With high school shootings becoming a tattered piece of America’s fabric, what can be done to identify, and hopefully prevent future tragedies from occurring? While approximately 52% of Americans favor stronger gun laws, according to Pew Research, mass shootings in public places continue to happen.
The number of school shootings are on the rise, so what are the signs that indicate someone might commit such a horrific crime? Here are seven signs with one (No. 6) that most school shooters possess.
1. Making previous threats
Gunmen often exhibit signs of violence or threats prior to carrying out the act. Officials are getting better at identifying the signs and intervening, however some threats are missed. For instance, the gunman who killed two people at Aztec High School in New Mexico, made online comments about planning a shooting, which were investigated by the FBI, according to CNN.
Next: Home life isn’t always a predictor.
2. Some come from abusive homes, but not all
Both Columbine High School shooters came from stable, loving homes, but parents missed warning signs, ABC News reports. Sue Klebold, mother of shooter Dylan Klebold, said she didn’t realize her son was depressed when he was being quiet or moody at home.
“Sometimes he would seem, you know, distant or quiet, and I remember asking him, ‘are you OK? Are you sure you’re OK? You seem so tired,’” Klebold said to ABC News. “And he would stand up and say, ‘I’ve got a lot of homework. I just– I need to go to bed.’ And I let it go. And that’s the difference. I would dig. If it were me today, I would dig and dig and dig.”
Next: Shooters are not all mentally ill, but share some similar behaviors.
3. Struggling with mental illness or bullies
While not all school shooters are mentally ill, they may be down on their luck, depressed, or displaying unusual behavior. Some warning signs include paranoia, martyrdom, aberrant behavior, and a lack of emotion or expression, according to Red Flags, Warning Signs and Indicators by Roger Depue, Ph.D. at The University of New Orleans.
Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza had a falling out with his “one and only” friend months before he attacked Sandy Hook Elementary, which may have contributed to his anxiety, according to ABC News. He also experienced “social and emotional” challenges since childhood as well.
Next: Social media may provide insight.
4. Posting online about guns and violence
High school shooters may post images on social media channels that include abuse against animals and gun use. The Parkland gunman’s Instagram account included target practice in the backyard and one image where he is holding a gun in front of his face, according to The Chicago Tribune.
Next: Shooters have a love affair with their guns.
5. Being obsessed with guns and explosives
In addition to touting their affection for guns, shooters also seek information about how to build and execute explosives, according to Psychology Today. Following the Aurora, Colorado shooting, officials found the gunman’s apartment expertly booby-trapped with explosives.
Next: The AR-15 is the weapon of choice.
6. Most mass murderers prefer the AR-15 assault rifle
The AR-15 assault rifle is the preferred weapon for gunmen in many mass shootings, according to USA Today. The deadly weapon was used at a Las Vegas concert, a Parkland, Florida high school, and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. The National Rifle Association says the weapon is the most popular rifle in the country with an estimated eight million Americans owning them.
Next: The weapon was easy to access.
7. Gun laws allow for nearly anyone to possess a dangerous firearm
AR-15 rifles are designed for one thing and one thing only: Hit as many targets as quickly and efficiently as possible. One of these weapons can be purchased for as little as $200, and in states where it is legal to own a handgun, you can also own an AR-15, The Huffington Post reports. In Florida, there is no waiting period to purchase such a rifle, although there is a three-day waiting period to purchase a handgun.
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