 years - for murder and arson. He briefly escaped prison a few years back and was found in a stolen car with weapons taken from an army base, suggesting he has followers on the outside helping him. That caper got him an extra year. The interviews with him are deeply chilling - he basically believes the world is a group of worthless slaves and only he and a select few have the potential to be superior to everyone else. The crazy part? Despite being completely unrepentant, despite the prison break that highly suggests he'll do this again, he's out walking the streets now. Don't see how that's 'progressive' for the next family whose lives he ruins.
This sentence is way to low.
You take away a full life and only have to give in 100 days? That is insane.

This sentence is an insult to the people that got hurt and the family members that died.
I think that Breivik had the control over his actions. He wanted to do what he did.

For some reason our societies are creating such personalities. (I'm saying 'our', because we have got similar people in my country, too. In General murders and killings are quite rare in Norway, they are more common in Finland.)

I think that this case should be studied well, because something is wrong; Breivik is not alone and he is not completely 'insane' in the sense that concept is normally used.

I think that the phenomena is somewhat similar as some people in Hitler's Germany were thinking to be themselves 'Ĺ«bermenschen', who have the right and even the duty to kill 'slaves'. Breivik is (still) himself thinking that he is a kind of 'hero', who is protecting his country from 'lower' kinds of people.

Of course Breivik and others like him are not 'heroes', but 'sick people', who have understood something completely wrong.

I think that one way to go, to cure the society of such behavior would be to ban all the guns so that it would be difficult to get such weapons in hand to kill people. In Europe, it is Nordic countries, Norway, Sweden and Finland where people have most most guns at home per capita.
One must consider the government's responsibility to protect society from these psychopaths and simply rely upon punishing these people for the atrocities they committed aside from all the other issues. Why should tax payers continue to subsidize the existence of those who would kill more people if they could? There is no such thing as rehabilitation for these people. There is no philosophical justification for placing everyone else in his shoes either. It would not alleviate the victims of the massacre, these are intellectual exercises that lead to no where. Ultimately, the responsibility came down to the perpetrator and the authorities to see this deviant will never have a shot at this type of behavior again. Execution-justified.
Doc Vega wrote:

"Ultimately, the responsibility came down to the perpetrator and the authorities to see this deviant will never have a shot at this type of behavior again. Execution-justified."

I think that execution is never justified.

From long term researchs we already know that any kind of punishment will not help to prevent others loing the same.

On the other hand, if Breivik would stay alive we might learn something from him, why he did such a crime. That might help us to prevent others of doing something similar? He could be useful for the society.

I don't think Norwegians would ever let him free.
I'm afraid we keep coming back to the same argument. Which is gun "control" whatever that is. It is out of control. No one can kill vast numbers of people without a gun. Swinging a machete in a campground, in a movie theater or a mall results in far different conclusions that guns of all types do. We'll just keep going around in circles with the issue of tragic crime in our world, because gun manufacturers and their blind consumers will never give up their weapons of mass destruction. The tears and pain that result from their use, obviously don't matter either.
I'm afraid we keep coming back to the same argument. Which is gun "control" whatever that is. It is out of control. No one can kill vast numbers of people without a gun. Swinging a machete in a campground, in a movie theater or a mall results in far different conclusions that guns of all types do. We'll just keep going around in circles with the issue of tragic crime in our world, because gun manufacturers and their blind consumers will never give up their weapons of mass destruction. The tears and pain that result from their use, obviously don't matter either.
I'm afraid we keep coming back to the same argument. Which is gun "control" whatever that is. It is out of control. No one can kill vast numbers of people without a gun. Swinging a machete in a campground, in a movie theater or a mall results in far different conclusions that guns of all types do. We'll just keep going around in circles with the issue of tragic crime in our world, because gun manufacturers and their blind consumers will never give up their weapons of mass destruction. The tears and pain that result from their use, obviously don't matter either.
I'm afraid we keep coming back to the same argument. Which is gun "control" whatever that is. It is out of control. No one can kill vast numbers of people without a gun. Swinging a machete in a campground, in a movie theater or a mall results in far different conclusions that guns of all types do. We'll just keep going around in circles with the issue of tragic crime in our world, because gun manufacturers and their blind consumers will never give up their weapons of mass destruction. The tears and pain that result from their use, obviously don't matter either.
I'm afraid we keep coming back to the same argument. Which is gun "control" whatever that is. It is out of control. No one can kill vast numbers of people without a gun. Swinging a machete in a campground, in a movie theater or a mall results in far different conclusions that guns of all types do. We'll just keep going around in circles with the issue of tragic crime in our world, because gun manufacturers and their blind consumers will never give up their weapons of mass destruction. The tears and pain that result from their use, obviously don't matter either.
Profuse apologies for duplicates of my comment. Been having issues with OpenSalon, loading etc. Best wishes.
I don't know if Sam Harris is right or wrong but I think it would be disastrous for a society to embrace the notion that "...people can’t help but commit the crimes they do given their nature when they commit them." Not to mention the fact that it simply wouldn't sit well with the vast majority.

Maybe in cases like this the families of the victims should be allowed to choose the punishment. Or maybe the murderer should have to stand before them and read things they've written to him, detailing their pain and their loss, and he should be forced to look at pictures of the victims too. I think the only appropriate punishment is for the perpetrator to feel the same pain he inflicted, day after day, and I don't know how you do that.