You may be pro gun control, but there’s one thing for sure — there are far too many deadly mass shootings, especially in the U.S. Whether you’re a concert-goer or you have grandchildren in grade school, it really seems as if nowhere is safe. And the scariest part is the number of shootings is on the rise.
Is there anything we can do to prevent these deadly situations before they begin? First, it’s important to analyze who’s committing the crime, and what these shootings all have in common.
The number of yearly shootings is staggering
The 2017 shooting in Las Vegas was called the “deadliest shooting in modern U.S. history,” and managed to help the year become the deadliest of the last decade. HuffPost explains in 2016, there were 384 mass shootings. And as of June 2017, there were already 153. In order for a shooter to participate in a “mass shooting” at least four people die in a single public location.
Now, let’s take a look at the link that ties all of them.
Next: Many shooters exhibit the same type of behavior.
Mass shooters show violent or antisocial behavior beforehand …
It’s tough to imagine what a mass shooter was like before their violent crime. And the vast majority of perpetrators show scary behavior before they ever get their hands on a gun, The Washington Post notes.
In the case of the 2016 Virginia baseball field shooter, James T. Hodgkinson, he threatened his family, punched his neighbor, and lived an isolated life out of a van. And the man who committed the Orlando night club shooting beat his wife and threatened co-workers prior to the act. Even the mass shooters without violent backgrounds were typically known for their antisocial, strange behavior.
Next: Here’s how they manage to get their hands on weaponry.
… but they typically don’t have a problem buying a gun
While many of those who commit mass shootings buy their guns illegally, most of them would also pass for a legal sale of a gun if they went that route. And The Washington Post even notes most of these mass shootings are carried out by legally-obtained handguns.
It’s important to note while mass shootings are scary and get a lot of media attention, most people involved in a gun violence scenario don’t die this way. In fact, those killed in shootings like these make up less than 1% of people shot to death in the country. Still, the ease of obtaining a weapon is frightening as we see the number of mass shootings climb each year.
Next: Here’s what the shooter typically looks like.
The shooters are usually white men
You may have your own image of what a cold-blooded shooter looks like, but in the U.S., there’s actually not that much diversity. Vice reports since 1982, around 63% of the mass shooters have been white men. Though their motives may differ, the age, gender, and race of those who carry out these acts stays pretty uniform.
Next: The average age of the shooters may surprise you.
And they fall into the same age group
Most mass shooters in the U.S. have a common age group. Most of them are in their 20s to early 40s, though of course, there are some outliers that don’t fit the common profile.
Vice explains FBI arrest data shows those between the ages of 16 and 24 are most likely to commit violent crime. The shooter may not have a lot of connection to people or places to help prevent them from committing a crime at this age, either. And, those with schizophrenia tend to show symptoms in their early 20s, which can contribute to violence.
Next: This is the one commonality all mass shootings have in common.
The one commonality: The shooter is down on their luck
Even for shooters that don’t fit the typical demographic, there’s one commonality that’s consistent with most, if not all of them. The Atlantic talked to Dr. Peter Langman, a psychologist who studied mass shootings, and he said it’s very typical for the shooter to feel disempowered. They’re usually not succeeding in any one particular area of their life, whether that’s their career, home life, or friendships. This downward spiral can be especially difficult for younger males to deal with.
Next: Are violent video games really to blame?
Violent media plays a part — but it’s not everything
Even for trained experts, it’s tough to identify who is capable of murder. And the debate of whether violent media can influence someone enough to kill has been thrown around for many years. Cracked notes violent video games and movies aren’t enough to turn someone into a cold-blooded killer on their own, but coupled with social isolation, it may push someone over the edge.
The publication talked to someone referred to as “Jack,” who showed up to his school with two loaded shotguns, ready for a mass shooting. Jack said his idea for the massacre was influenced by the media he took in, which allowed him to create his own revenge fantasy.
Next: Not all killers are secretive before their murders.
They might even tell someone their plans beforehand
Mass shootings come with a lot of shock — and even close family or friends of the shooter often show surprise and outrage at the events. But Scientific American says after studying 119 cases of “lone-wolf” terrorists — that is, those who acted alone — over 60% of them actually told someone close to them of their plans. And over 80% of the cases found people around the mass shooter knew of their anger and resentment before the attack.
Next: Here’s the difference between shootings in the U.S. and abroad.
And they typically have more than one gun to carry out their plan with
Mass shootings happen all over the world, but the ones in the U.S. are quite different. CNN says in over half the cases in the states, the shooter had more than one gun. Overseas, mass shootings often involve just one firearm.
Even with more firearms, though, it doesn’t necessarily make the U.S. mass shootings deadlier. Because they happen so often and American police are trained for these types of incidents, they’re able to handle the situation more successfully. This helps contain the number of victims.
Next: Are all mass shooters mentally ill?
Mental illness doesn’t always play a part
It might seem like all mass shooters are mentally ill, but that’s not necessarily the case. The Washington Post notes most of those who go on to become mass shooters are mentally fit to purchase a weapon. While they may show signs of anger, that’s not enough to keep them away from weaponry. And before the shooting, they usually don’t have a criminal history that prevents gun ownership.
And as a reminder, the background check system only works well if that person is deemed mentally unhealthy by the law. There’s a chance of them having a mental illness without knowing it.
Next: Most shootings occur in these shocking situations.
The shootings are usually linked to family or domestic violence
The findings are clear on this one — most mass shootings are related to domestic or family violence. Everytown For Gun Safety says in 54% of studied shootings, the shooter fired at either a family member or their romantic partner. And in over 40% of these cases, the victims were children.
In many domestic violence situations, the abused person reports the abuser has threatened them with a gun prior to a shooting. And when there’s a gun present in any domestic violence situation, there’s a five times higher likelihood the abused person will be shot.
Next: The ripple effect of shootings is real.
One mass shooting may trigger another
Here’s a scary thought — the more mass shootings occur, the more there may be in the future. The Atlantic explains it’s well-documented how one instance of this can inspire another potential shooter. The man who shot and killed students at Umpqua Community College in Oregon a few years ago is a good example of this. He said, “Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”
There’s also the idea that the more school shootings occur, the less potential shooters think their act is outside the norm, which may push them to do it.
Next: Can a shooter ever recover?
Those who commit shootings aren’t always doomed forever
Many mass shooters commit suicide at the scene, but there may some hope for survivors. As Cracked notes, “Jack,” the almost-shooter who brought weapons to his school, surrendered at the scene. He went to a youth correctional facility at the time, but now has a child and a job. And former Irish Republican Army terrorist bomber Shane O’Doherty spent 10 years in prison, but also now has a fulfilling life.
The key, really, is understanding the mind of the shooter — and working to prevent them from acting on these crimes.
Next: Here’s what must be done to prevent future shootings.
Preventing a mass shooting: Can it be done?
While shootings are on the rise, the nation is ready to make a change. A writer for The New York Times has a few ideas, including imposing universal background checks, refusing gun sales to anyone under the age of 21, and banning gun sales to anyone with a domestic violence protection order. There’s also the idea of “bullet control,” which will stop online bullet sales and regulate store sales. And many think gun shows and the purchase of guns online should also go away completely.
Next: This is the absolute best first defense to prevent these horrific crimes.
Bystanders may be the key
Better gun regulations may help, but there’s still a missing piece — and that’s how to help the person willing to shoot. In this case, Scientific American notes bystanders are a great first defense. Because so many people around the perpetrator often know of the violence they’re capable of, there needs to be a better way for bystanders to report this.
Bystanders may fear their involvement or their safety if they report suspicious behavior. If we can alleviate this fear, there’s a better chance of preventing these senseless violent acts.