General Question

Blackwater_Park's avatar

What is the motivation behind all of these mass shooters?

Asked by Blackwater_Park (5957points) 4 weeks ago

What’s causing them to do these things? Not asking how, asking why. This in general and I’m not asking about guns. I’m asking what you think their motivations are.

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64 Answers

Tropical_Willie's avatar

Crazies don’t need motivation !

Jeruba's avatar

I doubt that one motive would apply to all, or even, say, one of four or five options. I can’t relate to their mindset, but I can think of numerous possibilities, ranging from wanting to feel important for once to a wish for suicide by cop.

gorillapaws's avatar

With 100 different shooters you’d probably find close to 100 different reasons. Mass killing isn’t a new phenomena. What is new is the amount of carnage the average person can produce (but we’re not talking about that here). The term “running amok” comes from the Malaysian culture where someone snaps, killing as many people as possible and the term has been documented back to at least the 1670’s.

eyesoreu's avatar

Their whole lives are a void, dreadful deeds fill that gaping hole.

LadyMarissa's avatar

According to Tucker Carlson, it’s men having to put up with women.

kruger_d's avatar

The internet is allowing all these guys to find each other and rant their darkest and most terrifying thoughts for which they are praised and encouraged. They are likely also finding darker corners of gun culture.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

This is a valuable question, and I know there are people who are actively studying this. I’m sure they can give information about general patterns that mass shooters share.

I know that I heard a report on NPR in relation to the latest shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. An expert said that mass shooters share a love of violence. I don’t think that is a new thing to our times. I think there have been people before who revered violence, but they didn’t have access to weapons to wreak such extreme havoc. It is the ease of access to semi-automatic guns that is new.

No doubt there are more traits that mass shooters have in common. I’m unaware of what they may be.

janbb's avatar

As I said on another post here recently, a former Jelly has hypothesized that many of these young mean suffer from Fetal Alcohol Syndrome. Apparently there are certain physical and developmental characteristics that can be determined for this. There has also been some research done positing this connection.

RedDeerGuy1's avatar

My guess is that they don’t have much of a future. Or they don’t think that they do. Everything is a catastrophe at 18.

Mental health supports are severely lacking. I am grateful for in Canada I can afford the $40 a month for a student psychologist on my disability income. However my medication are paid and I have a roof over my head and the freedom to play with a stipend for food and internet, and one or two books from Amazon.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@gorillapaws It kind of is new though. At least in the last 25 years or so. What changed? It’s like every week now.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

Here is the NPR story.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I think it could be a combination of things, I pointed out that they are desensitized to violence, they don’t fit in with their peers, they want to be infamous , even down to Fetal Alcohol Syndrome,and it being so easy to obtain a gun .
What I don’t get do they know or care they are throwing their life away with this action,plus wrecking so many others lives in the process.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

I think it’s a combination of factors too but… it’s a recent phenomena. At least at this magnitude. That NPR article seemed to zero in on extremists and terrorism. They say that Crimo did not fit the mold, but I disagree. I think he fits it perfectly, young, white, male, unsuccessful, poor family and social life, probably desperate for attention, mentally ill and crying for help with no hope in sight, frustrated with the opposite sex, reasonably intelligent but with a screw loose like with autism or asperger’s. I thought this was particularly telling.

Demosthenes's avatar

@Blackwater_Park It’s also different in that the previous mass shooter archetype was the disgruntled worker who’d been fired killing all his co-workers. That type of shooting still occurs (famous example in San Jose a few years ago), but the “disillusioned young male” archetype seems to be the most common now.

smudges's avatar

What I don’t get do they know or care they are throwing their life away with this action,plus wrecking so many others lives in the process.

Simply put, they don’t care about themselves, and they certainly don’t care about anyone else. Almost all of them suicide before being taken into custody.

I have to throw this out there, too – movies are getting more violent, with more inventive ways to accomplish said violence. I think that desensitizes everyone to an extent I know it has me, and to those prone to this type of thinking, it gives them new, better ideas to accomplish their violence.

WhyNow's avatar

I think that knowing you’ll be featured by the media, both social and mainstream
should be considered. Knowing you’ll get 15 minutes.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@smudges Have you watched movies in or from the 70’s? They were worse than they are now IMO. The violent movies and video games theory as one of the root causes has been debunked pretty conclusively.

smudges's avatar

@Blackwater_Park Yeah, I have. I don’t think they’re as violent as the ones out now. Maybe the ones now have violence on a larger scale; that might be why my thinking is that they are more. I definitely don’t think they were worse in the 70s.

WhyNow's avatar

@smudges Dressing like a women was kinda inventive.

smudges's avatar

@WhyNow Don’t know what you mean.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

Movies and video games are getting more graphic with the violence they portray.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

You absolutely cannot blame this on movies. Movies are international. They are shown all over the world. Video games are international. The same games are played all over the world. Other countries do not have mass shootings on the scale of the US. The difference is access to guns.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake While I agree Video Games and Movies have little to nothing to do with this, there is more going on with the Chemistry here in the states other than access to firearms. That access was here long before all of this started to happen. So that’s really off topic. I’m asking what changed to cause the sudden course change.

KNOWITALL's avatar

@Blackwater_Park That was a powerful story in your link. Thanks for sharing.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Blackwater_Park It’s not off topic. Mass shootings started in the early 2000s with the demise of the assault weapons ban instigated under Clinton. If they are more frequent now – if – it’s likely one more symptom of our national polarization.

kritiper's avatar

Hate. And suicide by cop.

Mimishu1995's avatar

I seem to notice that the recent shooters share the same story of “I went to the Internet and they taught me some extreme mindset that I totally agree on”. With the nature of the recent Internet, where every single thing, no matter how problematic it is, has a community, it contributes a lot to the rise of mass shooting we are seeing now. Sure, they are crazy in the first place. But seeing a subreddit dedicated to what they already want to believe give them the illusion that everyone thinks like them, and therefore what they are doing is totally justified.

Jeruba's avatar

I agree with @KNOWITALL: that man’s TED-style talk, in @Blackwater_Park‘s link above, is powerful. He says: “And when you have nothing to lose you can do anything, and that is a terrifying thought.” Maybe nothing to lose is what the shooters have in common.

Pandora's avatar

I think it is possibly primarily from either feeling empty inside or feeling too much. Both can drive people to lash out. Feeling empty can drive people to fill themselves with hate or jealousy. Feeling too much can cause some people overwhelming pain to the point they just snap. Both lead to despair and are also easily manipulated by society.

Jonsblond's avatar

I rarely agree with Bill Maher these days but…

America’s glorification of guns has a part in this.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

The ease of acquiring a firearm is not the main reason for these mass shooting, it probably is one of the numbers in the combination,but there is other things that set these shooters off into their horrific crime.

Jonsblond's avatar

^You are correct, but living in the U.S. gives these deranged young men access to the weapons.

They have the entertainment that shows them they are justified and they have the easy ACCESS to weapons that are meant for war, not hunting or protection.

filmfann's avatar

Most have claimed to be bullied in school.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

You have to focus on all the numbers in the combination not just the firearm.

HP's avatar

I believe we should regard it as but the current fashion. “It’s in” like the Charleston or pet rocks. As I keep repeating, we should have anticipated and expected it. We went through it before here in places where we allowed guns to accumulate willy nilly. Gunplay and massacres defined the settling of the West, gangland Chicago in the 20s, and have always been a way of life in every ghetto in this country. Their sheer abundance has always guaranteed their acquisition and utilization by our criminals. Americans are so pitifully ignorant of their own history that we walked around with the illusion that it is black and hispanic gangland defining irresponsible gunplay, but the truth is, Irish gangsters, Italian gangsters, Jewish gangsters, take your pick, EVERYBODY gets a turn in a land where guns outnumber the people.
It was simply a matter of time before the troubled, and deranged—those seeking attention caught on to the glut. Why throw yourself off a bridge or die inconspicuously swallowing pills, when you can garner nationwide attention and shine in the spotlight? And of course, the numbers now assure us that you can neither lockem all up or eliminate enough of them to check the ever accelerating death toll. Gun control? Too late.

canidmajor's avatar

I would like to hear more about what @janbb said about the studies being done about the high percentage of FAS in the shooters.

LostInParadise's avatar

I came across an interesting theory, but I don’t remember who said it. The idea is that the forms that insanity takes differs in time and place and that it is an indicator of problems within society. Those who go mad are just those who are most susceptible.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

The more I look at this the more it seems like it’s socially contagious. Susceptible people have a roadmap that shows how to go out with notoriety. Without that I don’t think it would be what it is today.

JLeslie's avatar

I think I read all of the links on this thread, they were very interesting.

In my opinion Maher seems to hit it that it’s the combination of four main reasons: access to guns, mental health, internet, and watching violence. Each element can be expanded upon.

The Ted talk (excellent and very informative) is talking about the mental health component a lot. When I was in my late teens I remember someone saying to me girls tend to get depressed, they turn their sadness inward, and become suicidal, men are more likely than women to turn it outwards and kill others. Not that men don’t commit suicide too, they actually do it much better than women statistically. Women are more likely to attempt suicide, men are more likely to accomplish it.

When I was a teenager my neighbor committed suicide. He was a teenager too, a little older than me. He put a gun in his mouth and pulled the trigger. He was an artist and drew a lot of “dark” drawings and he was into rock and heavy metal music. If the internet had been around in those days I wonder how his depression would have been carried out.

It’s so easy to be depressed as a teenager or young adult. Add in more than the usual sadness and pressures and it’s not hard to see how it can be overwhelming.

The Ted talk says don’t call the FBI, but instead reach out ti the person. This sounded like what @KNOWITALL and I were discussing on a recent Q of mine, that many of the white supremacist children feel ostracized. Seems to me the FBI maybe needs to be able to turn these children over to a program that can really help these kids. This man giving the Ted Talk said as a teenager he called social services for help, and it breaks my heart he was sent back to his destructive mother. He was trying to get help for himself. It was more than his mother though, it was his peers abusing him too.

I think these depressed abused kids are susceptible to trolls and terrorist groups, and those groups know it. In my opinion these depressed men are used as pawns to sacrifice their own life for the cause. I’ve said over and over again some of these groups want to destabilize the US. They have nothing to lose because their life has nothing good in their view, it’s all painful. Suicide will get them out of their pain. Killing others on the way out becomes attractive to some of them. Even January 6th I attribute to this same dynamic.

My solution is teaching empathy to children, finding out what really makes children unhappy and miserable, limiting access to guns, and limiting seeing details of violence in TV shows and movies. None of these things will be done perfectly no matter how hard we try.

@Hawaii_Jake The npr link talked about mental health and internet influences so I’m not sure why you want to put all the blame on access to guns. We have an opportunity right now to say to Republicans, “yes, let’s improve our mental health problems in our nation.” Let’s spend some money on improving social services, providing activities and more counselors for children, etc. I’m with you on limiting access to guns, but I would suggest don’t dig your heels in on only that, because wanting better mental health assistance is actually a liberal outcry for many years when Republicans have ignored it.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake The “assault weapon” ban in 1994 did absolutely nothing. It was not a ban of any sort when it came to things that mattered. It was clearly written by people who had no clue and was probably just intended as feel-good legislation. It only banned certain cosmetic features such as pistol grips and folding stocks. It also grandfathered pre-ban weapons. They were available before the ban, during the ban and after. It had no bearing on the activity of mass shooters whatsoever. We have to look deeper.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackwater_Park Why do you say the assault weapon ban did nothing? First of all, why does anyone need an assault weapon? Why are people so worried about limiting their access to easily buying them?

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@JLeslie I honestly think Maher is mostly wrong. There does not appear to be a causal link between violence in video games or movies. If you watched the last season of stranger things they did a great job of describing the satanic panic of the 1980’s. This could easily become the next unfounded moral panic. I also don’t think most of these shooters are mentally ill in a way that would show up on the DSM. I think they’re mostly just desperate and suicidal. There were a couple exceptions though.

Yeah, that ban in 1994 really did not do a thing. They tried to define “assault weapon” in that legislation when what makes a regular rifle an “assault rifle” is honestly just cosmetics. Pistol grips, folding stocks, flash hiders and bayonet mounts don’t change the operation of a firearm in any way. I don’t know how many times I have to say it. “Assault Weapon” is a media concoction. Going after assault weapons is like trying to catch a ghost. It does not actually exist. It’s like the word “tactical.” It’s meaningless. I bought a “tactical flashlight” on Amazon the other day. It’s just a black flashlight, there is nothing “tactical” about it. Real legislation would have to limit access to firearms across the board or put some barrier between would be shooters and not just single out a few scary looking ones. Waiting periods and permitting I think would help a lot.

Smashley's avatar

It seems to be a meme. A culturally understood method of lashing out against anything and everything. I think we can all identify with the desire to destroy when we’re faced with seemingly unstoppable realities. Combine that with lots and lots of guns, and we’re screwed. This will never stop happening, until the culture gives the killers something else to do, or we heavily expand the surveillance state.

I know mass shootings happened before, but pre-Columbine, it just wasn’t as fashionable. Killers more often targeted noteworthy people and obsessively worked to get to that individual, as a way of attaching their own name to that person’s fame. We still remember these people, Oswald, Hinkley jr, Squeaky, Champman, Ray.

It seems that as celebrities have locked down their own personal security, the unfulfilled crazy has spilled over into mostly soft targets, because they are much easier and still upset people at least 25% as much.

janbb's avatar

The Fatal Link: The Connection Between School Shooters and the Brain Damage from Prenatal Exposure to Alcohol Paperback – Illustrated, November 25, 2008
by Jody Allen Crowe (Author)is the book that I referenced above showing the connection between Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Disorder and mass shootings: Apparently there are journal articles on this too.

canidmajor's avatar

I couldn’t get your link to work, so here’s the one I found.
I would be very interested to read this.

janbb's avatar

I edited the post now; I couldn’t get the link right either.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

To say the assault weapons ban of the 90s did nothing is incorrect. Mass shootings began after it expired.

canidmajor's avatar

From the overview in the link:

”Crowe was a fifth grade student in Grand Rapids, Minnesota, when the first school shooting fatality in the nation occurred in 1966. When he graduated from high school, he was presented an award named for the administrator slain in the school shooting. After he became an educator, Crowe would compare what he knew about the Grand Rapids shooter with the other school shootings. When the Red Lake School shooting shocked the nation, Crowe realized the shooter had academic and behavioral patterns similar to the students from the reservation school where he had worked. The Red Lake shooter’s fourth grade picture showed evidence of fetal alcohol syndrome. The media reported the shooters mother was a severe alcoholic. Not once did the author see or hear any connection made in the media between the shooter’s actions and the evidence of fetal alcohol syndrome.

This spurred Crowe to begin looking into his hometown shooting that had happened nearly 40 years earlier. He was interested to see if that shooter displayed any of the same academic and social behaviors as the Red Lake shooter and if the shooter’s mother drank alcohol. His research expanded to include 4 other school shooters in Minnesota and Wisconsin and one who was born in Minnesota. He went to the communities to visit with the officers who arrested the shooters. He pursued every lead he could to find out if the mothers of the shooters drank alcohol when pregnant with the shooter. He researched news stories, website, web forums, and blogs to find any evidence of the behaviors of the shooters and mothers.

What Crowe found is irrefutable. Every school shooter in Minnesota and Wisconsin fits the profile of prenatal exposure to alcohol. Four of the six mothers have been confirmed to have heavily exposed the shooter to alcohol in utero, with two other mothers confirmed to be habitual binge drinkers in their early childbearing years.”

janbb's avatar

Why is this not being talked about more??

Mimishu1995's avatar

@janbb that’s an interesting find. I too wish that more people would follow that lead and do more extensive research on the connection. I have always suspected some kind of specific mental illness involved, and it would be great if we can finally put a name on it.

janbb's avatar

@Mimishu1995 Well, they do have a name for the mental illness FASD but what needs to be established if there is a connection between that and the mass shooters. And their access to guns of course.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake And it still, had nothing to do with the assault weapons ban. It does not even really factor into the equation. Several of the most notorious shootings happened during the ban. You could still buy the same rifles that were “banned.” They just has different cosmetic features like a thumb hole instead of a pistol grip. If you don’t believe me look it up for yourself. All in all, that “ban” did practically nothing. It was mostly just political feel-good pandering. That may be hard to hear but it should not surprise you.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@canidmajor I don’t know much about prenatal exposure to alcohol but if that link can really be established then it really deserves more attention. What I’m reading about it now is a truly horrifying rabbit hole.

JLeslie's avatar

@Blackwater_Park My point is it is multifaceted. You can’t blame one thing in isolation.

If a person feeling desperate and wanting to shoot up a school never gets access to the gun, then they won’t be shooting up the school. If they were always treated well in school, maybe they shoot their parents if the parents were the abusers.

If they feel very insecure, sad, and LONELY, maybe they find friends on the internet who lead them down a path of making them feel better about themselves by hating others.

People are extremely influenced by their environment, and by that I mean what they listen to and how the people in their social group behave. If someone is entrenched in hate and violence and is always unhappy, in pain, and angry it’s likely going to have an effect.

This shooting in IL, it seems to me he was scoping locations until he finally decided on the parade.

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

From the US Senate’s Judiciary Committee: “Gun massacres of six or more killed decreased by 37 percent for the decade the ban was active, then shot up 183 percent during the decade following its expiration. There’s no disputing those numbers.” Link

Hawaii_Jake's avatar

@Blackwater_Park This is actually a very good question and good thread. A lot of good information is being shared. I would like to see more about Fetal Alcohol Syndrome’s effects on this issue.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@Hawaii_Jake I know people want to claim some sort of success with that ban but I would view any numbers they cite as dubious or just not causal. With such a short duration if there was a dip in gun crime it’s not because of the ban. It is very hard to dispute the fact that the ban did not really ban anything other than some cosmetics. The guns were still available.

raum's avatar

I think we are playing whack a mole with the symptoms and means.

The real issue is our whole society is unwell. It is multifaceted and pervasive, with no singular answer.

JLeslie's avatar

@raum I couldn’t agree more.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@raum I agree too, and it’s hard to get people to stop the blame game. It’s keeping things in a sad limbo.

SQUEEKY2's avatar

I can’t believe how many defend violence as entertainment, I think it’s most positive one of the numbers in the combination, and is it actually an assault style firearm or the ease of getting any firearm?
The lack of affordable mental health help?
Is it no one is accountable for their action these days, look at how many people fly into a rage over the dumbest of things.
People especially young people don’t want to talk to people these days just text and move on,they lose all tone and body language by not talking to a real person.
The lack of really trying to get to the heart of these shootings will just make them go on and on, and again as for gun control go to your corners and start screaming.

Blackwater_Park's avatar

@SQUEEKY2 Because it’s probably not really linked. Heavy metal music does not make someone more violent, it’s often actually a healthy emotional release but you’ll never convince some of that despite what the studies show. Movies and video games are not likely different.

I don’t think an 18 year old kid should be able to walk into a store and walk out with a firearm of any kind 10 minutes later. That’s a problem.

I see the “Karen” and “Kevin” phenomena all over the place. I don’t know why people are feeling so entitled as well as being on edge. Fuses are short these days and I’m thinking it’s the proverbial “something in the water”

The online life kids have now scares me a little. All they want is screen time. I do realize though, that I’m from a different generation and what seems scary to me may not really be a problem.

Work was slow today and I just went down the rabbit hole with this unseen brain damage issue. I believe it’s much bigger than we think it is.

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