On Sunday night in America, a Hmong family in Fresno, America, gathered to watch football.
As they prepared to watch the game, two men entered their property and opened fire, leaving four men dead and six others injured.
Many media reports point out that the family of immigrants had gathered to do “a very American thing – watch football”. They go on to describe what happened next as the family falling “victim”, to “another very American thing – a mass shooting”.
At the time of writing, there have been more than 370 mass shootings – defined by the Gun Violence Archive as the shooting of four or more people in a public place – in the US this year.
VICE looked into a recent study funded by the Department of Justice (using their definition of four or more people killed, excluding the perpetrator) that analysed all mass shootings in the States since 1966, with the definition bringing the number down to 167.
The study found that all mass shooters had the following four things in common:
The shooters typically have an experience with childhood trauma, a personal crisis or specific grievance, and a “script” or examples that validate their feelings or provide a roadmap. And then there’s the fourth thing: access to a firearm.
If I was an American politician and more specifically a Republican, the mention of guns would be my cue to start repeating the words “thoughts and prayers” over and over again to avoid upsetting the National Rifle Association.
That’s because the root cause of mass shootings is a polarising debate. The new study, however, could provide opportunities for policy action.
“Data is data,” said Jillian Peterson, a psychologist at Hamline University and co-author of the study. “Data isn’t political. Our hope is that it pushes these conversations further.”
The study, compiled by the Violence Project, a nonpartisan think tank dedicated to reducing violence in society, was published Tuesday and is the most comprehensive and detailed database of mass shooters to date, coded to 100 different variables.
The data set goes all the way back to August 1, 1966, when a former Marine opened fire from an observation deck at the University of Texas, killing 15 people. While it wasn’t the first mass shooting in America, it was the first to be extensively covered by the media.
The study also found five common general categories of mass shooter:
- K-12 shooters: White males, typically students or former students of the school, with a history of trauma. Most are suicidal, plan their crime extensively, and make others aware of their plans at some point before the shooting. They use multiple guns that they typically steal from a family member.
- College and university shooters: Non-white males who are current students of the university, are suicidal, and have a history of violence and childhood trauma. They typically use legally obtained handguns and leave behind some sort of manifesto.
- Workplace shooters: Forty something males without a specific racial profile. Most are employees of their targeted location, often a blue-collar job site, and have some grievance against the workplace. They use legally purchased handguns and assault rifles.
- Place of worship shooters: White males in their 40s, typically motivated by hate or domestic violence that spills out into public. Their crimes typically involve little planning.
- Shooters at a commercial location (such as a store or restaurant): White men in their 30s with a violent history and criminal record. They typically have no connection to the targeted location and use a single, legally obtained firearm. About a third show evidence of a “thought disorder,” a term for a mental health condition, like schizophrenia, that results in disorganized thinking, paranoia, or delusions.
While mental health is often a factor, it’s rarely the cause, with more shooters motivated by hate.
The number of shooters motivated by racism, religious hate, and misogyny has increased since the 1960s, with the most dramatic increase happening in the last five years.
Strange, that – I wonder what’s been happening over in the US during that time.
For more from the study, go here.
It’s a terrifying world we live in where gun sales are more important than human lives.
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