Mass shooting is a phenomenon that has been discussed at length in the United States and other parts of the world due to its frequency. Despite numerous studies conducted on the subject, misconceptions still creep into discussions that happen whenever mass shooting occurs. In the United States, cases of mass shootings have been on the rise but it seems the government is at loss to find the right intervention programs to curb such aggressive acts. Whenever mass shootings happen, people only understand where, when and who did it. The question of why has remained a mystery to the people hence lack of interventions (Lankford, 2016). In order, to effectively solve a problem, the causal factors of such problems must be clearly understood. For the purpose of this research, the focus will be on the roles of societal belief systems, cultural practices and group leadership on incidences of mass shootings.
Influence of Cultural Dynamics on Mass Shooting
Cultural dynamics range from the beliefs, values and behavior exhibited by a particular community and the individuals within. Many research studies have pointed that most mass killers tend to use violence as a way to regain lost power and control over their subjects. As reported by the Ruth Glen, director of National Coalition against Domestic Violence, power dynamics form the basis of domestic violence. When perpetrators sense that they are going to lose, their strategy is to engage in acts of violence like shooting (Lemieux, 2014). Glenn further asserted that in most cases of mass shootings, the perpetrators were reported to have lost some control over their spouses or any family dynamics. In most cases of mass shootings, the oppressors were discovered to have engaged in acts of domestic violence. For instance, Devin Kelley who was involved in the mass shooting at First Baptist Church in Texas had been convicted for assaulting his child and wife. Before the incident, Kelly was reported to have sent some threatening messages to his mother in law who was a member of the church. Similarly, Stephen Paddock was reported to have abused his wife verbally. In a similar case, Seung-Hui Cho had been accused of harassing women he met before he committed the mass shooting in Virginia that killed over 32people (Lankford, 2016). To augment such assertions, Everytown Center for Gun Safety reported that nearly 16% of mass shooters between 2009 and 2015 had been convicted of domestic violence. Many discussions have linked mass shootings to mental illness but there exists overwhelming evidence that domestic violence is a causal factor.
There is a closer homicide link between domestic violence and access to guns and eventually mass murders but both law enforcement and law makers have continually ignored this link. In the United States, the patriarchal perceptions on gender roles have contributed to mass killings. Culturally, men have traditionally viewed the female-male relationships where women are considered inferior to men and must submit under all circumstances (Fox & DeLateur, 2014). As a result, men view women as marginalized citizens who should not exercise any control over them. Such patriarchal view contributes to the unhealthy relationships and a culture of violence such as mass shootings.
In the US, the law allows citizens to own guns. Various reports have suggested that in America, there are nearly 310 million guns circulating among the citizens. With a total population of 319 million citizens, the reports could mean that every citizen in the country own a firearm. In most cases of mass shootings in the country, the perpetrators were reported to have had more than one firearm. According to Pew Research Center, India is the second largest gun owner in the world but does not make to the top five among countries with incidences of mass shootings. The case of India indicates that restrictive firearm laws can reduce cases of mass murder. Another case is Australia where four cases of mass shooting happened between 1987 and 1996. The citizens were outrageous and condemned firearm laws for such cases. In response, the government through parliament established strict gun rules to guide ownership and use. As a result, the country has never witnessed any case of gun shooting. From these revelations, it is quite evident that culture of easy accessibility to firearms in the US has significantly contributed to the mass killings.
The case of Aaron Ybarras shootings in Seattle Pacific University is a revelation of how media and popular culture contribute to incidences of mass shootings. As reports continue to emerge, Aaron was obsessed with the mass killings in Columbine High School which he visited personally to witness what had happened and developed the urge to shoot up some school. In another case, Elliot Rodger used the media such as YouTube and Google+ account to express his ill motives and spew hatred to his purported enemies. Through his videos, Elliot expressed hatred for young women and married men whom he considered to have lowered his self-esteem through rejection (Lemieux, 2014). The case of Elliot is a media mediated act of violence since he unprecedentedly used the internet to express his motives, hatred and aggressive urge to destroy his enemies. The media provided him with the right audience to intimidate, threaten and build himself for the aggressive act. The oppressors media display is an example of mental dynamics psychopaths usually employ to harm their perceived enemies without remorse. The internet enabled him to devalue his victims of violence and convert them into monsters that must be controlled. Elliot Rodger operated under media and celebrity culture influence and glorification if values embraced by psychopaths (Fox & DeLateur, 2014). This case was a clear indication of the power of mass media in mediating glorification of psychopathic values among vulnerable members of the society. The close proximity between Elliots and Ybarra mass killings is awakening call for the society to understand what such media mediated crimes tell about the culture. The case has also raised attention to how various technologies and culture play a critical role in thought process of individuals likely to commit violent acts like mass killings.
Influence of Societal Belief Systems on Mass Shooting
Human is a social being with belief systems that guide their thought and behavior. The belief system allows human mind to think of something to be logical or fallacy without existence of an empirical evidence. Beliefs are the basis of human life and whatever actions or thoughts depend on the belief systems. Research studies have revealed the impacts of belief systems on the decision to commit acts of aggression (Lemieux, 2014). Men are known to readily push for their belief system than any other thing. When they fail through ordinary means, they tend to introduce violence and commandment upon their subjects.
In the modern society, individualism and pursuit for material wealth is the basis of a happy life. As a result, success is defined by ones socio economic status and various achievements in a competitive environment. The people believe that the only way to succeed in life is through material gains. Various researchers have argued that such perceptions of life only foster narcissism and in such environments, anything that lowers an individuals self-esteem is considered a big threat to their survival (Kruglanski et al. 2014). The only response to narcissistic harm is through revenge on the victims. When the desired happiness and social status is not forthcoming, the people feel aggrieved, rejected and begins to pass blame on others. This argument was clearly revealed in the case of Elliot Rodgers. In this case, the perpetrator expressed his disappointment at young women who he thought had rejected him despite his young age. Through his videos, Rodgers revealed his jealousy at couples kissing each other in public places. He considered such men as competitors who had denied him the opportunity to achieve his social status of being in a relationship. The feeling of rejection caused him to unleash his wrath through mass shooting to the purported enemies.
The belief system of American people might also have been influenced by the archetypal hero who believed in gun violence as the best way of righting wrongs in the society and transforming oppressive institutions. When some people feel that others are a hindrance to their success and happiness in life, the only way to regain their glory is through mass killings (Kruglanski et al. 2014). The belief is that such people become heroes in the society because they have overcome their enemies.
Fame is a social status that lifts people to higher standards of living. In order to become famous, people believe that they must do something unique that will attract attention from individuals and institutions in the society. Through Pew Polls, Lankford (2016) pointed out that the current American generation is growing with a desire to become famous. The link between media coverage and acts of mass killings indicates that many people would prefer to commit the act (Fox & DeLateur, 2014). The problem with this belief system is that it motivates other mass shooters to kill more people. As a result, mass shooting has turned to be more of a competition where the person who kills more people climbs to the top of fame chart.
While many of the mass shootings have been regarded as domestic terrorism, it is imperative to note that most of the acts are self-motivated. Different religious beliefs in the society could be another causal factor for mass killings. In the case of Islamic mass shooters, Christian believers are a hindrance to their spiritual growth since they diverge from the Islamic culture (Kruglanski et al. 2014). In this case, christens are seen as enemies who must be targeted and eliminated from the society.
Influence of Group Leadership on Mass Shooting
While some of the mass shootings were done by independent killers, others were committed by members of a certain group. The group members commit such crimes to advance the course of their group and ideology. Based on the secret service report of 2002, mass shootings are never impulsive and sudden acts but are usually planned and known to either one or more people before they are committed. The report further revealed that in over 80% cases of mass shootings, the cases were properly planned before execution (Lankford, 2016). With reference to planning of mass shootings, group leadership plays a critical role. In most cases, the leadership assists to identify the target after assessing the security situation in targeted areas. When the target for execution has been identified, the leadership mobilizes resources necessary to execute the act successfully (Matsumoto & Hwang, 2014). In group related, mass killings, the perpetrators never spend their own resources but utilize the ones mobilized by their leaders.
Research studies have also indicated that group leaders motivate violence through their expressions against the perceived enemies. According to (Matsumoto & Hwang, 2015), disgust, anger and contempt are critical emotions attributed to ethical and moral violations. The research further suggests that such emotions are critical drivers of group based violence. With such groups, leaders attempt to design various speeches that express the above emotions against the people or institutions they oppose. In a coordinated network, the leaders share their speeches with their followers who listen and feel provoked. The intention to have emotional speeches is to provoke the same emotions among the followers who share the same ideology (Matsumoto & Hwang, 2015). As a result, the perpetrators of mass killings act on behalf of their leadership as a way of expressing loyalty...
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