A brief overview of research on “Mass Shooter” demographics

I was intrigued by the different narratives going around about “who” the majority of mass shooters in the US are.  Essentially there are two camps; the “most mass shooters are middle aged white men” camp, and the “no they’re not”, for lack of a better name, camp. The main source for this is an analytic three part series by Benjamin Radford of the Center for Inquiry, an only journal that “strives to foster a secular society based on reason, science, freedom of inquiry, and humanist values.”  Radford also includes links to other data sources within the body of the article. Below is my interpretation and analysis* of the info, and source info links (many of which can be found in Radford’s article as well).

The table below is sourced from an original research study by Emma Fridel and includes a lot of unvarnished and non-contextualized data.  But in the chart (and the portions of the article by Radford), there is general takeway, which are that mass shooting data varies based on the type of shooting event. There are three categories; “Family” (family annihilators), “Felony” (this is usually referencing drive-by and gang or drug related type shootings), and “Public” (which is what people generally think of when they think of a “mass shooting.) The other takeaway, noted in the body of the article, seems to suggest that, for those arguing whether or not mass shooting is a “white male” problem, that this largely depends on the definition one is using for “mass shooting”. If Felony or Family mass killings are included in the data, white men are not overly represented. However, if we are only discussing PUBLIC mass shootings, then, yes, non-hispanic white men technically are the majority of mass shooters.)
Typically, although Family and Felony killings fit the technical description of mass killings that I learned in my criminology courses (3 or more fatalities in a single event/episode of killing), they are not in fact what most people think of when the words “mass shooting” are used.  

The New York Times noted (also quoted in the above referenced article, and worth mentioning,) noted that “As convenient as it would be, there is no one-size-fits-all profile of who carries out mass shootings in the United States. About the only thing almost all of them have in common is that they are men. But those men come from varying backgrounds, with different mental health diagnoses and criminal histories.”

And of course the media plays a big role in which events garner coverage, and the narrative that plays out around the events.(IV)  (VII) And “the media” is or course, not one big conspiratorial entity.  Which version of events you are served depends on the source, and all bets for “truth in reporting” are off since the revocation of the FCC Fairness Doctrine. (VI)  We are told mass shootings are not as common as we are lead to believe, and whether or not a given shooting garners attention often has to do with the “pitiability” and perceived “innocence” of the victims. Victims of a gang-related mass killings, for example, are generally viewed as less deserving of sympathy and less “marketable” by some news outlets (even if they are innocent victims caught in cross-fire), than, say, a bunch of hapless church or movie goers, or children in a school.

So to sum up, the who of mass shootings may depend on the definition one is using of “mass shooting”, and what’s more, the usefulness of any analysis of what leads a person to become a mass killer or the “causes” of mass shooting events may be limited unless we can all agree on context.

I) Fridel, Emma E. 2017. A multivariate comparison of family, felony, and public mass murders in the United States. Journal of Interpersonal Violence (November 1).
II) https://www.politifact.com/punditfact/statements/2017/oct/06/newsweek/are-white-males-responsible-more-mass-shootings-an/
III) https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2019/aug/04/mass-shootings-white-nationalism-linked-attacks-worldwide
IV)https://centerforinquiry.org/blog/how-common-are-mass-shootings-the-nature-and-frequency-of-mass-shootings/

V) https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/05/11/us/school-shootings-united-states.html

VI) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/FCC_fairness_doctrine

VII) https://centerforinquiry.org/blog/why-isnt-the-media-covering-this-story-or-are-they/

*Note: I did my best to offer a brief and unbiased interpretation of data,  based on the information I reviewed.  I hope you find it useful and that I didn’t botch too badly.

 

Related articles by ARQ:
https://alienredqueen.wordpress.com/2018/02/20/can-we-fix-whats-broken-here/

https://alienredqueen.wordpress.com/2018/02/19/conspiracy-theory-monday-or-how-the-govt-really-controls-us/

https://alienredqueen.wordpress.com/2015/10/03/umpqua-the-mental-illness-panacea-as-it-relates-to-gun-violence/

Advertisements

Turning the Other Cheek or Turning A Blind Eye?

Here’s the scenario:

Four girls corner another girl in a public restroom.  They proceed to verbally harass her, threaten her, gang up on her, knocking her to the ground so one can beat on her.  Her face is bloody and bruised and they hold her down so they can cut off her hair.  The two of the girls pull guns out of their bags, threatening to “do worse” to her if she ever talks to the cops again.  One girl says, Why wait?  Let’s kill her now.  

There’s a struggle and one girl drops her gun, and the victim gets the drop on them, grabs the gun, and fires in a panic, killing one of her tormentors and wounding another.

This is the basic plot of the episode of a show I watched today.  And it’s making me…So. Mad.

I hate bullies.  And I was silently hoping that rather than panicking, firing blindly, and crying, that the victim would find her anger and kill those bitches.

Check that.  I know it sounds wrong.  I’m not advocating the type of violence where a perceived or alleged victim of bullying goes into a school and opens fire on everyone.  But watching these girls, these gang bangers, torment this poor girl, who dared to go to the cops because one of the girls’ boyfriends tried to rape her, made me fucking sick.

With all the rampant gun violence in this country, it’s hard to take a stance on gun ownership.  I believe in the right to defend oneself.  I believe it’s better to be judged by twelve than carried by six.  But denying the fact that the easier access to guns in this country means more guns are used in committing violent crimes is foolish.  Still, I couldn’t help but side with the victim when she turned her one of her tormentors and would be killer’s own gun against them.

But this isn’t really a post about guns; it’s about bullying, which has been around since the beginning of time, I’d wager.  Only “back then” kids used their fists.  And the bullied kids either weathered it or fought back…with their fists.  At one point or another, whether on the playground in grade school, or by their more sophisticated tormenting of their middle and high school peers, I’d bet most of you gentle readers have experienced bullying at one time or another.  I was bullied.  Until I got tired of it.  And then I started to fight back.  It got to the point, for me, where being bullied felt worse than standing up for myself and risking a beating…which I never got.  The fights were always broken up, or the bully backed down or bested.  Or all of the above.

But I guess I was lucky.  The bullies in this show were intent on doing serious harm to the victim.  Dealing with gangs can be considerably different because they have their strange ideas of loyalty and gang politics.  Some people just have no reverence or respect for human life.  It’s an arrogant, sociopathic point of view for which I have the utmost disdain.

But most bullies are just cowards, falling somewhere in between the fabled “low self-esteem” and true criminal.  I don’t really know where I’m going with this post except to say we need to stamp out bullying.  Part of doing that involves not being a bystander.  And that involves a certain amount of personal risk.  Risk of standing out, getting in trouble, being sued…or risk of bodily injury.  In the end, how you handle a bully is a personal decision, but even if you personally are a “turn the other cheek” kind of person, when you see another person getting bullied, don’t be a turn your back kind of person.

Edmund_Burke_quote