Mass shootings (killing 4 or more people at one time) occur in the United States about every two weeks, according to USA Today’s ongoing study, Behind the Bloodshed. Public shootings, like Newtown, account for about 1 in 6 mass killings according to the same study. The study also demonstrates that the majority of mass shootings (51%) are family killings. There is an undeniable link between mass shootings and domestic violence. A breakup is the trigger behind 1 in 4 mass killings. 94% of suspects were male.
Violence is about power and coercive control over others. It is not about mental illness, most people who have mental illnesses do not commit acts of violence. Violence is not something that is provoked by another person. Violent behavior is a choice, that may be accompanied by other factors, including substance abuse, childhood trauma and mental illness.
Mass shooters (people who kill more than 4 people at one time) are also making a choice. And that choice is often preceded by another choice, typically an act of domestic violence. Most mass shooter’s behavior is not completely random; it is often directed at a familiar church, workplace, or school. It is most often perpetrated at home or the home of a loved one. According to Everytown for Gun Safety, at least 51% of mass shootings involve the perpetrator targeting and shooting a current of former intimate partner or family member.
We know that hurt people, hurt people. People who have experienced multiple traumas, exposures to violence, and who have not had mitigating intervention carry with them the seeds of violence. Most are able to find ways to cope, but some do not. They are the ones we have to worry about. Those who are unable to self-regulate their emotions, those whose rage is deep, those who will give up everything in order to feel in control of others and those who have access to weapons.
Mass shootings are not a mystery, the mystery is why they don’t happen more often. Here is what you can do about it:
- Reach out to a local domestic violence organization and find out how you can volunteer
- Learn the warning signs of domestic violence
- Be a upstander, not a bystander
- Bring a speaker to your classroom, your book club, your luncheon, your church
- Talk about what you learn with your family and friends
- Teach your children how to self-soothe and to regulate their own emotions
- Know the facts about domestic violence
House of Ruth, Inc.