This weekend just past Australia awoke to the story of the horrific shooting in Margaret River. Seven people shot in a murder/suicide where a husband shot his wife, a father shot his daughter and a grandfather shot his four grandchildren.
These types of crime are impossible to fathom. How does a person arrive at a point in their life where that becomes their strategy? What would drive a man to kill his family? There is nothing I can think of that would act as an adequate motivation for such an horrendous act.
If you have reached such dire straits, why not just kill yourself? Isn’t that enough? Why kill the children? While I don’t condone suicide as a solution, at least I can understand and empathise with that. Killing yourself would have dignity and would allow your extended family to grieve.
How does a family manage the trauma of mass murder? Knowing that the perpetrator of evil was someone you trusted. Was one of you. No-one has used the word domestic violence, but this is the worst outcome imaginable. This is a mass shooting. At home, by your dad.
While they compare it to Port Arthur, it’s nothing like that. This wasn’t a sociopath on a rampage picking off victims like ducks on a shooting range. Bryant didn’t shoot his family. He shot strangers. He had never held one of those people in his arms and told them he loved them.
This is worst-case-scenario domestic violence. Why don’t the media say that? Is it because we perceive domestic violence as not being properly serious enough to equate to this horror? When a man kills his wife, his daughter and his grandchildren it reaffirms the most dangerous place for women and children is in their home.
The people we must fear are often the people we love. The perpetrator is not a stranger who sneaks through the window in the night. It is not random. It is not a lunatic on a shooting spree. This is someone they called Dad. Or Granddad. Someone they loved. Someone they trusted. Someone who stands beside them smiling in the family photos. Do they know? Do they know this man who holds the child, who gives his daughter away at a wedding, who laughs with his grandkids, do they know this is the person who will kill them? It makes it even more chilling. And even harder to understand what darkness took him to that place.
All weekend I kept thinking about what happened. How it could have happened. What takes a person to that unthinkable place? How can a person arrive at the idea that this carnage is the solution to their problems? Did the family know they were in danger? Were they sleeping? Had he planned it? Had he known weeks before? Had he bought the ammunition days ahead? Were the guns sitting loaded waiting for the moment when he enacted the execution?
In time the police investigation will uncover the answers, but right now I keep wondering how it could have happened. How a man could shoot his grandchild. These stories chill me a little more than most. My mother has told me a story of my father, an out-of-control violent alcoholic coming home after a three-day drinking binge being pursued by police. He’d beaten up a cop and decided he wanted to go to the hospital and kill him. I was only small, so my memory is only what my mother has told me.
My father had a gun in the house, which my mother had hidden that day. She hated that thing; my father’s mental state made her acutely aware that the gun posed great risk to her and my safety. Her intuition told her to hide it. So she did.
So later when he came home screaming ‘there’s only one way out of this. I have to shoot my way out,’ he couldn’t do it. He couldn’t find his gun. And one fact remains true: without a gun you can’t shoot anyone. The words mental illness have been used, as they often are in these circumstances. But this was methodical. The gunman aka father/grandfather/husband would have travelled room to room with the intention of shooting every member of his family. One after the other. Those who woke up would have been hunted down.
The horror for that poor family on that dark night is unimaginable. What a terrible, terrible way to die. This is a mass shooting. It is also domestic violence. And it is terrorism. Maybe instead of watching for suspicious behaviour at airports… we need to spend more time looking a little closer to home.