The Psychology Behind Mass Shootings
By Jay Busch
If you have watched the news, checked your twitter, or even eavesdropped in a conversation on the subway in the past sixteen hours, you certainly have heard about the tragic news out of Charleston, South Carolina. While details are still emerging and the situation remains extremely fluid, we know now that at least one criminal entered a Church Wednesday night and opened fire killing at least nine people at Charleston’s Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.
First and foremost I want to express my grieve and extend my condolences to the friends and family members who knew the victims. While tragedies of this caliber are impossible to eradicate, they are still difficult to overcome. I want to make my intentions clear with this article. I am not in anyway trying to capitalize on any tragedy rather I am simply offering my perspective on the situation and provide you with ways that can mitigate future tragedies like this.
Late Wednesday night, a man entered the Church in Charleston. This perpetrator obviously premeditated this situation and had been proactively planning the assault out. The man entered the church and participated in the meeting for nearly one hour prior to engaging in activities that eventually ended the lives of nine people. During that time frame, the victims were interacting and participating with the criminal prior to carrying out his agenda.
A Common Theme
While details of this recent tragedy in South Carolina are few and far between at this time, it would not surprise me if we find out that this perpetrator shares something in common with the likes of Lanza, Cho, Harris and Klebold. All these criminals shared a common theme of either rejection or abuse of some kind. They also all shared a common ending (minus the most recent incident), suicide. This tells me two things. First, the emotional state of these criminals is in shambles and second they are entering into these situations fully aware that they are not coming out of it alive. Those two things combined make for an extremely dangerous situations. When someone is put in a situation where they have already accepted death, they are historically more willing to preform actions that can harm or kill others.
Tony Farrenkopf, a forensic psychologist from the city of Portland, OR, gives us further insight into the mind of a delusional, driven individual who has nothing left to lose. After years of profiling killings involved in the FBI’s definition of mass shootings, Dr. Farrenkopf concluded that most shooters of this nature share a common theme of rejection combined with a mental disorder. The anger and hate build up from numerous small encounters and plans are finally put into motion following a triggering event.
The world is a dangerous place and I do not foresee it getting better any time soon. Tragically, events like what happened yesterday continue to increase in frequency. It seems that a few weeks can’t go by without hearing about something like this in the news. What is the answer? Staying away from the abstract and being ever mindful of the natural tendency towards evil, the bottom line is to ensure that when rubber hits the road, you are able to defend yourself.
This is where it gets tricky. South Carolina, including at last count 24 other states, ban firearms in locations like churches, even though they are private property. The law gets a little tricky here. In SC, a person is only permitted to carry a firearm in a church if the appropriate church official specifically states that person can. Rather than letting churches decide for themselves, the government in essence establishes a guilty until proven innocent mentality where a permit holder cannot lawfully carry a firearm on premises without first proactively reaching out to the church official, even if there are no postings on the building whatsoever.
Like schools, movie theaters, or malls, churches offer a gathering location where people feel safe. Being around a group of individuals, especially like minded individuals, shoulder an aura of safety that is often exactly the opposite. These locations provide deranged individuals the ability to concentrate their hatred and allow them to cause maximum damage with minimal risk of failure. Looking at the mind of individuals who would commit these heinous activities, we can derive that they have already accepted death prior to engaging in these murderous activities. The primary reason locations like this are chosen is that they provide the shooters with the minimal resistance resulting in higher damage and death.
While I patiently await the day when I no longer have to worry about myself, friends or family being seriously injured or killed, I am not holding my breath. Individuals with nefarious intentions will never be eradicated. Evil will never cease to exist.
At the end of the day there is only one person in the world that can ensure your safety. That person is you. Make sure that you are always prepared in the event that someone tries to hurt you or your family.
In conclusion, please keep the family and friends of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in your thoughts and prayers and that justice be brought swiftly against the shooter involved.