Mass Shootings – A Seemingly Endless American Tragedy
May 28, 2021
With mass shootings on the rise again, we take a look at what may be the causes for such violence in America.
Fifty-nine dead and 500 injured: Las Vegas. Forty-nine dead and 58 injured: Orlando nightclub. Fourteen dead and 22 injured: San Bernardino, Calif. Thirty-two dead and 17 injured: Blacksburg, VA. Thirteen dead and 24 injured: Columbine, Colo.
These mass shootings happened between 1999 and 2017 and were executed by people of various ages and races. Mass shootings are not new to American society but are still a surprise when they occur.
Wanting someone to blame is a natural response for these repeat occurrences, but pointing a finger is not as easy as it seems. Perhaps what happens before a mass shooting is worth taking a look at, in hope of finding a solution before such violence occurs.
Dr. Jeffrey Simons, an expert on terrorism and political violence, believes mass shooters are lone wolves and more dangerous than terrorist groups. “One thing to remember about lone wolves and what makes them so dangerous is they’re not part of a group, so there is no constraint on their level of violence,” Simons said in an interview with NBCLX.
According to the gun violence archive website, mass shootings are defined as there being four minimum victims either killed or injured, not including the shooter if the shooter were to be killed during the incident. There have been 610 mass shootings in 2020, even with nationwide quarantines in effect. Since 2014 mass shootings have been on the rise in the U.S., and Washington State lists as having had 29.
The most obvious statement one can make is that the list of mass shootings is long and getting longer. The desire to end such a threat, which can happen at any moment and any place, is great, but the question is how to defeat a threat that is invisible until it decides to show itself?
The reality is that anyone is capable of committing such an act of violence and the rest must try to look for signs of it. As difficult as it seems, violence does not stop, even during the COVID-19 pandemic.
On the mentality of mass shooters, Simons said that 30% to 40% have some type of mental illness. “Many times, that mental illness will affect their perception of reality, but they also can be very dangerous in what they do.”
The perception of mental illness being directly correlated with mass shootings is a normal one. Yet some think that the cause of gun violence is more complex than just mental illness.
According to a study done by Social Psychiatry and Psychiatric Epidemiology, the factors for mass violent acts are due to childhood abuse, neglect, household antisocial behavior, binge drinking and stressful life events. This is not to say that mental illness plays no role in the matter, but the study does seem to bring out preventable issues.
The article went on to say that many researchers have had an understanding that most people with mental illness are non-violent and that a lot of the violent acts are committed by people who have no mental illness. The study wanted to point out that substance abuse along with mental illness is responsible for the increased risk attributable to mental disorders.
Looking at reports of violent acts is difficult, to say the least, and there is a more difficult view of the cause of violent acts. There is a consensus among researchers about mental illness and violence, but the difference in opinion lies in what is at the center of the recurring incidents.
The study found that having a mental and substance disorder simultaneously will put an individual at the highest risk of expressing violence. The conclusions from the study signaled that severe mental illness with substance abuse had a stronger relationship to violence. In contrast, severe mental illness and violence had a modest relationship.
Solutions have been brought up in the effort to deter and stop mass violence such as arming teachers, banning assault weapons, banning high-capacity magazines, universal background checks, active shooter drills, banning violent video games, having people report potential threats, funding CDC research for gun violence and more. Still, the issue of mental health problems to any degree arises and the risk of any type of violence is real and is left unchecked while deciding powers debate the issue.
All of the proposed solutions would have either a low or high level of success but the debate over the cause of mass violence is ongoing and finding a solution seems far from over. At the moment people must be on the lookout for the threat before it happens and find a more personal solution for it.
Jeffrey Simon’s interview with NBCLX
Mental Illness and Violence Article