Mass Shootings Aren’t Growing More Common – and Evidence Contradicts Common Stereotypes about the Killers

Posted on Tuesday, 13th August 2019 @ 09:33 PM by Text Size A | A | A

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Responses to the El Paso and Dayton tragedies included many of the same myths and stereotypes Americans have grown used to hearing in the wake of a mass shooting. As part of my work as a psychology researcher, I study mass homicides, as well as society’s reaction to them. A lot of bad information can follow in the wake of such emotional events; clear, data-based discussions of mass homicides can get lost among political narratives. One example: Mass shooters in the United States are not all white supremacists. Overall, the ethnic composition of the group of all mass shooters in the U.S. is roughly equivalent to the American population, and most mass homicide perpetrators don’t proclaim any allegiance to a particular ideology at all.

A 2017 public policy statement by the American Psychological Association’s media psychology and technology division specifically recommended politicians should stop linking violent games to mass shootings. It’s time to lay this myth to rest.

Mass Shooters Are Male White Supremacists?

Early reports suggest that the El Paso shooter was a white racist concerned about Latino immigration. Other shooters, such as the perpetrator of the Christchurch, New Zealand attack, have also been white supremacists.

Overall, though, the ethnic composition of the group of all mass shooters in the U.S. is roughly equivalent to the American population (see mass shooter data from Mother Jones. Get the data).

Hateful people tend to be attracted to hateful ideologies. Some shootings, such as the 2016 shooting of police officers in Dallas, were reportedly motivated by anti-white hatred. Other shooters, such as the 2015 San Bernardino husband and wife perpetrator team, have espoused other hateful ideas such as radical Islam.

Most mass homicide perpetrators don’t proclaim any allegiance to a particular ideology at all.

Of course, mass homicides in other nations – such as several deadly knife attacks in Japan – don’t involve U.S. race issues.

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