The shooting deaths of three children and three adults at a school in Nashville, Tennessee, have reignited a recurring debate about the need for more gun control in the United States.
But what drives a person to enter a public place and start shooting? After decades of mass shootings in the US, we have some data, but the answer remains elusive. Almost all of the attackers were men, and many shared a desire for revenge for some injustice, real or imagined. Everyone had access to firearms, which is not uncommon for living in this country. Beyond that, the evidence becomes complex.
Let’s talk about mental health, for example. Yes, it’s true that it’s common for people who commit mass shootings to have mental issues, but it doesn’t seem like it can be talked about as a cause. According to a study of about 200 major shootings since the 1960s, in only one in ten cases did the disease have a very clear effect on crime. About 30% of the shooters suffered from some form of psychosis, but only 10% suffered from hallucinations or delusions at the time of the crime.
Some of the more serious research into the psychology of mass shooting perpetrators simply concludes that there is no single explanation for why someone would do such a thing. There are some common traits, such as the fact that many have recently experienced loss or rejection and are already particularly sensitive to being hurt by others. However, the best indicator of whether they were preparing for a massacre was not their psychological state, but the fact that most of them had already begun to declare what they were going to do.
An investigation into 134 fatal school shootings concluded that 80% of their perpetrators made their plans public. Furthermore, especially in massacres of this type, the choice of crime scene does not appear to be random: more than 90% were or were said to be schoolchildren, and the average age of the perpetrator was 18 years. It is estimated that about 50% have experienced bullying, but bullying is such a common reality in the US that many experts do not understand its impact on the issue.
Part of the difficulty in building a psychological profile of these people is that the vast majority are dead: they cannot be interviewed, and must rely on family testimony or documents. 60% of mass shootings die on the spot, either by police or by suicide. Four out of ten try to kill themselves immediately after the slaughter, and one out of three have already tried it before.
The prevalence of suicide among these people calls into question many of the measures proposed against mass shootings. Harsher sentences or the presence of armed guards may not be effective in dealing with some criminals who already hope not to get out alive. In fact, attacks on schools with armed personnel have almost tripled the number of victims, and research has linked the profile of these attackers to suicide terrorists.
If they don’t work, then why do they continue to insist on solutions like arming teachers or putting security guards in schools? Simply because these measures, however ineffective, have the support of a powerful gun lobby. The National Rifle Association (NRA) is willing to bet on any solution that doesn’t at least restrict access to firearms. Even better if that “solution” is based on even more guns, because, he argues, “the only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun.”
This political reality greatly affects any debate about how to solve the problem. Clearly, the big difference between the US and many other rich countries without these mass shootings is access to guns, but associations like the NRA and its allies have been able to block public funding for any researchers willing to study. Consequences of having a gun in the home
The gun lobby and many of its Republican allies prefer to blame something other than the availability of firearms. An argument they use repeatedly is the alleged impact of violent video games or the prevalence of “broken families”. Both “explanations” have been generally discredited by scholars, but this has not prevented their relevance to certain conservative political discourses from never going out of fashion in the US.
While the number of violent crimes has clearly declined in recent decades, mass shootings have become more frequent and deadly. This is doubly troubling because many abusers have been shown to act in a mimetic fashion. The only light at the end of the tunnel is that political gridlock has eased somewhat: Last summer, after a school shooting in Texas left 19 children and several adults dead, Democrats and a few Republicans managed to pass a modest gun. The law of control focused on the youngest, the first 30 years. Not enough, but a first step.
Source: El Diario