Home Social Here's What A Criminology Professor Learned By Studying Every Mass Shooting Since...

Here's What A Criminology Professor Learned By Studying Every Mass Shooting Since 1966


Last weekend’s mass shootings in El Paso and Dayton (following the devastation in Gilroy the weekend before) prompted the usual evidence-free avalanche of political point-scoring, blaming “the other side” for all the world’s woes.

Babylon Bee’s satirical take summed things up perfectly:

An exhaustive new study from the CDC reveals that the leading cause of gun violence in America is your political opponents. Researchers looked at a number of potential causes of gun violence such as mental health, family situation, cultural shifts, gun laws, rap music, videogames, sugar consumption, and the actual gunman, but by and large, the most prominent cause of gun violence was what most already suspected. The fault lies with those who you disagree with politically.

But, as Jillian Peters and James Densley write in an LA Times op-ed, instead of apportioning blame based on the narrative being pushed, analyzing and understanding data about who commits such massacres can help prevent more lives being lost.

For two years, we’ve been studying the life histories of mass shooters in the United States for a project funded by the National Institute of Justice, the research arm of the U.S. Department of Justice. We’ve built a database dating back to 1966 of every mass shooter who shot and killed four or more people in a public place, and every shooting incident at schools, workplaces, and places of worship since 1999. We’ve interviewed incarcerated perpetrators and their families, shooting survivors and first responders. We’ve read media and social media, manifestos, suicide notes, trial transcripts and medical records.

Our goal has been to find new, data-driven pathways for preventing such shootings. Although we haven’t found that mass shooters are all alike, our data do reveal four commonalities among the perpetrators of nearly all the mass shootings we studied.

First, the vast majority of mass shooters in our study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying. The trauma was often a precursor to mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, thought disorders or suicidality.

Second, practically every mass shooter we studied had reached an identifiable crisis point in the weeks or months leading up to the shooting. They often had become angry and despondent because of a specific grievance. For workplace shooters, a change in job status was frequently the trigger. For shooters in other contexts, relationship rejection or loss often played a role. Such crises were, in many cases, communicated to others through a marked change in behavior, an expression of suicidal thoughts or plans, or specific threats of violence.

Third, most of the shooters had studied the actions of other shooters and sought validation for their motives. People in crisis have always existed. But in the age of 24-hour rolling news and social media, there are scripts to follow that promise notoriety in death. Societal fear and fascination with mass shootings partly drives the motivation to commit them. Hence, as we have seen in the last week, mass shootings tend to come in clusters. They are socially contagious. Perpetrators study other perpetrators and model their acts after previous shootings. Many are radicalized online in their search for validation from others that their will to murder is justified.

Fourth, the shooters all had the means to carry out their plans. Once someone decides life is no longer worth living and that murdering others would be a proper revenge, only means and opportunity stand in the way of another mass shooting. Is an appropriate shooting site accessible? Can the would-be shooter obtain firearms? In 80% of school shootings, perpetrators got their weapons from family members, according to our data. Workplace shooters tended to use handguns they legally owned. Other public shooters were more likely to acquire them illegally.

So what do these commonalities tell us about how to prevent future shootings?

One step needs to be depriving potential shooters of the means to carry out their plans. Potential shooting sites can be made less accessible with visible security measures such as metal detectors and police officers. And weapons need to be better controlled, through age restrictions, permit-to-purchase licensinguniversal background checkssafe storage campaigns and red-flag laws — measures that help control firearm access for vulnerable individuals or people in crisis.

Another step is to try to make it more difficult for potential perpetrators to find validation for their planned actions. Media campaigns like #nonotoriety are helping starve perpetrators of the oxygen of publicity, and technology companies are increasingly being held accountable for facilitating mass violence. But we all can slow the spread of mass shootings by changing how we consume, produce, and distribute violent content on media and social media. Don’t like or share violent content. Don’t read or share killers’ manifestos and other hate screeds posted on the internet. We also need to study our current approaches. For example, do lockdown and active shooter drills help children prepare for the worst or hand potential shooters the script for mass violence by normalizing or rehearsing it?

We also need to, as a society, be more proactive. Most mass public shooters are suicidal, and their crises are often well known to others before the shooting occurs. The vast majority of mass shooters leak their plans ahead of time. People who see or sense something is wrong, however, may not always say something to someone owing to the absence of clear reporting protocols or fear of overreaction and unduly labeling a person as a potential threat. Proactive violence prevention starts with schools, colleges, churches and employers initiating conversations about mental health and establishing systems for identifying individuals in crisis, reporting concerns and reaching out — not with punitive measures but with resources and long-term intervention. Everyone should be trained to recognize the signs of a crisis.

Proactivity needs to extend also to the traumas in early life that are common to so many mass shooters. Those early exposures to violence need addressing when they happen with ready access to social services and high-quality, affordable mental health treatment in the community. School counselors and social workers, employee wellness programs, projects that teach resilience and social emotional learning, and policies and practices that decrease the stigma around mental illness will not just help prevent mass shootings, but will also help promote the social and emotional success of all Americans.

Our data show that mass shooters have much in common. Instead of simply rehearsing for the inevitable, we need to use that data to drive effective prevention strategies.

*  *  *

Perhaps wannabe-politicians like Beto O’Rourke should wind their ‘Trump is hitler and therefore to blame’ soundbites in and focus on the real issues facing Americans.

via zerohedge


  1. McConnell faces pressure to bring Senate back for gun legislation
    Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) is coming under intense pressure to take quick action on gun legislation in the wake of two mass shootings

    Gun reform…..Its time has come

    • Bullshit! Didn’t you read the article based upon objective, scientific data? If you did read the article, you didn’t understand a thing you read. Re-read the article!

    • Jim . . . its more than obvious that Political Causes ranging from Open Borders to Joaquin “Fidel” Castro outing folks who donate to a political movement or individual politician to spur assaults or economic injury on the donors . . . . a typical move of Fidel to get rid of his detractors.

      The simple solution to many atrocity’s is Conceal/Carry by qualified honest citizens . . . the reason is simple . . . mass murders ALWAYS choose Gun Free Zones, or, in the case of drug gangs, drive by shooting. The more Gun Free Zones, the fewer mass murders, unless you live in Democrat-Run cities where drug gangs own the turf.

      Murderers fear incoming rounds, especially before their atrocity ends the life of “many” citizens. They have to increase the body count before, often, committing suicide by a law enforcement officer . . . . which should really be an armed and qualified citizen taking the murderer out EARLY ON.

    • The CDC is just about as far left as a Nascar track. I agree something is wrong and we all need to look at what that is and fix it. All know is we have had guns from the start of this country and until recently there was not a problem. It did not start until parents were not allowed to discipline there children for fear of the gov stepping in to take them away. That’s on the libs. We have become a society of keen junk snowflake babies that can’t even have a discussion without triggering someone. I is a joke but it’s not very funny. All I know is that if we enter into red flag laws we are treading on a slippery slope that will eventually end in the stripping of our God given rights. Be careful what you wish for it normally comes back to bite you in the ass.

  2. What needs to be investigated, but NO politician will touch it, is early Daycare, childhood abuse/neglect, along with births out of wedlock, single moms, fatherless households, divorce, Feminism 2.0 and newer versions, lack of male school teachers, etc. the list is long! Better get accustomed to mass shootings, as the seeds have been sowed decades ago and are now bearing their bitter fruits. These problems will/can’t be remedied in your lifetime, regrettably! One can read Dr. Arthur Janov’s books for a good understanding of these issues, if one is curious.

    • The immediate solution is for qualified and armed citizens to eliminate Gun Free Zones.

      Mentally-Deranged-Murderers fear incoming rounds which is why they choose Gun Free Zones, except, of course drug gangs and their drive by shootings . . . which are predominate in Democrat-Run cities.

    • How come nobody ever talks about the drugs we allow our children to be put on? According to the article one common thread is depression and anxiety. The drugs aimed at treating these debilitating conditions may be very effective for adults with fully developed brains but who knows the damage they may do to a childs still developing brain? Maybe none, i don’t know, but if, as I suspect, most, if not every one of these shooters have been on these medications as a child that’s a good place to start looking….

  3. The study missed the obvious point. How many of these shooters were on pharmaceutical drugs both legal or illegal? We as a society have been treating over active young men and women with anti depressants, psychotic drugs etc, etc. our society has become consumed in a drug culture to cure all problems! Why are our politicians refusing to address the obvious? $$$$$$$$????? Youth has lots of energy that use to be burned off on the play ground, sports or playing outside or heaven forbid working! Our city parks are devoid of youth. Our children play video games, watch tv and our schools tell us your child is hyperactive and we recommend he/she should seek help and there are many great drugs that would benefit your child. We have become a spoiled society that demands instant gratification via drugs as a cure all.

    • some of these over medicated youth make it into college already having a fragile state of mind and our liberal professors push an agenda where there is no tolerance for an opposing political point of view because they teach that liberals are right and there is no place for a conservative point of view . The professors should not be there to push our young people into any political way of thinking but to only guide them to make up their own mind based on their beliefs .

  4. I do not understand this frenzy for “analysis”. President Obama convened a high level commission to study the problem and make appropriate changes, in the wake of the Connecticut school shootings. These changes effectively dealt with the problem.

  5. Most mass shooting perpetrators choose “gun-free” zones as the locations to inflict their “revenge” on society. That enables them to accomplish injuring and killing a larger list of victims of their vendetta.

    So, all “gun-free” zones must be abolished in favor of having both visibly armed guards and allowing admittance to legally armed civilians (both open-carry and concealed-carry), who have taken law enforcement approved training and are registerred with their state and county law enforcement agencies.

    Those actions greatly increase the active discouragement of would-be mass-shooters’ plans to create a self-serving spectacle, because that is what mass-shooter events are all about: the public spectacle of the event.

    Might other venues and means be sought, such as sniper-type incidents? Yes. But mass shootings inside various enclosed public venues would largely disappear from taking place, making those venues far more safe than now. And THAT SHOULD BE THE KEY GOAL — NOT ELIMINATING OR OVER-RESTRICTING THE SELF-DEFENSE RIGHTS (VIA THE SECOND AMENDMENT) OF LAW ABIDING CITIZENS.

  6. I also find it really interesting is that many of these shootings occur during campaign season. After all the Democrats have a full clown car and nothing to campaign on so let’s have a few shootings and try another gun grab.

  7. Stricter gun laws are not the answer, just like hate speech laws are not the answer to controlling what people say. The answer is that these people were let down by society in general but starting in the home. Parents need to be more involved in their kids lives and even to the point of being in their business. Look at what they’re watching on TV, what they’re listening to on the radio or CD’s be involved in who their friends are. But mainly take them to church or synagogue and get them involved in youth groups in these locations, but even still be involved with them. These people were let down by their families first and then by society. Guns are not the problem, they are just a means to an end.

  8. In all i have done to find answers for ailments first understand what but then must apply why. Mostly one what why leads to deeper reasoning what why.
    Shootings? Why? Guns? No. We have had guns since this nation began. yes criminals scattered examoles made famous exaggerated in movies but the phenomenon of today was not. We had violence in movies. Cowboys and Indian’s War movies cops and robbers horror movies erc. No does not answer. BB guns? Hunting shooting practice? We had rifles in back of our pickups unlocked at high school. Bought guns at about any age. No background checks etc. Had dynamite and bladting caps Catbide and no license needed from any hardware store. Fire crackers etc. No big issues before.
    Whats new? 1960s divided this country. Drugs immorality breakdownof family. And legalized abortions. Loss of respect breakup families womens rights extended to no need for father or family. Pres Johnson’s political move to welfare handouts excuse of riots violence blame instead of responsibility. More children no fathers more government money and handouts. Wirk? Responsibility? No. All owed without responsibility. Demand more giving less to nothing. Excuses blaming everything and everyone else. Extended abortion and turn education to indoctrination. Excuses. Blame. No God. No ten commandments. Feel good is all that matters. No punishment. Belittle men tear apary families. Mothers? No need. Preschool. More days hours werks of school to indoctrinate not educate. More sex more abortions more drugs more immorality and more excuses. Radica00l and more radical socialism. Promise more give more power to state. Less family. Frwer fathers. More crowding more by millions invading illegals that have no ties or care of this country but vote only for more power of socialism. More excuses m[ore demands more free more promised less responsibility all for power of elitists self promoting socialist politicians. More radicalized professor’s and less responsibility. Less work for kids more time less to do so more breakiup families more abortions even to kill and redefine life even thru delivery to kill by mothers and monsters by protection of Democrat socialist and pervertrd souls that perpetrated their own excuses of murders. Mmore drugs. Legalize and promote decriminalize until anything goes. Family? God? 10 commandments? Work? Responsibility? Punishment? Family? Fathers? Mothers? Mother and fathers as families? Celebrate and honor heroes and histories? Shame blame deny all that made this land great different proud independent and successful. More law more restriction more government more indictrination more drugs more free more owed more all that makes every person more enslaved. Make man ashamed make all good bad make all life valuless as more is promised to give up all that once kept the people proud independent responsible caring living hopeful strong all attacked and blame all results more on all that is good and was proud. Wonder why? Why is not the what. Ewhy is fall of all honor all right and holy. Count the shootings in perspect to murder of babies by mothers who and perverted medical profession that now kills not save.

  9. Personally, when Madeline O’Here was assisted by the ACLU. to remove any mentioning of God or prayer in public schools Was a turning point for our Nation…..we continue to “reap” back the rewards for that dreadful Supreme Crt..decision…

  10. How can those Hippocratic democrats just keep blaming Trump for everything and constantly bash him 24 hrs a day every day and use terms like he is evil or racist and they want to beat him up and now he is the cause of a mass shooting because he defends himself from the constant war on him from the left and their untruthful news buddies that are lying so much that the country can’t stand the stench spewing from their foul mouths . How about Maxine Waters calling out for American’s to get in each others face at restaurants or gas stations , where is her blame in this now that people are actually starting to get into each others faces but only with guns . The democrats stood behind Maxine Waters words without condemning her and now they want to pin these mass shootings on Trump . That sorry sad looking Beto was such a pathetic mess full of blame for trump and putting on such a show to gain some political points that it is hard to even imagine any where at any time in our past history when a president was not welcomed into an area of a disaster and told to stay away . The president has the power to do a lot more for the victims families than that looser Beto does . America wake up we are just not use to having a president that cares about our economy , our trade and border security because Obama made it clear that he festered racism, was satisfied with an economy that sputtered along and catered to other countries out of fear , give trump a chance and what is wrong with a president putting American citizens first because every leader of every other country care about themselves first .

  11. I Agree that the problem with our country is the Democrats and their ridiculous ideas! Look back and I was just reading that there was 35 shootings during Obamas terms, which he lived! Ibama loves Chaos, protests,shootings, burning down bldgs. The killing of cops, like in Dallas, Soros who is also behind all of these things financially, as he should be removed from our country immediately,as the person that wants to destroy America and admits it! Obama is the beginning of all the shootings and he is still behind the scenes on these, alng with the Clintons and Soros! This is your destructionists! They love it! All of our shootings have come from the LEFT!

  12. This article would have more creedence if it identified the “Criminology Professor” and referenced the published study . While I agree with the article per se, these points have all been widely discussed of late making the article seem more like a compilation of social media jargon ginned up to look scientific. I trust you can and must do better if any of your publication is to be believed.

  13. Gun control is never going to work It is a matter of common sense. Guns are not the problem. People are the problem. But there we reach a very difficult bridge we cannot cross. We have insufficient data on mental health and especially on mass shootings. Each individual shooter has had a different reasoning. We are virtually at square one on mental heath. Therfore we have to reason to use it a souce of mass shootings. I suspect that is a reason for tryimg to shove gun control down oyr throats.Another reason is to take away guns from the public in order to cram ilegal laws down on the public for political resons. That is how Hitler was able to shut down resistnce to his policies. Anyone who cannot see this has their heads in the sand.

    Ther are more ways to continuwe mass shootings even if all guns are outlawed. Vehicles are even worse to reslolve with law because of the need for vehicles.
    So, wher doea thnat leave us? NO solutions.

  14. More strict gun laws won’t change a thing. We have many gun laws already. We have laws about doing harm or murder, we have laws to control everything. New laws are useless. Good people follow laws, bad people ignore laws. Criminals will get guns no matter what. Look at Chicago, most restrictive gun laws any where and gun violence it #1 in this city. I believe the lack of God in our family and society is the major reason we have so much gun violence. This nation was founded on God being #1 . The family structure use to be God based. The bible was read and studied as a family unit. The family was composed of a father, mother and kids. The father provided the means and the mother raised the kids. They were a cohesive unit with God at the top. Today the family is broken, divorce, babies born out of wedlock , drugs, no religious beliefs, not going to church, violent movies, bad rap music, violent video games, social media, bullying, lack of morals, no positive father figure, etc etc etc all this leads to moral decline. There is no accountability any more and no meaningful consequences for bad behavior. All i say is praise God and ask for forgiveness for our nation. Let’s all change for the good of this generation and ones to come.

  15. 100%!
    Johnson’s “Welfare” immediately went about separating the black family unit, encouraging the ‘broodmare’ epidemic of marrying the government for an income. It is still prevalent today. But, it has evolved to include other skin-colors . . .
    Children grown without a balanced family unit are NOT the same as their peers.
    The Demonrats know this, and have been pushing the theology of ‘independent woman’ for generations.
    Look at ALL the major socio-problematic events in our recent history, and it all is attributed to the Demonrats. From slavery to Jim Crowe, and the KKK to Antifa, the Demonrats have been behind it all.
    “Freedom for me, but not for thee” is their motto.
    An extensive study by Clinton’s regime found that restricting guns or altering existing gun laws will have no effect on future outcomes of (gun) violence. The modern outcry is simply a ploy to manage the populous (like Venezuela and Cuba).
    Food manufacturers’ include androgen disruptors in their products by design or by-product protection due to lax FDA controls and discounts. Children are fed soy products, which are chock-full of phytoestrogens. Look at how much soy is in school lunches? The only safe soy is ‘fermented’, like tofu — everything else is toxic to males; but don’t tell that to big-agriculture.
    The technology giants develop their products to be addictive. Lots of boys spend all their time alone, looking at a computer or some mobile device. They’re taught to be pussies (avoid ‘toxic-masculinity’) from kindergarten to college. Their expensive college education only got them a job at to corner coffee shop. “Generation-G” (grievance generation = “Z” & Millennials) is still living at home, after college. They aren’t getting married.
    Their ‘mental’ problems are ignored because “they have rights”, and it’s cheaper for the local government . . .
    Today’s snowflakes have so many ‘invisible disabilities’, they are Bourgeois Narcissists.
    There isn’t much difference between a narcissist and a sociopath . . .

    • I am sorry, but I agree with most of what you have posted…..We, the Baby Boomers and our parents-grands . We were expected(and, we expected) particularly males, to be on our own after 18-19……Today, it seems to be more like 30+ or worst!…..geehz

  16. Einstein defined Insanity as “Doing tne same thing over and over and expecting different results.” After every shooting the hue and cry starts up for more Gun Control, as if any of the previous thousands of laws passed post incident successfully reduced anything, but law abiding citizens rights. ERPO’s are highly controversial, denying Due Process as well as otner fundamental rights, and it remains to be seen whether or not SCOTUS will uphold the use of ERPO’s or strike them down as the unconstitutional overreach that they are. A perfect analogy would be arresting every male over 14 for possessing “Rape Tools.” The most obvious common thread between the majority of shootings is GUN FREE ZONES, yet still more areas, venues and events are becoming such, in spite of the fact that it’s setting up a Target Rich Environment for any whack job to exploit.
    Statistically, we’re still at greater risk from motor vehicle accidents, medical mistakes and a number of everyday occurrences, than we are from a shooting event, yet no ones screaming about the 500 medical error deaths per 48 hours. That El Paso and Dayton were inspired by Gilroy is pretty obvious.

  17. Gun control is a political tool by liberals. Period. There are more than 23,000 firearms laws on the books already and if not enforced they’re useless. Seems the more we pass gun laws, the more mass shootings occur. Self-defense, with or without a firearm, is a RIGHT, not a political favor. Just saying…

  18. Only countries that have, in the past, confiscated firearms suffer a violent revolution. Also, the recent shooters in the U. S. have been linked to radical leftist movement and/or organizations such as Antifa. The best way to eliminate mass shootings is not to outlaw guns but to go after the root factor in the creation of the violent left. In plain English, “REGISTER COMMUNISTS, NOT FIREARMS”.

  19. A knee-jerk over-reaction isn’t what’s needed. A well reasoned, well considered bill that recognizes the rights of the individual citizen to exercise his/her 2nd Amendment Rights is the starting point for any resulting, successful legislation. Without that understanding, any proposed new legislation is rightly doomed to fail. New laws that adversely impact law abiding citizens, potentially turning them into criminals overnight without them doing anything aren’t an answer to a criminal element that will ignore gun control regulations with which only the law abiding gun owner will even attempt compliance.

  20. Best way to curb mass shootings by disaffected losers, crazies, and terrorists is to deny them “soft targets” (also known as “gun free zones”). Instead, allow ALL law-abiding citizens to be armed anyplace they have any business being. Require them to take classes in safe and responsible firearms use as well as self-defense/active shooter situation specific material (at a REASONABLE cost to compensate the instructors, but not priced so as to put the training out of many peoples’ reach. Place fees on a sliding scale, if need be), and do not allow individual states – the so-called “workers’ paradise” states like New York, New Jersey, California, and most of New England, as well as other leftist-controlled areas – to deny people from outside their borders the right to defend themselves and their families by any means necessary. I’d like to see an America where, if some idiot nutjob whips out an AK and starts to level it at a crowd, at least a few cooler heads will be able to take him down in short order. Preferably before he can get off a shot.

  21. It would serve citizens better if the DOJ, FBI. ATF. CIA all worked together sharing info on these nuts, enforce the over 22,000 guns laws already on the books instead of making more un-enforced gun laws. Get rid of Liberal Judges who slap the wrist and sends the bad guy home. We had no problem back in the day of Elliot Ness and Al Capone, going after the bad guys tooth and nail, time to step up the attack. Leave good citizens alone! So sad we lost our common sense!

  22. Mass shootings along with other violent activities, is an issue of the Heart and not a firearm. There are currently 2200 state and federal laws governing firearms, few of which have limited violent crimes. Politicians continue to push for gun regulations, and yet they fail to enforce the firearms laws they vote for.

    Violence proceeds out of the Heart: Matt 15:18. “But those things which proceed out of the Mouth come forth from the Heart; and they defile the man. For out of the Heart proceeds evil thoughts , murder, Adulteries, fornication, theft, false whiteness, blasphemies,…..

    The Heart of mankind is mind, will, and emotions. All violence is rooted in the Heart.

  23. Yes. The article explains the anger of a shooter without explaining the lack of character that keeps normal people from exploding all over others. Most lack the inspiring example of a godly father, and probably all lack the realization of a very real and holy God.

  24. The article clearly states: One step needs to be depriving potential shooters of the means to carry out their plans. Potential shooting sites can be made less accessible with visible security measures such as metal detectors and police officers. And weapons need to be better controlled, through age restrictions, permit-to-purchase licensing, universal background checks, safe storage campaigns and red-flag laws — measures that help control firearm access for vulnerable individuals or people in crisis.
    So don’t try to tell people they’re “mis-reading” f they mention gun control! If people don’t have as easy access to guns, so many people will not be killed. Did you ever hear of a “mass knifing”???
    More “good citizens” with guns is NO solution- How many mass shooters have been stopped by such a person?

Leave a Reply to Jerry Branson Cancel reply