Wed | Jul 18, 2018

Garth Rattray: 'Trigger mortis' - Are killers that stupid?

Published:Monday | May 2, 2016 | 12:00 AM

Try as I might, I can't even begin to imagine how anyone could murderously shoot another human being. I can sympathise with people who happen to take the life of a criminal in order to save their own life or the life of another, but understanding the thought processes that go on inside the mind of a cold-blooded killer lies way beyond my capabilities.

Society is culpable because we consistently fail to see to the welfare and wholesome upbringing of each and every child. We have failed to make fathers fully accountable for their progeny. We have failed to level the playing field for the less fortunate. We have failed to provide obtainable goals for the poor in society.

We have failed to keep discipline on our streets. We have failed to promote peace, understanding, cooperation and harmony among the populace. We have failed miserably to make our leaders accountable so that every citizen will know that no one will get away with anything.




Multiple homicides are regular occurrences. Many people use murder to solve their disagreements. They kill their intended victim and anyone in the proximity. There is a rampant disrespect for life. People are maimed and murdered daily. There appears to be a perverted competition among evildoers to see who can make the most 'duppies' (ghosts).

Gunmen feel that a firearm endows them with some sort of power. However, true power lies within the person, not with some instrument.

All it takes to shoot is a little squeeze of a trigger and pointing the muzzle at something. Sometimes babies end up accidentally killing others when playing with guns. So much for the power it takes to use a gun. When murderers kill, they only demonstrate how weak they are because they resort to killing in order to steal from someone, get even with someone, to boast to their friends or to feel big and bad. But it's only a fleeting illusion.

The Latin word for death is mortis. There are many phrases incorporating mortis. Here are just a few - rigor mortis (the temporary stiffness/rigidity of the muscles that occur some hours after death); algor mortis (the body's cooling after death); livor mortis (hypostasis of the blood following death); angelus mortis (the angel of death); articulo mortis (at the point/moment of death); ex mortis (dying too soon); victor mortis (victory over death); bringer mortis (the bringer of death); gladium mortis (the sword of death); mortis diem (the day of death); timor mortis (the disturbing fear of death); causa mortis (prepared in contemplation of one's impending death); subsisto mortis (stopping death); voluptatem mortis (a pleasurable death); conspectu mortis (before death); and tempore mortis (time of death).

However, the thought came to me that there should be a term for what happens when people are killed by the gun. The term 'trigger mortis' should be used to describe the deadly consequences triggered by shooting others to death. Pulling a trigger to murder is the ultimate crime and demonstrates unmitigated disrespect for God and mankind.




It impacts negatively on the people close to the victim. It triggers destructive shock waves throughout affected communities and the aftershock envelopes the entire country, sometimes the region and perhaps the planet (depending on who is shot to death).

Trigger mortis also triggers a series of events that changes the life of the murderer forever. Either the police or other people, including his so-called friends, will make him their target one day. And, his family could also become targets of enraged people bent on revenge/retaliation. He will always have to watch his back and wonder when he and/or his family will be slaughtered.

Trigger mortis triggers a gloomy, baleful pall over the entire country. Trigger mortis kills confidence, security, societal values, happiness, potential investments and development. It's a great pity that gunmen can't see what their cowardly acts trigger. The short-and long-term consequences are always horrible.

Murders never truly solve anything; they trigger devastating ripple effects that impact every one of us, including the murderers and their family. It bewilders me that they can't understand that. Are they really that stupid?

- Garth A. Rattray is a medical doctor with a family practice. Email feedback to and