Looking into the mind of a mass shooter

By Eden Ovadia


Over the years, psychologists have analyzed the growing phenomenon of mass shootings in many places around the world. The mindset of a criminal can be understood through a biological, psychological, and social approach.

A mass shooter often demonstrates traits that can be attributed to paranoia, such as suspicion and resentment. Paranoia can lead mass shooters to see people in society as rejecting them and, in turn, hold grudges and isolate themselves.

In contrast to popular belief, severe psychiatric illnesses are not very common in mass shooters, according to the book “Mass Shootings and Mental Illnesses” by James L. Knoll IV, M.D. and George D. Annas, M.D., M.P.H. However, this does not mean they do not occur. In fact, illnesses such as depression and psychosis are seen in some of these killers. Other common psychological aspects of a mass shooter are negative self-esteem and strong desires of revenge.

Knoll and Annas additionally described similarities in social influences and negative views on society shared by mass shooters.

“Factors common among individuals who commit mass murder include extreme feelings of anger and revenge, the lack of an accomplice (when the perpetrator is an adult), feelings of social alienation, and planning well in advance of the offense,” Knoll and Annas said.

Rejection and alienation are phenomenons that greatly affect youth. As Knoll and Annas have proven, they are highly linked to aggression, leading to violent acts and, in worst cases, mass shootings.

It is also important to note the large influence media and modeling of viewed behavior has had on mass shootings in the United States. When people view certain types of behavior, whether it be negative or positive, they often tend to “model” it or act in similar manners.

Correlation studies have shown a link between the development and spread of television in the United States and Canada to a large increase in homicide rates from 1957 to 1974. Other regions had similar results in which their homicide rates increased at the same time televisions became more widespread.

Studies have also found that “copycat” threats or incidents became an issue in most states after the 1999 Columbine High School massacre.

Overall, there are people in society that have specific characteristics about themselves, whether because of their nature or their environment, that may make them a threat to others.

In times such as these, where gun violence is prevalent, we must do what we can to befriend outcasts and do what we can to be more welcoming. Our school has many adults on campus, such as counselors and teachers, who can help, and it is important to note that we are not alone in our battle to keep our school safe.

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