Mass Shootings And The Prevalance Of An Issue

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In the past 5 years, there have been 181 mass shootings in the United States. After every event the first questions asked are 'What caused this to happen?' and 'How can we stop this from happening again?' The term “mass shooting is a very loose term because many people define it differently. There is no official definition for a mass shooting, the FBI typically refers to these events as mass murder which can be defined as three or more people killed in a public place. Mass Shootings will never stop occurring, however, there might be ways to decrease mass shootings. In order to spot a mass shooting before it happens, you have to know the causes, spot the signs, and know how to help people who show signs of committing a mass shooting.

If you want to help prevent a mass shooting, you have to know the most common causes. Alex Hannaford, a journalist for GQ magazine, interviewed twelve mass shooters and many of them cited home abuse as their main motivation for the crime. William Hardstedy, a shooter who shot seven people in Michigan, stated that “He [Hardstedy’s father] used to call me ‘Willy Lump Lump’ cos I had so many lumps on my head. But he’s the one who put them there. It just snowballed. I couldn’t handle it. And instead of trying to talk to him – if I did, he’d backhand me – I shot him...”(Hardstedy). Paul Devoe, a mass shooter who shot and killed four people in Texas, explained that his father was an alcoholic and that his father would beat him fairly often. He went on to state that his father would keep him from going to school because his bruises were so bad. These memories paint a very clear image about what home lives were like for Devoe and Hardstedy as children and young adults. Copycat shootings happen when a person gets inspired by a previous shooter and attempts to replicate their attack. After the Columbine shooting in 1999, there have been over 100 copycat attacks. Most recently was Sol Pais, a Floridia high school student, who threatened Columbine High School in April, 2019. She was found dead near Denver before she could carry out attacks. Many experts believe that there are alot of mass shooters who commit these tragedies purely for the fame. The Violence Project is a full database of every mass shooting since 1966 that was created by Jillian Peterson and James Densley. The Violence Project shows that 6.4% of mass shooters are motivated purely by fame.

Once you know the causes of mass shootings, you then have to know the signs. The most common and most alerting sign is leakage. Leakage is when a person who is about to commit a mass shooting tells someone their plan in advance. Leakage is most often a cry for help by the person who is reaching out to tell you their plan. Heather Timmons, a journalist for, stated that according to FBI notes “The people most likely to notice “concerning behaviors” are the people who know the potential shooter best, the FBI notes, either family, friends, or classmates. Often they don’t mention concerning behavior to anyone who could help, or to anyone at all”(Timmons). This shows that the person who receives the leakage can prevent the shooting by reporting it to the police. A common thing people who receive leakage say is that they just thought of it as a joke. It is always better to report it and the person wasn’t serious than not report it and a tragedy occurs. Another sign you can look for is if the person is posting things on social media that are drastically different from how they normally are. Such is the case with Dimitrios Pagourtzis who posted pictures on Facebook of custom shirts he made that say Born to Kill. Most people will point to people going to shooting ranges as a sign of a mass shooting. FBI Special Agent Katherine Schweit stated in a panel after the Sandy Hook shooting that “If they’re someone who shoots with a gun — which is very common — are they shooting more than they usually do? Are they buying additional weapons that they normally wouldn’t?”(Schweit).  

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