It seems every time you turn on the news or open your phone you are bombarded with a new active shooting incident in America. Most recently, suspected shooter Huu Can Tran, a 72-year-old man shot and killed 10 people On Saturday 21st, 2023 the evening of the Lunar New Year in California in a dance studio. Tran also wounded ten other people and ultimately died from a self-inflicted wound. The Los Angeles Times explains “the Lunar New Year is the most important holiday for those who trace their roots to China, Vietnam, and some other Asian nations”. Many now believe that this event was not only tragic but also an extremely terrible omen for the Lunar New Year to come.
Before this incident, the nation was shaken up due to a 6-year-old child bringing a gun to school in Virginia and shooting his teacher. It is almost impossible to wrap your brain around a child taking a gun to school and shooting someone. This incident shows just how critical of an issue gun control is in the United States. What is truly disturbing about this particular situation is the teacher of the student had asked on many many occasions for help due to that student’s behavior.
The teacher did absolutely everything right and everything they could to identify a possibly unsafe situation and try to deter anything bad from happening. Often we don’t have any kind of heads-up when it comes to active shooters. But if we dig deeper, the signs are frequently there and they are simply falling on deaf ears or ignored. This ignorance has proven to have dire consequences.
With such a rise in active shooters, America is left with many concerns and questions. Parents are now more afraid than ever to allow their kids to go to school and we have lost the sense of innocence and safety we once had. Active shooters are not just specific to school shootings although they are a major concern. We are seeing active shootings take place in malls, places of worship, movie theaters, parks, and just about anywhere where people generally populate.
In Milwaukee Wisconsin this week a man approached the home of a woman who was home with her four young children. They were all upstairs in the bedroom when the suspect rang the doorbell and impatiently rang it again. The homeowner did not approach the door and as the suspect turned to leave he turned back towards the house pulled out a gun and shot at the door 8 times. The bullets penetrated the door and landed around the inside of the house throughout the home.
Luckily no one was hurt in this incident and there was no way anyone could have prepared for that incident. If the homeowner or one of her children decided to try to answer the door they could have been shot by one of the eight bullets that were fired. We assume that our house is a place of safety and security and you would never expect someone to just open fire on your home unprovoked. Nowhere feels safe anymore.
Why Do Mass Shootings Occur
Now we have to understand why these shootings occur so we can learn how to prevent them. Although each case is different we have good theories and an understanding of the “why” question. In order to make any kind of change we have to understand why someone would be an active shooter so we know what we need to do as a society to deter them from happening. Actually taking the appropriate action is a whole different conversation that needs to take place and will be further discussed below. Here are some of the most common reasons that researchers believe why mass shootings occur.
- Mental Health
When we deep dive into why mass killings occur, none of the theories or research is that much of a surprise. It makes sense that the two most significant issues contributing to mass killings are mental health and gun control. Both of which the United States does not have. Much research points to mental health being a significant culprit to why someone would choose to mass kill. While this makes much sense, mental health issues seem to be pushed away as a cause of the stigma on mental health in the United States. It has been found that there is a connection between mass killings and early childhood trauma that can include:
- Sexual Assault
- Violence in the home
- Mental Abuse
Many mental health disorders and issues stem from childhood trauma or poor experiences. The informative years are called such for a reason; they are critical and will shape how the child views themselves and the world. People who experience mental health issues often do not get the help they need which can lead to bigger issues.
- Gun Control
The Second Amendment states, “A well-regulated militia, necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep, and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.” This means all persons have the right to own firearms in the United States. The specific rules vary from State to State. In Florida, it is required to be 21 years old to purchase a gun unless you are a law enforcement officer or service member who would allow you to buy a rifle or shotgun at 18 years old. Florida does not require a firearm permit, and purchasing will be subjected to a background check.
- Social Contagion
The APA Dictionary of Psychology defines Social Contagion as “the spread of behaviors, attitudes, and affect through crowds and other social aggregates from one member to another.” Unfortunately, when a mass killing occurs, our society can expect more…especially if it is a vast mass killing with lots of media attention. It is not necessarily the media, the news, or the act to blame. Instead, these acts can trigger or encourage someone thinking of doing something similar.
Perhaps that individual thought process is not specifically about killing someone; it could be revenge or contemplating how to get back at someone. These mass killings can plant a seed in someone’s troubled mind causing the act to make sense to them and, therefore, inadvertently encouraging them to perform a similar act of violence. Even the amount of media coverage of the suspect can be alluring to someone who is having similar thoughts.
When someone is desperate to be heard, having that amount of media coverage can seem attractive to them. There is a sense of notoriety when it comes to why people choose to mass kill. The United States is known for glamorizing true crime, and serial killer Jeffrey Dahmer would even receive love letters while in jail for murdering multiple people, cannibalism, and many other heinous crimes. Dahmer is not someone the average person would think to idolize or write to. This is the culture that has been created.
There is not one specific reason we see a chain reaction effect in our society, and we know that this phenomenon is occurring. The fact that we know this and do not implement immediate change is disheartening. News outlets need to focus less on the perpetrator and more on the victims and education. It can also be triggering for survivors to continue to hear about the subject of a mass killing and cause re-traumatization. Not much of how the United States navigates these events is particularly correct.
- What Happened During Covid-19
During the thick of the Covid-19 pandemic, America experienced a decrease in active shooters. The decrease is due to isolation, and people stopped gathering in crowds or masses. Even school was not in session. This added an extra layer of protection from any large shootings. It has also been theorized that people’s stress levels were different. Although it was a stressful time for most, it was more of collective stress, and people were not alone in their struggles. Often events such as bullying can be isolated incidents that are against just one person or one group. Covid-19 affected the entire world, and the dynamic was less personal.
An NPR article explains that 98% of all active shooters are male. It is no secret that almost all active shooters are men. This leads to a complex and often controversial discussion about why men are primarily active shooters.
The research we do have can be a little conflicted and it is a start nonetheless. Some research states that men are more violent by nature than women. Upon first reading this, it can feel like a cop-out, like men are just violent simply because they are born violent. On the contrary, men have more violent tendencies, and it is essential to make this distinction.
Jillian Peterson and James Densley published a book called The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic, where they found that the self-hate that a mass shooter might have becomes external. They are looking for some external factor to place fault. Men tend to look for blame externally and do not internalize issues as much as others. Men also tend to be more violent regarding the nature of crimes and weapons used. For example, when it comes to committing suicide, women are less likely to use a gun than men.
Now that we understand better why active shootings occur, it is now up to our justice system to take action and make a change to help prevent these from occurring in the future.
Jon Romano began his TikTok social media journey upon being released from prison for being an active shooter at Columbia High School in 2004. His platform had always been educational. He was open, and honest, and answered any questions people wanted to know. This included the nature of his crime, prison life, and his personal feelings about the crime he committed. Recently Romano was working at a homeless shelter and was viciously attacked by someone with a sword. He sustained injuries to his arms, legs, hands, and face. His injuries were extremely severe. The sward almost dismembered parts of his body. After Romano was rushed to the hospital the person who attacked him was arrested. It was reported that Romano didn’t know the person and had no previous relationship with the individual who attacked him.
Since this incident, Romano has been even more vocal about how we as a society can help stop violent behavior. He has a unique perspective because he was an active shooter and claims to now be reformed. He posts regularly trying to connect with law enforcement officers, the community, and other government officials to help partner with them to decrease the number of active shooters. Romano focuses mainly on mental health and often explains that if he received better help and was more honest with his therapists that his shooting could have been prevented. Romano also seems to explain the theory of The Violence Project. In one video Romano expressed that he himself was suicidal and had intended on taking his own life. Instead, however, he took that anger outward and caused harm to others.
The main and most important way to stop active shooters is by utilizing gun control and removing accessibility to firearms. This will be the number one solution in America and more gun control laws must be put in place. It is important to understand that gun control does not necessarily have to mean that the use and sale of all guns will be illegal. Gun control can mean stricter rules and regulations when it comes to purchasing a firearm and the types of firearms available to the general population.
All persons should be required to have a background check to screen for felonies and mental health issues which would exclude them from being able to purchase. This is not to say that people with mental health issues would have any rights violated, such as HIPPA. Everyone deserves for their private health information to stay private. However, in some states, if you are institutionalized against your will you have to sign a form committing to not purchasing or buying a firearm for the next year or two. There is no official database for these commitments and one can be created that simply restricts someone’s ability to purchase a firearm. These tools can be implemented without violating HIPPA and it would help keep not only that person safe but others too.
If you want to read more about gun control check out our other blog here.
Illinois New Gun Control Legislation
Illinois made good headway on gun control last month by becoming the 9th state to ban assault-style weapons. Illinois.gov wrote, “Standing alongside lawmakers and gun control activists, Governor Pritzker signed the Protect Illinois Communities Act banning the sale and distribution of assault weapons, high-capacity magazines, and switches in Illinois, effective immediately.”
Since this legislation has passed the lawsuits and amount of entities suing are just pouring in. Hundreds of plaintiffs apart of the lawsuit against the ban claim the assault weapons law violates the Illinois Constitution. Why would someone even need an assault weapon and why are they fighting so hard to ban the legislation? Illinois did not ban the sale and use of all guns, just the most dangerous and inappropriate for a civilian to have, such as high-powered guns and high-capacity magazines The left need to take a seat and understand that no one, absolutely no civilian needs an automatic weapon. There is not one reason to have one and they only pose a major safety risk.
Mental health help is a main solution that will help decrease the occurrences of active shooters. Mental health care needs to be free in The United States….period. There is a severe lack of accessibility for not only children and teens but for adults as well. A lot of violent behavior is simply rooted in mental health issues. If these mental health issues are addressed we will have a safer society. Our government resources need to change as well. With the rise of inflation, the cost of groceries, housing, medicines, and just basic needs are becoming a struggle for a lot of people. This puts major strain and stress on individuals which can lead to desperate and violent behavior that they may have not done otherwise such as shoplifting.
I think at this point we understand why so many mass shootings take place in the United States. Nothing changes if nothing changes and it is evident that our government and right-winged pro-gun individuals are being ignorant of the blaring facts that gun violence is a serious problem. So we can expect to continue to see more deaths from active shooters until gun control takes place and more Americans have better access to mental health care. It is an incredibly devastating situation to be in and until our legislators make a change all we can do is continue to fight for gun reform and try to keep ourselves, our families, and our loved ones safe.