Evil Is Unpredictable

Boston Marathon Bombing Suspect Tamerlan Tsarnaev Boxing Pictures

Toobin believes “we will never be able to identify in advance the people who wreak this type of evil”:

Consider Oklahoma City. Timothy McVeigh was a politically motivated sociopath; his accomplice, Terry Nichols, was a banal loser. The Columbine killers followed a similar pattern. Eric Harris was almost purely evil; Dylan Klebold was a more complex character. (Dave Cullen’s “Columbine” is the definitive account.) The early indications suggest that the Tsarnaev brothers may have had a parallel relationship. Tamerlan, the deceased older brother, seems to have been deeply alienated from American society; Dzhokhar, a recent graduate of Cambridge Rindge and Latin High School, gave few hints of what was to come. As yet, there is no indication that mental illness—which seems to have been a major factor in the mass murders in Newtown, Tucson, and Aurora—was a decisive factor here.

The melancholy conclusion from these events is that they are not predictable—and thus not preventable. Evil and illness will always be with us. Gun control (even if it had been in place) would not have prevented Oklahoma City or, apparently, the marathon bombing. Fertilizer and pressure cookers will always be available. Longer times between attacks; smaller weapons; fewer casualties—those may be the best results we can expect.

(Photo: Tamerlan Tsamaev (R) and Lamar Fenner (L) stand during a decision in the 201-pound division boxing match during the 2009 Golden Gloves National Tournament of Champions on May 4, 2009 in Salt Lake City, Utah. After a car chase and shoot out with police, Tsarnaev, 26, was shot and killed by police early morning on April 19, and a manhunt is underway for his brother and second suspect, 19-year-old Dzhokhar A. Tsarnaev. By Glenn DePriest/Getty Images)