No Fame: A Swift Death Penalty Would Deter Some Mass Murderers

What if rather than endless images of innocent people lying dead for the demented dark world on the internet to promote, there were public images of the perpetrator of mass shootings killed swiftly – either on the scene or by capital punishment within a few weeks? The fame that many mass murderers are seeking would be just as swiftly destroyed.

For all the debate over the death penalty in this country, we don’t carry out many executions. There have been 783,453 homicides in this country since the black-robed masters “allowed” us to continue our constitutional heritage of capital punishment for murderers, in 1976. But despite that number, just 1,500 individuals have actually been executed in 43 years. The numbers have declined dramatically in recent years, as only about 20 are executed per year, down from near 100 in the 1990s. Even for the few that are ultimately executed, it takes so many years to carry out that it has almost no deterrent value.

For those clamoring to “do something” about the mass murder events: Why shouldn’t those who are caught perpetrating a mass shooting be publicly executed within a few weeks or months following the attack?

Everyone agrees that lone wolf mass shooters with no prior records are very hard to detect. No honest person can suggest that any of these gun control proposals would have stopped almost any of the recent mass shooters. The best we can do is to deter them by making it clear that either someone concealing a weapon will neutralize them before they achieve the fame they are seeking, or they will be swiftly executed, so that rather than discussing their deed for months, we will be discussing their execution. Why shouldn’t we practice what our Founders did in these circumstances? As Justice Breyer noted in a 1999 case, “Our Constitution was written at a time when delay between sentencing and execution could be measured in days or weeks, not decades.” I’d settle for even a few months.

Yet as of 2017, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, the average death row inmate spends 20 years and three months in prison before execution from the time he is sentenced to death. That is up from about six years in 1984 and just days during the time of our Founding. Even the worst mass shooters remain alive for years, and the longer they linger, the more likely the execution will be canceled altogether.

Obviously, the death penalty will not deter all mass shooters, particularly Islamic suicide terrorists or those who take their own lives before being apprehended. But there is a clear pattern among alleged white supremacists and neo-Nazi mass murderers, in particular, showing that, despite their bravado, they are too scared to either take their own lives or fight to the death.

Here is a list of the most recent alleged white supremacists/neo-Nazi shootings:

1999 Los Angeles Jewish Community Center shooting: Buford O. Furrow Jr. wounded five in the lobby of the L.A. Jewish Community Center and later killed a mail carrier. After fleeing the state, he eventually walked right into the Las Vegas FBI office and confessed. He entered a plea bargain to avoid the death penalty in favor of life without parole.

2009 shooting at Holocaust Memorial Museum in D.C.: On June 10, 2009, notorious white supremacist James Wenneker von Brunn opened fire at the D.C. Holocaust museum and killed a police officer. He was captured alive and wounded, but given his poor health and old age, he later died while awaiting trial.

2014 Overland Park Jewish Community Center: Infamous Klansman and Nazi political leader 73-year-old Frazier Glenn Miller Jr. killed three people outside the JCC in Kansas City. He was captured alive by police. He was sentenced to death on November 10, 2015. Nearly four years later, one has to wonder if he will die long before any scheduled execution.

2015 Charleston, S.C., church shooting: On June 17, 2015, Dylann Roof killed nine people in an African-American church during services. He fled the scene and was caught pretty unceremoniously the next day at a traffic stop. On January 17, 2017, Roof was sentenced to death. Several months later, a deal was made in order to avoid a second trial, and he was sentenced to life in prison instead. Now we will pay for his food and medical care for the rest of his life, and he is only in his 20s.

2018 Pittsburgh synagogue shooting: On October 27, 2018, Gregory Bowers walked into Tree of Life Synagogue and killed 11 and injured 7, in what became the worst attack targeting Jews in America. Notably, while Bowers was wounded during the shootout with the local SWAT team, he crawled out of his hiding place to surrender rather than taking his own life.

2019 Poway synagogue shooting: On April 27, 2019, 19-year-old John T. Earnest opened fire at a synagogue in Poway, Calif., killing one and injuring three. Not only did he not fight to the death, but he fled as he was being pursued by a Navy veteran. A short while later, he called in his own 911 report about the shooting, and when the police arrived, he dutifully came out of his car with his hands up.

Then, of course, there is the El Paso shooter from Saturday, who not only declined to fight to the death, but initially came in with hearing protection, despite his claim that he was willing to give up his life. He actually walked over to police in the Walmart parking lot unarmed and surrendered himself. (For more from the author of “No Fame: A Swift Death Penalty Would Deter Some Mass Murderers” please click HERE)

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