School Shootings, Mall Shootings, and More: Is Mass Murder the New Normal?


Home / School Shootings, Mall Shootings, and More: Is Mass Murder the New Normal?
Jared Loughner shot and killed six people and injured others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Image courtesy of the U.S. Marshals Service

Jared Loughner shot and killed six people and injured several others, including U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Image courtesy of the U.S. Marshals Service

The month of January 2014 has appeared to be a very busy month for mass shootings incidents.

There seems to be a shooting episode nearly every day from school shootings, university campus shootings, workplace and mall shootings, and so on. Is mass murder becoming the norm in the U.S.?

Mass Shootings in 2013 and 2014

In 2013 there were approximately 28 school shootings , and over 300 mass shooting incidents in 2013 as reported by the Huffington Post who acknowledged Reddit’s online community that keeps track of such information.

It appears that mass shooting has become or is becoming more common in the United States; is violence an epidemic?

As these incidents occur, some will argue for gun control, while others will argue a lack of mental health care, but the end result is the same. What is the trigger that sets off the people usually labelled as “nice guys” by their community, who don’t seem to have a clear motive, and are often described as coming from a good home or “nice family” – but who are loners?

Is there a commonality amongst these people, who single handedly create mayhem and destruction? Dr. Michael Stone, professor of clinical psychiatry at Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons in New York City, explained in his book, Anatomy of Evil, that we don’t know much about the young mass murderers, because they usually die by their own hands or by police action. This means there’s no court trial, so no way to probe into their family’s life, mental health records or situation at birth.

Dr. Stone further went on to say that the number of victims is a key factor as there is usually nothing personal about the crime; the objective is to kill as many people as possible. Very rarely will there be an exception where the target is one person but other people end up getting killed as collateral damage. Interestingly, mass murder tends to be a man’s crime, the killers are usually young white males in their 20s, who are deliberate and methodic in their actions. Their weapon of choice is a gun.

What Makes a Mass Murderer Tick?

According Dr. Stone, mass murderers fall into a half a dozen categories. Disgruntled workers make up 20% of all mass murders, 8% are rejected lovers, including stalkers who may not have a real relationship, 11% are hate crime killers and men committing some other felony. Less-common are people who are psychotic, cornered cult leaders, or very rarely, a man committing mass murder to cover up the murder of 1 intended victim.

Forensic psychologist, Dr. Reid Meloy shared his findings with Dr. Stone in the same book – saying that in his experience adolescent mass murderers seldom commit suicide or die at the scene like their older counterparts. Dr. Meloy highlighted that many of the mass killers are psychopaths or emotionally unbalanced men with rage.

Dr. Stone has closely examined the minds of more than 200 mass murderers, and also spoke about the difficulty diagnosing killers in an interview with Lizzie Crocker of The Daily Beast, in which he said, “usually you’re dealing with an angry, dissatisfied person who has poor social skills or few friends, and then there is a trigger that sets them off.”

Stone added that 96.5 percent of mass murderers are male and a majority aren’t clinically psychotic but rather suffer from paranoia and often have acute behavioral or personality disorders. Jealousy is a subtype of paranoia, Stone says, but it doesn’t necessarily indicate psychosis. Of the roughly 200 mass murderers he has studied, only 25 were ruled clinically insane. The others were generally social misfits or angry loners who are then “tipped over into ungovernable rage by some event.” Most murderers have psychopathic – not psychotic-tendencies. They’re callous, manipulative, and often unfeeling.

Predicting the Violence

In 1976, the Supreme court of California ruled that all clinicians have the duty to warn and do everything practically possible to protect potential victims from their patients making threats in Trasoff v. Regents of the University of California. The intent of this ruling was to put clinicians on notice that in the event of a heinous crime committed by their patient they could not hide behind ‘privileged communications.’ The key to stopping these mass murders is prevention.

An Ounce of Prevention

How can we prevent these events from continuing to get worse?

Education is the best preventative measure for parents of young kids. Raising awareness of abnormalities in children, and watching for kids who deal poorly with conflict or have severe problems socializing with other kids, and then providing those kids the help they need to integrate with society could be a big help.

Paying attention to warnings from individuals, teachers, school counselors or juvenile authorities about violent behavior or violent fantasies is another early step in prevention. Sometimes those in authority ignore red flag indicators, and punish kids and adults without rehabilitation and remediation – this can not only make matters worse, it simply ignores the possibility that real medical or mental health issues are a problem.

Community Education can make a big difference. The police educate the public in the prevention of violence and the identification of potentially-violent individuals, and the Municipal State Child and Juvenile Services can identify violent behavior in young offenders.

Mass Shootings are on the Rise

The statistics don’t lie – mass shooting is on the rise. Whether it’s due to mental health problems, too many guns, or the breakdown of our society, we have to remain vigilant and take notice of those around us, in order to keep ourselves and our families safe from harm. See something, say something.

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