Posts Tagged ‘Mass Shootings’

Why so many suicidal mass gun killings?

August 11, 2019

Vigil for mass shooting victims in Las Vegas in 2017. Source: VOA.

The mass shootings that regularly occur in the United States are mostly also suicides.

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They are the ultimate “deaths of despair.”

The killers do their shooting in public places and are almost guaranteed to be gunned down in their turn, if they don’t kill themselves first.

They are comparable to the suicide bombers in the Middle East and elsewhere, except that the jihadist killers are sometimes trying to achieve a specific military objective, like the Japanese kamikaze pilots during World War Two.

Among all the rich Western nations, the United States is the only one in which mass shootings occur on a regular basis.

That is not to say that ordinary Americans, and visitors to the United States, are in grave danger.  As a risk factor, mass shootings rank far below traffic accidents.

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But the fact that they occur says something about our society.  For every man (the shooters are almost all men) who kills others and then himself out of rage and despair, there must be a hundred others who feel the same rage and despair and don’t act it out.

Some people blame availability of guns, and I agree it would be better if the government restricted sales of rapid-firing firearms with large ammunition clips and magazines.  Casualties from mass killings were fewer during the assault weapons ban, but they still occurred.

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Some people blame ideologies based on hatred of black people or hatred of immigrants or hatred of women.  But the mass shooters can be of any race, and the percentage of white mass shooters is slightly less than the percentage of whites in the general population.

The killers profess all kinds of professed political and social motives and some profess no motives at all.  The only common denominator is that the killers are almost all suicidal men.

Hatred and bigotry have long been motives for killing.  The new thing is that the killers are suicidal.

There are ways to commit murder without sacrificing your life in the process.  (The methods are obvious, but if you can’t think of them, I see no benefit to society in helping you out.)

I think the root cause of mass killings are feelings of powerlessness and feelings of meaninglessness.  Your life is meaningless, so you give it up.  But you take others with you, so you do have some power after all.

I don’t have a good answer for this.  Calling for a greater sense of community or a stronger sense of values isn’t going to bring these things about.  Greater availability of mental health counseling probably would help some, but it won’t in itself empower people or make their lives meaningful.


White nationalists aren’t the only mass shooters

August 8, 2019

I deplore the way President Trump inflames racial antagonism, and I think it would be a good idea to restrict the sale of rapid-firing rifles that use large ammunition clips and magazines.  But I don’t think either of these things is a root cause of the mass shootings that plague the U.S.A.

The root cause of mass shootings is deeper than any particular ideology, whether that be white nationalism, Islamic jihadism or something else.  The fact that it is not just due to white nationalism is shown by the racial diversity of the shooters.

And no, we don’t need a renewed “war on terror,” this one aimed at white nationalists.   [Added 8/9/2019]


The War on White Supremacist Terror by C.J. Hopkins for The Consent Factory.  [Added 8/9/2019]  Good article.

Mass shootings aren’t growing more common—and evidence contradicts common stereotypes about the killers by Charles J. Ferguson for The Conversation.

Five things to know about mass shootings in America by Frederic Lemieux for The Conversation.

Why Do We Have Mass Killers? by Rod Dreher for The American Conservative [Added 8/9/2019]

A handy list of black mass murderers who were taken alive (for people who think that being taken alive for mass murder is a ‘white privilege’) by Will Shetterly for it’s all one thing.  [Added 8/11/2019]

I added the text, changed the headline and added links the morning after I posted the chart.

Mass shootings in U.S. are an almost daily event

December 3, 2015


Mass shootings are getting to be virtually an everyday occurrence in the United States.   While American gun violence and murder rates are declining overall, this one particular form of senseless violence holds steady, for reasons that aren’t clear to me.

About 64 percent of the shooters were white men, according to a survey by Mother Jones, about the same as the white percentage of the total population.  Black people were 16 percent of the total shooters, Asians were 9 percent and Latinos, native Americans and people of unknown ethnicity made up the rest.

I honestly don’t know what can be done, realistically, to eliminate mass shootings.  Obviously mass shootings could not take place if the shooters could not obtain firearms.  But gun prohibition has been ruled un-Constitutional by the U.S. Supreme Court, and I don’t think it would work even if it could be tried.

The typical mass shooter is a young man obsessed with weapons and images of violence, frustrated with work, school or relationships, with a history of minor acts of violence.  Mark Follman wrote a good article in the current issue of Mother Jones about efforts to identify potential mass shooters, and turn them away from violence.  Possibly a lot of violent incidents have been headed off this way.

But, as he wrote, there are “legions” of angry young men who own guns and like violent movies and video games, and yet never commit crimes.   I don’t see how it is feasible to monitor them all.

The baffling question is why this particular type of crime should be on the increase.   Follman talked to experts who said part of the reason is social media, which gives mass shooters a perverse kind of fame.   Mass shooters are typically people leading lives that are meaningless to themselves who want to make an impact—any kind of impact.