Mass Shootings, Ideology, and Mental Illness

We know a lot less about the motives of spree killers than the public discourse suggests.

The comments on my post “When Mass Murder Becomes Commonplace,” which noted that the “usual suspects are reading off the same old scripts as in the last hundred times this happened,” is demonstrating just that. Given that the shooters in the two sprees over the weekend seemed at least partially motivated by racial animus, I was chided for labeling them “psychopaths” rather than blaming the killings on Fox News and the Republican Party.

Look, I fully acknowledge the role that Fox and the rest of the right-wing infotainment complex play in stoking resentment. Increasingly, going back to at least the rise of the Tea Party movement, that’s been true of Republican political leaders as well. But the credible literature on the matter just doesn’t point to partisanship being a significant determinant.

An April 2021 survey of the literature by RAND scholars Rosanna Smart and Terry L. Schell found,

Several studies, largely focused on mass public shootings, have sought to describe the characteristics of individuals who perpetrate mass shootings, evaluate characteristics of each mass shooting incident, and identify the behaviors and motivations that preceded each incident. Most of these studies are purely descriptive, not comparative, and thus should not be interpreted as providing evidence of whether specific individual-level or community-level characteristics are predictive of someone perpetrating a mass shooting.

According to this literature (see, for example, Capellan et al., 2019; Duwe, 2020), the perpetrators of mass public shootings in the United States have been overwhelmingly male (98 percent) and are most commonly non-Hispanic White (61 percent). In addition, they are most commonly younger than age 45 (82 percent); more specifically, 26 percent of mass public shooters from 1976 to 2018 were younger than age 25, 27 percent were aged 25 to 34, and 29 percent were aged 35 to 44. Relative to the overall U.S. population, mass public shooting offenders are much more likely to be male and are somewhat younger; relative to other homicide offenders, males and non-Hispanic Whites are overrepresented among mass public shooters, and mass public shooters are older. For comparison, of the overall U.S. population in 2019, approximately 49 percent was male, 60 percent was younger than age 45, and 60 percent was non-Hispanic White (U.S. Census Bureau, 2020). Of murderers in 2018 with known offender characteristics, 88 percent were men, 84 percent were younger than age 45 (38 percent younger than 25, 31 percent aged 25 to 34, and 16 percent aged 35 to 44), and 42 percent were White (Hispanic ethnicity information was not provided) (FBI, 2019f).

Media coverage often links mass public shootings with serious mental illness (McGinty et al., 2014, 2016), but estimates of the prevalence of mental illness among mass public shooting offenders vary widely depending on the types of incidents considered and the methods used to define and identify mental illness. Rates of formal diagnoses of psychotic disorders (including diagnoses made post-incident, which may be affected by the incident itself) among mass public shooters are estimated to be about 15 to 17 percent (Stone, 2015; Fox and Fridel, 2016).[11] Studies that use a broader definition of mental illness and consider informal evidence indicative of mental health problems (e.g., statements by law enforcement or family before or after the incident) have found prevalence rates ranging from 30 to 60 percent (Taylor, 2018; Capellan et al., 2019; Duwe, 2020). This informal evidence, which is often obtained subsequent to the incident, is invariably affected by the act of mass violence itself (Skeem and Mulvey, 2020). It does not suggest that mental illness is useful for predicting a subsequent mass shooting. Of note, a study of 106 perpetrators of mass public shootings in the United States between 1990 and 2014 found that less than 5 percent of offenders (n = 5) had a history of involuntary commitment or adjudication of dangerousness that would have prohibited them from purchasing a firearm following the federal mental health background check (Silver, Fisher, and Horgan, 2018). Although most research supports that, overall, people with serious mental illness are overrepresented among mass public shooters (Duwe, 2020; Skeem and Mulvey, 2020), this does not imply that serious mental illness causes mass shootings, just as we cannot conclude that being a young man causes mass shootings.

[…]

It is challenging to make broad generalizations about the individual-level motivations of mass shootings. When mass shootings are broadly defined to include familicides, felony-related killings, and mass public shootings, the events include heterogeneous incident types that vary in terms of victim, offender, and incident characteristics (Fridel, 2017; Taylor, 2018). Felony-related killings exhibit particular differences from familicides and mass public shootings. They are, by definition, criminally motivated (in contrast to familicides and mass public shootings, which are more commonly motivated by relationship problems, group grievances, or ideological extremist beliefs); result in significantly fewer deaths; and are significantly less likely to conclude with the death of the perpetrator (Fridel, 2017; Capellan et al., 2019).[13] The etiology of felony-related mass shootings thus, unsurprisingly, bears a stronger resemblance to firearm homicides more broadly. In contrast, familicides and mass public shootings show stronger similarities in terms of offender characteristics and motivations (Fridel, 2017).

Even the subset of mass public shootings seems to encompass a variety of offender types, and some researchers have suggested that the relative prevalence of these offender typologies has changed over time (Capellan et al., 2019).[14] When Capellan and colleagues considered incidents in which an offender used a firearm to kill or “attempt to kill” four or more victims in a public setting, they found that school shootings constituted the majority of mass public shooting incidents in the 1960s and 1970s, and workplace shootings became increasingly prevalent in the 1980s to 2000s (Capellan and Gomez, 2018; Capellan et al., 2019).[15] The past decade has seen an increase in the percentage of mass public shootings that are posited to relate to fame-seeking on behalf of the individual or on behalf of a broader ideology (Capellan et al., 2019; Lankford and Silver, 2020). Some researchers have suggested that this rise in fame‐ and attention‐seeking motivations among mass public shooters has contributed to an escalation in the lethality of these incidents (Langman, 2018; Lankford and Silver, 2020).

A February 2018 PolitiFact explainer, prompted by an idiot talk host’s claim that mass shooters tend to be Democrats, found that there’s really little evidence that they’re politically motivated. Indeed, most descriptors of the partisanship of individual shooters is speculative and comes from early reporting.

We looked at 19 shootings that have received significant national media coverage since the Columbine High School shooting in 1999. More than eight people were killed in each of the shootings.

We found very few cases in which the political affiliation of the shooter could be verified. 

Omar Mateen, the shooter who killed 49 people at a nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in 2016, was registered as a Democrat in 2006. He voted in the Florida primary in 2016, according to reporting from Politico.

A dating profile for Chris Harper Mercer, who killed nine people at a community college in Oregon in 2015, said he was a Republican, according to reporting from CBS News. There was no evidence of his political affiliation beyond the profile.

A friend of Aaron Alexis, who killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard in 2013, said in a CNN interview that the shooter was “more of a liberal type.” There were no other reports of his political affiliation.

Politicians were the victims of a couple of recent shooting rampages that weren’t on our list of 19 mass shootings.

In 2017, 66-year-old James Thomas Hodgkinson shot and injured six people at a congressional baseball game in Virginia — nearly killing House Majority Whip Steve Scalise. Hodgkinson volunteered for the presidential campaign of Democrat Bernie Sanders and apparently targeted the Republican team.

In 2011, 22-year-old Jared Lee Loughner opened fire in Tucson at an event hosted by Rep. Gabby Giffords, an Arizona Democrat. Loughner killed six and injured 13 others, including Giffords. Authorities reported that he was obsessed with Giffords.

ABC News falsely reported that James Holmes, who killed 12 people in Colorado in 2012, was a member of the conservative tea party. ABC apologized for the error. Breitbart News reported that Holmes may have been a registered Democrat, but also walked back that claim. Holmes’ political affiliation was never verified.

Fake news websites claimed Devin Patrick Kelley, who killed 26 people in a Texas church last year, was linked to anti-fascist groups. PolitiFact debunked that claim.

Websites made the same claim about Las Vegas shooter Stephen Craig Paddock. We debunked that, too. Paddock wasn’t registered to vote and his family said he didn’t have strong political views, according to a report from Fox News.

There were also claims that Adam Lanza, who killed 20 people at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012, was a Democrat. He was not registered to vote, according to the Washington Post.

Most recently, our friends at Snopes debunked the claim that Nikolas Cruz, who allegedly killed 17 people at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, was a Democrat. A search of Florida’s voter database yielded no results for Cruz’s party affiliation.

There was no reporting on the political leanings of the other 11 shooters.

Admittedly, that’s anecdotal. But that’s a function of the fact that, while mass shootings seem so maddeningly common, they’re extremely rare events in the grand scheme of things.

Mass shooters are rarely motivated by a political agenda, experts told us.

Mass shootings are often perpetrated by young men who are socially isolated or have a mental illness, experience a trauma or conflict that sends them reeling emotionally, and have easy access to guns, said Alan Lipman, professor at George Washington University Medical Center and founder of the Center for the Study of Violence.

“Their motives are almost always, without exception, nonpolitical. And they don’t describe themselves as having a particular political motivation,” Lipman said.

Some — like Dylann Roof, who killed nine people at a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in 2015 — might channel their rage at a specific group of people, said James Alan Fox, criminologist at Northeastern University and author of “Extreme Killing: Understanding Serial and Mass Murder.” But that doesn’t mean they’re acting on a Republican or Democratic mission, he said.

“Very few are motivated by any sort of political agenda in terms in parties. They might be anti-gay or anti-black or anti-white. You could argue those are political, I guess,” he said.

Even then, those beliefs are often born out of personal vendettas — not political propaganda, said Katherine Ramsland, professor of psychology at DeSales University.

“Look at Stephen Paddock. We don’t know his motive,” Ramsland said of the Las Vegas shooter. “Devin Kelly — his political affiliation is secondary to his family disputes and need for payback. I just think it’s overly simplistic to align a mass shooter’s influence with a political ideology unless it’s clear from the shooter that this was his (or her) driving issue.”

Other experts reacted similarly to the assertion that shooters tend to have common political beliefs.

“Most of the school shooters are children who wouldn’t know a conservative from a communist,” said Jack Levin, Northeastern professor and co-director of the Brudnick Center on Violence and Conflict. “The idea of associating politics with these mass murders is absurd. It has absolutely nothing to do with it.”

Lipman agreed: “There is absolutely no evidence to show that mass killings are motivated by political ideologies of any type. All of the mass killings we’ve seen have been motivated by a lethal combination of a small subgroup of mental illnesses, and easy accessibility to weapons of mass killing during the peak symptomatology of those illnesses.”

That said, the more defensible argument is that Republicans are a much greater obstacle than Democrats to solving the immediate problem of too many guns in the hands of too many people who ought not have them. But even there it’s not quite the slam dunk Democrats want it to be. An April 2021 Pew study (“Amid a Series of Mass Shootings in the U.S., Gun Policy Remains Deeply Divisive“) shows that, while Republicans are indeed considerably more opposed to most “gun control” measures than Democrats, even Republicans support some measures. For example, 85% of Republicans surveyed support “Preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns” and 70% support “Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.” To be sure, even higher percentages of Democrats support these measures.

The bottom line is that, while I find Tucker Carlson’s white supremacist crap loathsome and condemn it as poisonous to the public discourse, he has more than 3 million viewers. Approximately zero of them go out and murder people. Even if it turns out both of this weekend’s shooters were avid fans of the show—or, mutatis mutandis, huge Donald Trump supporters—rather clearly the explanatory variable is something else.

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James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. Cheryl Rofer says:

    When you’re in a hole, James, stop digging.

    The shooter left an explicit manifesto saying that yes he is a white supremacist. Yes he traveled two hundred miles to kill black people. Many of the words of the manifesto echo the words of other mass killers. Many of the words of the manifesto echo the words of Republican Senators and Representatives.

    I seriously recommend reading Heather Cox Richardson’s history lessons. Here’s the one for yesterday.

    These observations are not partisan, although I do use the word “Republican.” Show me where Democrats have pushed the Great Replacement, and I’ll agree that the problem is on the famous (or infamous) both sides.

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  2. Mikey says:

    The bottom line is that, while I find Tucker Carlson’s white supremacist crap loathsome and condemn it as poisonous to the public discourse, he has more than 3 million viewers. Approximately zero of them go out and murder people.

    I’m sure the relatives of those murdered in Buffalo will be pleased to learn approximately zero people would ever do such a thing. What are they so upset about, anyway? Statistically speaking, their loved ones aren’t even dead!

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  3. charon says:

    According to this literature (see, for example, Capellan et al., 2019; Duwe, 2020), the perpetrators of mass public shootings in the United States have been overwhelmingly male (98 percent) and are most commonly non-Hispanic White (61 percent).

    Political or not, we have only one party that is vigorously pushing misogynist white supremacy policies.

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  4. OzarkHillbilly says:

    I just think it’s overly simplistic to align a mass shooter’s influence with a political ideology unless it’s clear from the shooter that this was his (or her) driving issue.”

    I think she is putting the cart before the horse. For instance the Buffalo shooter was definitely motivated by racism, and one party consistently aligns itself with people who share that ideology. We may not be able to say that Gendron was a Republican, but he is brethren to the Proud Boys, who let’s not forget were embraced by a former GOP president.

    For example, 85% of Republicans surveyed support “Preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns” and 70% support “Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.”

    I wonder how many of those Republicans are elected officials. 1? 2? 4? I can’t remember the last time I heard an elected Republican speak in favor of either of those measures.

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  5. Modulo Myself says:

    It’s almost like there are other ways to harm people than mass shootings, and that the most of the shooters are disturbingly familiar characters. American racial history is basically a documentation of every cruel thing one can do another person while at the same time being totally normal and not at all a psychopath. Carlson, Fox, and the GOP have gone all in on sexual and racial hysteria, which is basically a license not to understand anything about the real world, and then do what you want. This guy is just at the margins of respectability. I mean, Glenn Greenwald was on Tucker last week talking about how death threats are a safety valve. If the fucking guy whose show it is agreeing that yeah, my show and the GOP are pornographic fantasies you are admitting a lot.

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  6. Cheryl Rofer says:

    From Pete Buttigieg:

    This would be a good day for every politician in this country [&] media figure in this country, left right & center, to come out & unequivocally condemn white nationalism, so-called ‘replacement theory,’ & any other hateful ideology that could have contributed to this.

    James, give me an equivalent quote from a Republican. Liz Cheney has said it. Any others?

    I’ll wait.

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  7. charon says:

    There is a really good piece, with several linkies up at LGM:

    https://www.lawyersgunsmoneyblog.com/2022/05/the-passing-of-the-white-race-2

    https://www.newyorker.com/news/q-and-a/making-sense-of-the-racist-mass-shooting-in-buffalo

    The New Yorker piece is Isaac Chotiner:

    Making Sense of the Racist Mass Shooting in Buffalo

    An expert on the white-power movement and the “great replacement” theory puts the act of terror in context.

    By Isaac Chotiner

    May 15, 2022

    2
  8. KM says:

    Mental illness and crazy are not the same thing – as a society we need to get better in distinguishing between when someone is genuinely ill with a diagnosable condition and when they are hateful but still within the bounds of normal human behavior. Unfortunately racism isn’t a mental illness but a learned behavior. Political extremism isn’t a mental illness but a learned behavior. Being willing to kill for your belief is about as human as it gets, thankfully uncommon but not as abnormal as people like to think.

    “Poisonous to the public discourse” is how you learn this kind of behavior. It gets instilled in you and reinforced constantly. Terrorists in the ME hear daily about how they should hate who the leaders hate and what a good thing it would be if something bad were to happen. Listeners then go out to make it happen. Terrorists at home listen to FOX blather on daily about how they should hate who the TV people hate and what a good thing it would be if something bad were to happen. Why should we expect a different outcome?

    People like Carlson are active cancer cells in our nation’s bloodstream, spreading their disease to the most vulnerable areas hoping it takes root. Metastasizing is how you go from a small tumor in your lung (terrible but treatable) to Stage IV brain and colon cancer. Evil allowed to spread begets greater evil and frankly, even one is enough. One person can kills dozens or more if they want to. One person can take down a plane or a stadium or even a government if we’re unlucky enough. Bin Laden was “poisonous to the public discourse” and we got 9/11. Trump was “poisonous to the public discourse” and we got 1/6 and 4 years of various tragedies and messes. Carlson’s count is Buffalo for now but who to say there won’t be more? One is more than enough to take action and demand accountability.

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  9. Sleeping Dog says:

    Carlson isn’t off the hook for spreading and popularizing the vile concept of Replacement Theory. Replacement Theory and akin concepts have been around for a long time, first becoming popular with with the late 19th century “mob” that arose to blame “the other” for issues in European society, in reaction to the imperialism of European nation states. And of course, it was used by Hitler and Stalin to tragic effect. In the US it has long existed in the fringes of the far right and left.

    Sunday, 1 was killed and 4 were wounded at church favored by Taiwanese. A question yesterday was, is this another hate crime pertetrated against Asians? It turns out that the perp is Asian, eliminating a white supremisist angle.

    Carlson, a major network pundit endorsing Replacement Theory lends it legitimacy and creedence to it. Because of Carlson, it has become a routine talking point in a broad section of the R party, with the #3 R in the HoR, Elsie Stefanik, promoting it either the day of or day before the Buffalo shootings.

    Yes, the given party affiliation of any mass murderer is meaningless, but deep connection to groups and other individuals that casually advocate violence to achieve political ends are a clear indicator that a perpetrator has a political agenda in carrying out his actions.

    For Gendron, his manifesto and statements to authorities, clearly show a political dimension.

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  10. DK says:

    …he has more than 3 million viewers. Approximately zero of them go out and murder people.

    Hitler’s supporters didn’t actually need to work in a concentration camp to have helped murder Jews.

    100% of Tucker Carlson’s fans condone, enable, and legitimize Tucker Carlson’s white supremacy by the mere fact of their fandom.

    When are y’all going to stop making excuses for those who, with votes and views, empower far right extremism? What more has to happen before the rationalization stops?

    From a McCain voter: to anyone still voting Republican, you are not just part of the problem, you are the problem. You are a complicit, selfish enabler of radical right ultra-MAGA extremism, hatred, bigotry, anti-blackness, anti-Semitism, homophobia, transphobia, misogyny, white nationalism, and white supremacist violence. There’s just no excuse anymore. So just stop looking for a way out of who and what your vote proves you are, and own it.

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  11. DK says:

    For example, 85% of Republicans surveyed support “Preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns” and 70% support “Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.”

    So 70-85% of Republicans are useless phonies. What else is new?

    Talk is cheap. Blah blah blah.

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  12. Modulo Myself says:

    For example, 85% of Republicans surveyed support “Preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns” and 70% support “Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.” To be sure, even higher percentages of Democrats support these measures.

    Oh yeah, mental illness, that’s a real popular topic amongst Americans, especially when it comes to teens. Let’s just get some trained mental health professionals to talk to some kids in the bleakest Christianized gun-nut places in America and see what happens. Lmao–I’m trying to imagine the Republicans who think they own their children happily being like, ah yes this therapist wants to ask my kid about their relationship with me.

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  13. SKI says:

    When seeking to apply lessons from an academic paper or study, you first have to figure out what facts are present or absent in your patient/situation or in the study that makes the study either a good fit or inapposite.

    Random mass shootings are indeed not a partisan issue. For example, we don’t know the motives for the church shooting yesterday in Laguna Woods and shouldn’t presume political motivation.

    BUT

    That isn’t true of Buffalo or Tree of Life or Christchurch or El Paso. In those mass killings we *know* the killers’ motives and it is explicitly white Christian nationalism.

    C’mon James…

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  14. Argon says:

    @DK: So 70-85% of Republicans are useless phonies. What else is new?

    Despite the apparent polling preferences of that party, close to 0% of their Federal, elected representatives would push for those restrictions. In fact, they’ve chosen just the opposite. Clearly the loudest yappers control the party, not the ‘allegedly reasonable’ ones that nonetheless keep voting the crazies in…

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  15. Sleeping Dog says:

    That 70-85% or Rs would favor some form of gun control is a meaningless statistic. Yeah, XYZ gun control proposal is a good idea, but it doesn’t effect they way they’ll vote. Dems have tried peeling some of those voters away from the Rs without success. Where they have had success in flipping Rs, usually in the suburbs, it has been the result broader social issuses where the Dems are much closer to whre the voter is culturally.

    There are no, or damn few, single issue voters for gun control.

    5
  16. Jay L Gischer says:

    I think of mass shootings as kind of a consequence of atomization. Certain men, particularly young men, can have a very hard time making social connections. Social connections, it turns out, serve to help mitigate and diffuse feelings of distress, shame, despair, and resentment.

    Although, there’s a lot of young men who are socially isolated and don’t become spree killers. So that’s not much of a predictive variable.

    Now, it turns out that the alt-right has a considerable recruitment funnel, and Tucker Carlson is not that important of a element in it, because being a broadcast show, it’s pretty vague and impersonal. Whereas forums, Facebook, Twitter and also YouTube can get a lot more personal, can give personalized feedback, behavioral training in the form of rewards and punishments, and a (often false) sense of social connection.

    I’ve been around enough mentally ill people to not put a lot of faith into what they say about why they did something. Often, they don’t know, and the question “why” becomes a platform for them to vent words that mean something but are often dissociated a bit.

    I suggest those of you who write fiction take a peek at something one of these guys has written, and ask yourself what it would mean if you had put some of these things in the mouths of one of your characters. It doesn’t always land like an “evil speech of evil”, though it can be close.

    Eric Harris was a psychopath, but Dylan Klebold was not, and Klebold is the kind of guy I’m talking about, and the dynamic I describe took place not via social media but between Harris and Klebold.

    As a society, we are much much better at dealing with mental illness and emotional distress than we were in the day of Charles Whitman. However, we need to get better. In some ways, I think the traditional masculine role – particularly the “admit no weakness” thing – serves a role in isolating these men and making them vulnerable.

    You might wonder why I display so much empathy for mass killers. That’s because I think the only way to change a phenomenon is to first understand it, and I don’t think we understand this.

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  17. Modulo Myself says:

    I think of mass shootings as kind of a consequence of atomization. Certain men, particularly young men, can have a very hard time making social connections. Social connections, it turns out, serve to help mitigate and diffuse feelings of distress, shame, despair, and resentment.

    There are many weird lonely people out there who deal with atomization and loneliness without going on a shooting spree. They just don’t need what a person who ends up writing 150 pages about white replacement theory needs. There’s a paradox here, I think, in that attempting to make a world more amiable for people who are weird lonely people we have made it worse for lonely conformists. More importantly, should we try to create a world that’s more amiable for rigid conformists? I don’t think there’s a clear answer to that question.

    1
  18. Michael Reynolds says:

    1) We have no reliable way to predict who will turn killer.
    2) Even if we were able to diagnose in advance, what would be able to do about it? Force treatment? How effective would that be. Involuntarily commit tens of thousands of people?
    3) The common feature in mass shootings is not politics or ideology, it is not mental illness, it is guns.

    It’s the guns. The one thing you absolutely need in order to carry out mass-shooting: guns. The problem is obvious, the solution is obvious, it is a problem we could absolutely deal with, were it not for politics.

    If you own an arsenal it is because you are contemplating murder. You aren’t hunting. You aren’t defending your home. You are contemplating murder.

    How to eliminate mass shootings? Get guns out of civilian hands. Period. Problem solved.

    13
  19. DK says:

    @Argon:

    Despite the apparent polling preferences of that party, close to 0% of their Federal, elected representatives would push for those restrictions. In fact, they’ve chosen just the opposite. Clearly the loudest yappers control the party, not the ‘allegedly reasonable’ ones that nonetheless keep voting the crazies in…

    Because it’s a bunch of phony kabuki theater: hardly any Republicans vote on policy, they vote on resentment and grievance. So the elected representatives know that those polls are useless bunk, that thanks to the culture war the reasonables are lockstep with the deplorables, explicitly or subconsciously.

    GQP electeds know what they’re *really* there for: to keep the coloreds, feminists, and queers in our place (but with requisite respectability politics plausible deniability) and to give the conservative base someone to scapegoat for their general unhappiness, fear of change, and anger at life.

    “I’ll tell you what’s at the bottom of it. If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.”
    – President Lyndon Baines Johnson, ~60ish years ago. He was right on that score then, and little has changed about it since.

    Nearly half of our country is spiritually sick, and they are buttressed by a broken political system that gives them disproportionate power, and by horrifically awful and radical Supreme Court. Only time will solve this problem, and only thanks to a historically liberal, historically diverse, historically large youth cohort.

    5
  20. Michael Reynolds says:

    I suspect the role of ideology in this case was to define the target. Madness first, enabled by guns, target picked by belief system. That does not in any way exempt the Tucker Carlson’s of the world, but I would guess that their effect comes earlier, in helping to motivate people to acquire arsenals in the first place.

    Incidentally the White replacement theory was quite popular on the Left, just with very different emphasis. We’ve been suggesting for some time that the US was about to become a White minority country and that this would give us political power. In reality Black fertility rates are fairly close to White rates, (1775 per 100K vs. 1610) with both declining slowly over time. Given that Blacks have more than twice the rate of infant mortality, the idea of Blacks (~12% of the total) ‘replacing’ Whites, (~60%) is nonsense. Population growth is being driven – barely – by immigration and Hispanics.

    If one really wished to cut the Black or Hispanic rate further, education, women’s liberation and prosperity do the job effectively.

    7
  21. gVOR08 says:

    What @Michael Reynolds: said. The solution to mass shootings by crazy white boys is to get the guns out of their hands. The solution to mass shootings by people other than crazy white boys is to get the guns out of their hands. Mass shootings are the tip of the iceberg. The solution to Black gang shootings is to get the guns out of their hands. Shootings by spouses, get the guns out of their hands. Accidental shootings, get the guns out of their hands. Gun suicides, get the guns out of their hands. Cops would still shoot unarmed victims, but there’d be a lot less even of that if they didn’t think everybody they met had a gun.

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  22. KM says:

    @Michael Reynolds:
    No. Bothsiderism doesn’t help here, nor does distorting what Great Replacement Theory means.

    Replacement theory is the notion it’s being done on purpose, not just the natural outcome of several decades long trends. GRT is the suspicion that what you see happening around you is part of a nefarious plan instead of the logical endpoint – in other words a paranoid conspiracy theory. Liberals are pointing out trends and extrapolating from them in a somewhat optimistic way but conservatives are making an imaginary master plan to push them out.

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  23. mistermix says:

    The bottom line is that, while I find Tucker Carlson’s white supremacist crap loathsome and condemn it as poisonous to the public discourse, he has more than 3 million viewers. Approximately zero of them go out and murder people. Even if it turns out both of this weekend’s shooters were avid fans of the show—or, mutatis mutandis, huge Donald Trump supporters—rather clearly the explanatory variable is something else.

    This is a simplistic view of the influence of right-wing hate, as well as a lack of understanding of the kind of poison we’re talking about. The poison isn’t like the stuff Putin uses to kill his opponents — it’s like living downstream from a West Virginia coal mine leaching heavy metals into the water supply. Everyone exposed to the poison is affected to some degree. Some of them are so affected that they go out and kill others.

    So, when you single out Tucker Carlson, and imagine that we’d have to show that the Buffalo killer would have to be an avid viewer to link his behavior to Carlson’s show, you ignore the obvious fact that Carlson’s rhetoric has been adopted by pretty much the entire current Republican Party (including the #3 member of Republican House leadership, Elise Stefanik). They all believe it, and it isn’t surprising that some weak minds latch onto it and go beyond hating to killing.

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  24. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    For example, 85% of Republicans surveyed support “Preventing people with mental illness from purchasing guns” and 70% support “Making private gun sales and sales at gun shows subject to background checks.”

    What the Republican electorate supports, and what Republican politicians support is NOT the same.
    Most Republicans (61%) support Roe-Wade but Republican politicians just ended it anyway.
    Most Republicans (54%) support taxing the rich, but Republican politicians still think trickle-down economics work.
    The problem is not Republicans, but the corrupt politicians they elect.

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  25. KM says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    The problem is not Republicans, but the corrupt politicians they elect.

    And yet they keep re-electing them. There’s definitely a problem with Republicans – they’ll put into power terrible people who don’t do what the majority of Republicans want rather than vote for a Dem who will. Pulling the (R) lever and reflexively defending the tribe or minimizing the damage being down as our host has is the core problem to overcome.

    We get the government we deserve when the majority of Repubs keep sending back the same corruption simply based on branding and have no plans to change. They are enablers, not victims.

    4
  26. charon says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    We’ve been suggesting for some time that the US was about to become a White minority country and that this would give us political power. In reality Black fertility rates are fairly close to White rates, (1775 per 100K vs. 1610) with both declining slowly over time.

    What you are overlooking is that large proportions of Asian and Latino young people are marrying white, mixed race is growing rapidly at the expense of pure white.

    2
  27. DaveD says:

    Forget it with the mental health BS. People with a mental illness are far more likely to hurt themselves than go shoot up a grocery store they have been casing for weeks. And if you say only a person with a mental illness would shoot up a grocery store it does a disservice to those of us that live with neurodivergence.

    2
  28. Michael Reynolds says:

    @KM:
    We spent years talking about how demographic change would give us power. No? How is that not the flip side of their racist take on demographic change? They and we agree that Whites are a declining majority. Right? We spin it one way, they spin it another way. I don’t for a moment deny that their take is evil and ours is not, but it is the same misinterpretation of demographic reality and the same conclusion: less power for Whites.

    Somewhat off-topic rant: At the risk of yet again claiming an ‘I told everyone so,’ moment, yes, when I started hearing the Democratic side of that demographic salvation argument I cringed, because I understand how backlash works. An understanding sorely lacking on our side, because we like to think we are the wave of progress and the arc of history blah blah blah. Then I started looking at the actual numbers. I started pointing out to people that predictions of non-white majorities by X date ignored the fact that the voter base would take another 18 date X to tip and we were getting way out over our skis. And that we were taking for granted that we owned the growing minorities, which we did not.

    I sat my trans daughter down in 2015 when she came out and predicted that trans acceptance was the ragged end of the wave, and we’d be looking at a fierce blowback which we should be prepared for. Why do you think I’m so eternally pissed at progressives making enemies unnecessarily and wasting resources and time and money and public patience on irrelevant bullshit? Every fucking time I complain about ham-handed arrogance on the Left – and get beat up as a traitor to the holy cause – it’s because I know that pendulums swing both ways, and with a trans daughter, and a Chinese daughter, I have skin in this game. I don’t like losing ground I don’t have to lose. Frankly IMO a chimpanzee should have been able to read the trend lines and see that we were at the end of what we could get and should dig in and prepare for the counterattack. Well, we didn’t, did we? And what’s happening now? We’re getting our asses kicked.

    Democrats need to study less social justice theory and more military history. On, oh, let’s say a million occasions, an army succeeded in advancing and rushed triumphantly into a counter-attack. This ain’t news. This is not a revelation. This is Genghis 101. You don’t get cocky, you don’t over-extend, because when you do you get flanked and then you’re fucked. Which is where we are now. And now I’m 67 and afraid of the world I’m leaving my kids. I honest to God don’t know how people didn’t see this coming.

    1
  29. Assad K says:

    When people start talking about mental illness listeners will start thinking about psychotics or schizophrenics and tar them with the same brush as the perpetrator.. However, people who are psychotic or schizophrenic do not meticulously plan out their murder spree and have actual arguments for why they are doing what they are doing – if they do kill someone it’s pretty disorganized. This person is obviously a psychopath and as such far more difficult to treat.

    1
  30. Gustopher says:

    @Assad K:

    This person is obviously a psychopath and as such far more difficult to treat.

    Do we have any evidence of him being a psychopath?

    He’s just as likely not. He could just be a loser who knows he’s not going to amount to anything, feeling impotent, looking for a reason, and latching onto one. And, one that gives him the opportunity to try to make something of himself by “being a man” and shooting some black people.

    He’s a teenager. Emotions are turned up to 11 by default.

    The difference between him and any other troubled kid is likely just access to guns, right wing propaganda, and likely people online welcoming him when he parrots the propaganda.

    Claiming he has some super special mental illness is a defense mechanism to avoid the real horror — he probably doesn’t. Pour racist shit into a white boy, shake, and take away their belief in a better future, and you have a monster. There are a lot of monsters out there.

    4
  31. DK says:

    @Assad K: Speaking as someone degreed in clinical psychology, I don’t think it’s necessarily obvious (yet) that this individual meets the diagnostic criteria for antisocial personality disorder. He may be a fairly average, anxious, maladjusted teenage boy who was radicalized online before developing the coping skills to become your average, anxious, disappointed adult. And as such, far more difficult for society to stomach.

    Society wants to believe all mass killers are Norman Bates. The reality — that evil is often banal and normal, turning on mere circumstance and much closer to us than we think — can be even more frightening.

    4
  32. DaveD says:

    @Gustopher: And that was what I was trying to say above less well. These people are your run of the mill assholes full stop. It wasn’t mental illness as much as you want a scapegoat. There are just shitty people that do shitty things. It sucks that the right wing talking point about mental health gets trucked out with every spree shooting because they repeated the lie enough the left is willing to parrot it. It’s access to guns. Until I see proof of mental illness this guy is just an asshole and claiming anything other right off the bat gives them a bullshit excuse for committing heinous crimes.

    2
  33. Gustopher says:

    @KM:

    Replacement theory is the notion it’s being done on purpose, not just the natural outcome of several decades long trends. GRT is the suspicion that what you see happening around you is part of a nefarious plan instead of the logical endpoint – in other words a paranoid conspiracy theory.

    Loser boy didn’t shoot the people orchestrating the nefarious grand replacement theory. Either he is dumb, or he doesn’t really believe it — it just gives him an excuse to shoot people he thinks of as beneath him.

    Much of his manifesto is copied and pasted from previous manifestos. It’s not original work, and if he turned it in for his Racist Manifestos 101 class, he would get an F for plagiarism.

    He’s half-assing it.

    I’m not saying that he should be shooting up a synagogue — if he’s going to shoot anyone, it should be himself — but if he really believed the Jews were behind it all, that’s a much better target. And if they are too well protected, there are always bagel shops.

    Unless this is just another example of Americans being unable to confront the more powerful. For instance, it’s always anger at the foreigners for taking our jobs that spills over into violence, never anger with the owners for hiring the foreigners.

    I guess what I’m saying is that our violent, stupid, angry underclass needs to get a bit more class consciousness.

    No, that’s not it. I just don’t think this loser kid really believes Half the shit in his manifesto. He just wanted to hurt people and feel powerful, because men are powerful. But he doesn’t even have enough power to have some self control.

    3
  34. DK says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    How is that not the flip side of their racist take on demographic change?

    Yeah, no. Recognizing demographic change and welcoming that increasing diversity as a net positive for all Americans no matter their skin color is not the “flip side” of believing Jews are running a global cabal to control the West by destroying white Christians and replacing them with black and brown migrants.

    Those are two totally different coins. Or rather, a coin and Monopoly money smeared with dog poo and set on fire.

    Bothsidesism needs to join GRT in the dustbin. Something is very wrong with American brains. Too much processed food, maybe?

    10
  35. Gustopher says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Frankly IMO a chimpanzee should have been able to read the trend lines and see that we were at the end of what we could get and should dig in and prepare for the counterattack. Well, we didn’t, did we? And what’s happening now? We’re getting our asses kicked.

    The trend lines have generally been in our favor long term.

    I don’t think anyone expected it would all be flowers and rainbows — of course there would be backlash and in a country with 2 mass shootings a day that means some dead people. And, regrettably, it’s always the most vulnerable.

    I’m more worried about the Supreme Court and a Republican Party embracing QAnon and rejecting democracy than I am about out twice daily mass shootings and hate crimes.

    Mass shootings are just baked into America at this point. As American as apple pie.

    1
  36. DK says:

    @Gustopher: Yeah, I don’t get the whole “We didn’t see this coming” bit.

    Hillary Cassandra Clinton has thoughts on that.

    4
  37. gVOR08 says:

    Political Wire and others have linked to the shooters “manifesto”. On page 3/180 he has self portraits with a caption

    The truth is my personal life and experiences are of no value. I am simply a White man seeking to protect and serve my community, my people, my culture, and my race.

    A textbook articulation of the state of mind totalitarians want to instill. And the guy did it to himself.

    2
  38. Gustopher says:

    @gVOR08:

    Political Wire and others have linked to the shooters “manifesto”.

    I really wish they wouldn’t do that. Giving him a voice without framing it in mockery is exactly what the loser wants.

    On page 3/180 he has self portraits with a caption

    180 pages? Dude needs to learn to edit. At least the loser destroyed his own arguments by making them too long to read.

    I skimmed chunks of his manifesto, and it really reminded me of James Damore’s memo about Google’s horrifying multiculturalism and how women are inferior programmers because they were the gatherers and not the hunters.

    They’re both people who see themselves as failures and blame others. And can’t edit. And get caught up in pseudoscience and alt-right bullshit. It’s just run of the mill mediocre.

    Also this loser includes his Myer-Brigg’s scoring — INTJ, which isn’t interesting, except he was 100% on introverted. That’s not someone who is actually introverted, that’s someone who is defining themself as introverted and is deliberately answering that way to avoid dealing with the fact that no one likes him.

    What a fucking loser.

    (Aside: if I ever write a manifesto, it will either be under three pages, or have an abstract with a bulleted list… I should edit my resume down, now that I think about it)

    2
  39. grumpy realist says:

    This idiot is the epitome of someone looking for someone weaker to take out his frustrations on. A man-boy who didn’t have the courage to confront his own demons and thought grabbing a gun would solve everything.

    1
  40. Hal_10000 says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    If you own an arsenal it is because you are contemplating murder. You aren’t hunting. You aren’t defending your home. You are contemplating murder.

    Less than one in a thousand weapons will be ever be used to take a life. Less than one in a million assault weapons will be used in a mass shooting. And a plurality of those are in the hands of collectors.

    There’s been some good writing on these mass shooting as a social phenomenon, a sort of equivalent the hijacking spree of the 60s or the serial killer spree of the 70’s and 80’s. A lot of these guys organize, plan online, encourage each other. No one wants to talk about this aspect of it because it’s not clear what to do about it.

    1
  41. Kari Q says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    My cousin owns an arsenal because he thinks guns are really cool and wants a lot of them. I think it’s a poor choice on his part, but he is not contemplating murder. You will not meet a happier, more cheerful person. Kind, helpful, great father to two girls. He just loves his guns.

    This is not to be taken as an anti-gun control post. I’m strongly in favor of fewer guns and more control over who can get them, etc. But figuring out who is going to be the murderer is, unfortunately, not as easy as “the guy who has a lot of guns.”

    1
  42. Ken_L says:

    I doubt many white men have a linear reasoning process that goes “Tucker Carlson has convinced me that a Great Replacement is under way, therefore I will go and kill some minorities”. I imagine most mass shooters, like this one, think media celebrities suck. No, the damage done by the right-wing propagandists is more insidious; it’s the constant insistence that America is under threat. That evil forces in the darkness are gathering to destroy the nation, and it is time to Take America Back. Online communities offer a rich menu of choices about the identity of these sinister actors. Muslims, Blacks, liberals, Asians, Jews, illegal immigrants – pick the one that best suits your personal prejudices. The point is that there’s a crisis – America Alone as Mark Steyn put it – and faced with a crisis, Patriots are willing to fight! Meaning kill some of the preferred sinister actors.

    So are Carlson et al. directly responsible for individual crimes? No. But do they deliberately create a culture on the right where it is inevitable that impressionable and/or unbalanced white men will feel compelled to resort to violence? Yes.

  43. charon says:

    Bottom line, mass shooters have a variety of motivations. Some sort of bigotry such as racism or misogyny is often involved, but sometimes not. Same for mental illness.

    How complicated is that?

  44. Assad K says:

    @DK:

    You and @Gustopher are of course correct.. what I should have said was that if he is anything, he is a psychopath – but of course I can’t say that at this time.

    1
  45. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kari Q: Please send Luddite your cousin’s address. He’s always looking for stocks of weapons that will become available when the bad times come. He feels that storing his weapons caches in other people’s houses is safer than building a stockpile of his own.