Author: Keith Burgess-Jackson
Mass homicides, of which school shootings are a species, are all too common. What makes them philosophically interesting is that the usual punishments for such crimes are ineffective. How does one deter a person who is intent on killing himself or herself upon completion of the massacre? After clarifying the concepts of prevention, deterrence, and punishment, I describe various modes of punishment. If we are serious about preventing mass homicides, we must not rule out any mode of punishment a priori. I suggest several punishments, such as torture and imprisonment with hard labor, that may deter prospective mass murderers. The aim is to find a punishment that the prospective mass murderer fears more than death. I also recommend the inculcation of theism (understood as belief in a retributive god) as a means of deterring mass homicides.
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