Why Mass Shootings Won’t Go Away

Mass shootings by lone gunmen seem to be a uniquely American phenomenon. To date, the 2017 shooting of nearly 600 people (of whom 58 died) in Las Vegas by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock is the deadliest such attack. Paddock fired from a guest room on the 32nd floor of a nearby resort into a music festival crowd of more than 30,000 people. In 2016, Omar Marteen (who is featured in a Criminal Profile  box elsewhere in this text) shot over 100 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine of them died. Marteen, who was 29 years old at the time of the attack, was killed after a police SWAT team forced its way into the building.

In 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, a mentally troubled young man, killed 25 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut—20 of them children.

Mass shootings show no signs of declining, despite an overall drop in the U.S. homicide rate. “The frequency of gun violence does not fluctuate much year to year,” said James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University. Looking back 35 years, Fox counted 19 such shootings in 1976 and 18 in 2010, with a range of 7 in 1985 to 30 in 2003.

A study of past incidents reveals a portrait of the mass shooter. He tends to be a young man without friends and recently encountered some humiliation. He’s aiming for a high body count. Sometimes he copies another mass shooter or a figure from the movies, as Colorado shooter James Holmes did when imitating the Joker, Batman’s sworn enemy. Although many mass shooters are depressed, they rarely suffer psychosis, according to James L. Knoll, a psychiatrist at SUNY Upstate Medical Center.

Little in this portrait, however, can help predict future mass shootings. Mass shooters rarely talk about their exploits in advance. But many of them do undergo a personality change just before their crimes, as evidenced by Holmes dyeing his hair orange. Larry Burton, a professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, thinks people should notice these changes and report them to authorities.

Other ways to address mass shootings might be to ban assault rifles, which could reduce the carnage, and the imposition of stricter background checks for gun purchases. But a mass shooter, like Paddock, without a criminal record might not be identified and prevented from buying weapons. Fox argues that preventing these calamities is pretty much impossible. “We’re not going to turn our country into one big fortress,” he said. “People hate it when I say this, but it’s true. This kind of tragedy is one of the unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms.”

Discussion Questions

1. Why have random mass shootings become relatively commonplace in American society?

2. What can be done to prevent future incidents of random mass shootings?

PROJECT

Post your response to the questions for the vignette you selected. Also, briefly explain whether you think the individual or society is more to blame for the crime portrayed and why.

VIGENETTE

Why Mass Shootings Won’t Go Away

Mass shootings by lone gunmen seem to be a uniquely American phenomenon. To date, the 2017

shooting of nearly 600 people (of whom 58 died) in Las Vegas by 64

year

old Stephen Paddock is the

deadliest such attack. Paddock fired from a guest room on the 32nd

floor of a nearby resort into a music

festival crowd of more than 30,000 people. In 2016, Omar Marteen (who is featured in a

Criminal

Profile

box elsewhere in this text) shot over 100 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty

nine of

them died. Marteen, who was 29 years old at the time of the

attack, was killed after a police SWAT team

for

ced its way into the building.

In 2012, 20

year

old Adam Lanza, a mentally troubled young man, killed 25 people at an elementary

school in Newtown, Connecticut

20 of them children.

Mass shootings show no signs of declining, despite an overall drop in the U

.S. homicide rate. “The

frequency of gun violence does not fluctuate much year to year,” said James Alan Fox, a criminology

professor at Northeastern University. Looking back 35 years, Fox counted 19 such shootings in 1976 and

18 in 2010, with a range of 7

in 1985 to 30 in 2003.

A study of past incidents reveals a portrait of the mass shooter. He tends to be a young man without

friends and recently encountered some humiliation. He’s aiming for a high body count. Sometimes he

copies another mass shooter or a

figure from the movies, as Colorado shooter James Holmes did when

imitating the Joker, Batman’s sworn enemy. Although many mass shooters are depressed, they rarely

suffer psychosis, according to James L. Knoll, a psychiatrist at SUNY Upstate Medical Cente

r.

Little in this portrait, however, can help predict future mass shootings. Mass shooters rarely talk about

their exploits in advance. But many of them do undergo a personality change just before their crimes, as

evidenced by Holmes dyeing his hair orange

. Larry Burton, a professor at Bryn Mawr College in

Pennsylvania, thinks people should notice these changes and report them to authorities.

Other ways to address mass shootings might be to ban assault rifles, which could reduce the carnage,

and the imposit

ion of stricter background checks for gun purchases. But a mass shooter, like Paddock,

without a criminal record might not be identified and prevented from buying weapons. Fox argues that

preventing these calamities is pretty much impossible. “We’re not go

ing to turn our country into one big

fortress,” he said. “People hate it when I say this, but it’s true. This kind of tragedy is one of the

unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms.”

Discussion Questions

1.

Why have random

mass shootings become relatively commonplace in American society?

2.

What can be done to prevent future incidents of random mass shootings?

PROJECT

Pos

t

your response to the questions for the vignette you selected. Also, briefly explain whether you

think the indivi

dual or society is more to blame for the crime portrayed and why

.

VIGENETTE

Why Mass Shootings Won’t Go Away

Mass shootings by lone gunmen seem to be a uniquely American phenomenon. To date, the 2017

shooting of nearly 600 people (of whom 58 died) in Las Vegas by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock is the

deadliest such attack. Paddock fired from a guest room on the 32nd floor of a nearby resort into a music

festival crowd of more than 30,000 people. In 2016, Omar Marteen (who is featured in a Criminal

Profile box elsewhere in this text) shot over 100 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine of

them died. Marteen, who was 29 years old at the time of the attack, was killed after a police SWAT team

forced its way into the building.

In 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, a mentally troubled young man, killed 25 people at an elementary

school in Newtown, Connecticut—20 of them children.

Mass shootings show no signs of declining, despite an overall drop in the U.S. homicide rate. “The

frequency of gun violence does not fluctuate much year to year,” said James Alan Fox, a criminology

professor at Northeastern University. Looking back 35 years, Fox counted 19 such shootings in 1976 and

18 in 2010, with a range of 7 in 1985 to 30 in 2003.

A study of past incidents reveals a portrait of the mass shooter. He tends to be a young man without

friends and recently encountered some humiliation. He’s aiming for a high body count. Sometimes he

copies another mass shooter or a figure from the movies, as Colorado shooter James Holmes did when

imitating the Joker, Batman’s sworn enemy. Although many mass shooters are depressed, they rarely

suffer psychosis, according to James L. Knoll, a psychiatrist at SUNY Upstate Medical Center.

Little in this portrait, however, can help predict future mass shootings. Mass shooters rarely talk about

their exploits in advance. But many of them do undergo a personality change just before their crimes, as

evidenced by Holmes dyeing his hair orange. Larry Burton, a professor at Bryn Mawr College in

Pennsylvania, thinks people should notice these changes and report them to authorities.

Other ways to address mass shootings might be to ban assault rifles, which could reduce the carnage,

and the imposition of stricter background checks for gun purchases. But a mass shooter, like Paddock,

without a criminal record might not be identified and prevented from buying weapons. Fox argues that

preventing these calamities is pretty much impossible. “We’re not going to turn our country into one big

fortress,” he said. “People hate it when I say this, but it’s true. This kind of tragedy is one of the

unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms.”

Discussion Questions

1. Why have random mass shootings become relatively commonplace in American society?

2. What can be done to prevent future incidents of random mass shootings?

PROJECT

Post your response to the questions for the vignette you selected. Also, briefly explain whether you

think the individual or society is more to blame for the crime portrayed and why.

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