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There's still no scientific way to know who will become a mass shooter
A new report charges that there hasn’t yet been enough concerted research on what makes a person become a mass shooter.
It may be that the era of mass public shootings began way back in 1966 when two occurred within weeks of each other in Chicago and Austin. There have been 306 school shootings since 2013, or about one a week, according to Everytown. Each time such a tragedy occurs, we're first reminded of the easy availability of assault weapons followed quickly by blame assigned to the people—local police, psychologists, social workers—who failed to identify the perpetrator as a danger to their community. But this kind of hindsight is unfair. The truth is there's been amazingly little coordinated study of the psychology behind mass shooters and very little consensus as to what those warning signs might be. A new review of such research was compiled by sociologist Michael Rocque and criminologist Grant Duwe and is in the February issue of Current Opinion in Psychology.
Media finger-pointing exacerbates such lazy misconceptions and hysteria, so in the absence of methodical study, Roque notes, “Everybody's an expert on this issue, but we're relying on anecdotes."
(Photo: John Moore)
Mass public shootings: rampage shootings and school shootings
As defined by Rocque and Duwe, rampage shootings are mass shootings (generally defined as involving four or more victims), taking place in a public location, with victims chosen randomly or for symbolic purposes.
School shootings are any violent gun attack on another person occurring in a school.
The heartbreaking attack on Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida on Valentine's Day was an example of both types of shooting.
Duwe tells Science News, “There is little good research on what are probably a host of problems contributing to mass violence," and he's not alone in thinking so. Another researcher criminologist, James Alan Fox, has been trying for a decade to get crime researchers to pay closer attention to the motivations of these killers. Criminologists may ascribe the same motives to a mass murderer as they would to other murderers, or consider them simply so psychotic that study of them would be beyond criminology. And in the U.S., gun violence is such a politically charged topic that there's been very little funding allocated for the study of it.
(Photo: Michele Eve Sandberg)
Absent widespread research on learning to identify potential shooters, individual experts have been trying to develop some helpful insights and predictors, and Rocque and Duwe compile some of the latest theories in their summary.
Possible risk factors
Obviously, it's too simplistic and unhelpful to simply pronounce each shooter as mentally ill and then move on to the next tragedy. Most mentally ill people are non-violent. Researcher Louis Klarevas, in his book Rampage nation: Securing America from mass shootings, finds that while 80% of mass killers have some form of mental illness—with mental illness and anger as immediate factors—it's more a "gateway" and not a trigger to action. Another analysis suggests that 60% of shooters have been diagnosed with mental issues. This is three times higher than the incidence of mental illness in the general population, so it's concerning, but it also means that a substantial 40% of shooters have not previously been diagnosed as having mental issues.
Nearly every mass shooter in recent times, 99%, has been male and some suggest a challenge to masculinity is a recent contributing factor in the decision to kill. Sociologist Michael Kimmel posits that mass shootings may reflect the “culture of hegemonic masculinity [that] encourages the use of violence to avenge a perceived challenge to their masculine identity." Intriguingly, most shootings occur in white rural areas where local culture encourages an unambiguously heterosexual form of masculinity.
In today's attention-hungry American culture, it's clear that becoming a shooter is a quick way to fame. Florida media coverage may also encourage potential shooters to become copycats, sometimes perhaps out of a feeling of identification with another shooter. Some experts have suggested that names of mass killers be withheld from media coverage so as not to risk glorifying them in the minds of dangerously like-minded individuals.
The trinity of violence
In his book Rampage nation: Securing America from mass shootings, Louis Klarevas cites a trinity of violence: three conditions that need to be in place for a shooter to commence an attack.
1. The availability of a weapon capable of killing many people in a short time
2. A motivated offender
3. A target or targets
This idea, described by Jack Levin and Eric Madfis in “Mass Murder at School and Cumulative Strain," sees the individual experiencing increasing levels of strain until he snaps. It describes a series of events that may lead to an attack.
1. Long-term strain, from bullying, troubles with employment or family
2. Uncontrolled strain, when the subject has no access to other people who can help relieve the growing strain
3. A specific strain of some sort, a loss or setback, sparks the idea of a shooting
A (de)pressing problem
(Photo: Joe Raedle)
Mass shootings are on the minds of many of us on a daily basis, especially those of us who are parents with school-age children. In 2018, wishing a child a good day upon being sent off in the morning includes the implied “please don't get killed." For the kids, it's a never-ceasing shadow of each day and their social interactions. Alongside common-sense gun-control regulations that protect children, a more aggressive and science- and data-driven assessment of what causes a shooter to shoot is beyond overdue.
Join multiple Tony and Emmy Award-winning actress Judith Light live on Big Think at 2 pm ET on Monday.
Construction of the $500 billion dollar tech city-state of the future is moving ahead.
- The futuristic megacity Neom is being built in Saudi Arabia.
- The city will be fully automated, leading in health, education and quality of life.
- It will feature an artificial moon, cloud seeding, robotic gladiators and flying taxis.
The Red Sea area where Neom will be built:
Saudi Arabia Plans Futuristic City, "Neom" (Full Promotional Video)<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="c646d528d230c1bf66c75422bc4ccf6f"><iframe type="lazy-iframe" data-runner-src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/N53DzL3_BHA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
Frequent shopping for single items adds to our carbon footprint.
- A new study shows e-commerce sites like Amazon leave larger greenhouse gas footprints than retail stores.
- Ordering online from retail stores has an even smaller footprint than going to the store yourself.
- Greening efforts by major e-commerce sites won't curb wasteful consumer habits. Consolidating online orders can make a difference.
A pile of recycled cardboard sits on the ground at Recology's Recycle Central on January 4, 2018 in San Francisco, California.
Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images<p>A large part of the reason is speed. In a competitive market, pure players use the equation, <em>speed + convenience</em>, to drive adoption. This is especially relevant to the "last mile" GHG footprint: the distance between the distribution center and the consumer.</p><p>Interestingly, the smallest GHG footprint occurs when you order directly from a physical store—even smaller than going there yourself. Pure players, such as Amazon, are the greatest offenders. Variables like geographic location matter; the team looked at shopping in the UK, the US, China, and the Netherlands. </p><p>Sadegh Shahmohammadi, a PhD student at the Netherlands' Radboud University and corresponding author of the paper, <a href="https://www.cnn.com/2020/02/26/tech/greenhouse-gas-emissions-retail/index.html" target="_blank">says</a> the above "pattern holds true in countries where people mostly drive. It really depends on the country and consumer behavior there."</p><p>The researchers write that this year-and-a-half long study pushes back on previous research that claims online shopping to be better in terms of GHG footprints.</p><p style="margin-left: 20px;">"They have, however, compared the GHG emissions per shopping event and did not consider the link between the retail channels and the basket size, which leads to a different conclusion than that of the current study."</p><p>Online retail is where convenience trumps environment: people tend to order one item at a time when shopping on pure player sites, whereas they stock up on multiple items when visiting a store. Consumers will sometimes order a number of separate items over the course of a week rather than making one trip to purchase everything they need. </p><p>While greening efforts by online retailers are important, until a shift in consumer attitude changes, the current carbon footprint will be a hard obstacle to overcome. Amazon is trying to have it both ways—carbon-free and convenience addicted—and the math isn't adding up. If you need to order things, do it online, but try to consolidate your purchases as much as possible.</p><p>--</p><p><em>Stay in touch with Derek on <a href="http://www.twitter.com/derekberes" target="_blank">Twitter</a>, <a href="https://www.facebook.com/DerekBeresdotcom" target="_blank">Facebook</a> and <a href="https://derekberes.substack.com/" target="_blank">Substack</a>. His next book is</em> "<em>Hero's Dose: The Case For Psychedelics in Ritual and Therapy."</em></p>
Building a personal connection with students can counteract some negative side effects of remote learning.
- Not being able to engage with students in-person due to the pandemic has presented several new challenges for educators, both technical and social. Digital tools have changed the way we all think about learning, but George Couros argues that more needs to be done to make up for what has been lost during "emergency remote teaching."
- One interesting way he has seen to bridge that gap and strengthen teacher-student and student-student relationships is through an event called Identity Day. Giving students the opportunity to share something they are passionate about makes them feel more connected and gets them involved in their education.
- "My hope is that we take these skills and these abilities we're developing through this process and we actually become so much better for our kids when we get back to our face-to-face setting," Couros says. He adds that while no one can predict the future, we can all do our part to adapt to it.
Chronic irregular sleep in children was associated with psychotic experiences in adolescence, according to a recent study out of the University of Birmingham's School of Psychology.