Ryan here. That’s a really good question, I’m going to respond to it and also explain why that question needs to asked alongside other questions to get a better idea of how safe communities can be created. I’m not a great writer so I hope you will bear with me.
Content note: sexual assault, mass shootings, gun violence.
Before I get into that, I want to clarify that this is not an abstract issue for me. My friend was killed during the King Soopers shooting, I saw her corpse in the livestream in the parking lot as the shooting was happening. I personally have survived a mass shooting, and have been impacted by a separate mass shooting. I am also a survivor of sexual assault and have spent many hours working on support teams for other survivors of sexual assault and abuse.
Your question of “what would we do to monsters like the King Soopers shooters without police or prisons” is a good one. To start, we should clarify that mass shootings are not prevented by prisons, and are very rarely prevented by cops. These shootings are usually finished by the time the police can get there, in the cases where police do respond while the shooting is ongoing, they are usually unwilling or unable to stop the shooting. The King Soopers shooting is a good example of this, as is the Uvalde, TX shooting, the Parkland school shooting, and Columbine. In other cases, police or armed security acting as police increase the casualty count, this happened at the STEM School Shooting where the armed security guard shot two students. At the Pulse Nightclub shooting, police arrested injured victims after the shootings had finished. In the case of Club Q, it was stopped not by police but by people in the club, some of whom were later detained and put in handcuffs when police arrived. In Arvada, John Hurley stopped a mass shooting and was killed by police when they arrived. Last year’s Buffalo mass shooting was stopped by police after 13 people had been shot. These situations are rare, but do occasionally happen, and even still, 10 dead and 3 wounded is not exactly safe.
So, we know that police and prisons aren’t able to stop most mass shootings (or most other horrific acts of violence by civilians because policing in inherently reactive), but the question remains, how do we handle these monsters without a cage to put them in, so the rest of the public is safe? We should first acknowledge that violence still happens within prison walls, a lot. Warehousing someone very dangerous in a prison makes them a threat to the other people they are warehoused with. In the case of a mass shooter, the primary benefit a prison has to offer the people outside is preventing that individual from accessing a firearm, thus reducing their capacity for large scale violence. A prison isn’t the only thing that can offer this. Strong, organized communities can prevent an individual from having a firearm better than the police can, without the traumatization that comes serving a long prison sentence. There is a possibility of rehabilitation the prison makes significantly more difficult as the torture of being in a cell, being subject to or witnesses regular violence (sexual or otherwise) causes often irrepairable damage.
I understand that’s probably not a very satisfactory answer, but let’s look at what we get in exchange for having warehouses to story people who have committed horrific acts of violence, and armed thugs who put people into those warehouses:
- 2-3 people are killed per day by the police, that is far more than the all the mass shootings combined
- The world’s largest incarcerated population per-capita, overwhelmingly punishing Black, brown, disabled, and poor people. This maintains the white supremacist hierarchy our country was founded on
- People who are responsible for legitimize mass killings are protected and empowered by the police, allowing them to continue killing. People like George W. Bush, Donald Trump, Joe Biden, Henry Kissinger
- Empty homes are kept empty by the threat of police violence or incarceration while people sleep on the street.
- Climate protesters are put in jails and prisons while the earth loses it’s ability to sustain life
- Many innocent people, or people who have brokens immoral laws are incarcerated, harmed, and even killed by the prison system
- Migrants are put in camps for the crime of fleeing US funded instability, repression, and their nation’s own warehouses
- Indigenous people are prevented from existing on their own land
- Drug supplies are protected from regulation by police & the threat of prison, resulting in everything having fent in it now
- And the list goes on…
To me, all of the horrors described above are not a worthy trade-off for being able to lock up a mass shooter. I would rather use those resources for things that make people safe instead of torturing and traumatizing them. Thing like healthcare, housing, food, clean water, a habitable planet, meaningful protection and support from gun violence, and the like.
“What do we do with the rapists, the mass shooters, the monsters?” is a great question, but it should also go along with “What do we do with the war criminals? The killer cops? The oil & gas executives? The slum lords? The prison wardens? The bosses who don’t pay their workers? The ICE wardens? The slumlords?” The people are responsible for immense amounts of suffering and violence, but are protected, emboldened, and often profit off of the warehouses that the King Soopers shooter resides in.
Other really important questions are “What do we do with the shoplifters? The people disabled who cannot work? The petty criminals? The drug dealers? The traumatized veterans? The people who fought their rapist? The naked manic person yelling outside? The meth addict? The person who was in the wrong place at the wrong time?” They are usually put in warehouses alongside murderers and rapists. We pay out the ass for them to be tortured, traumatized, and bled of any money they had through these prisons. Should they receive support or punishment?