Spencer Ackerman at Wired sums
up the conclusions of a U.S. government “fusion center” report
on what we think we know about mass shooters from Columbine on.
This is what a mass killer looks like, according to a Department
of Homeland Security analysis. He works alone. He uses a
semi-automatic handgun. He’s a he. And he probably didn’t serve in
the U.S. military.
That’s the conclusion of a November 28 analysis by the New
Jersey branch of the Department of Homeland Security’s partnership
with state and local law enforcement. The so-called intelligence
“Fusion Center” sifted through data on 29 major mass killings in
the U.S. since 1999, starting with the Littleton, Colorado school
shooting. Its practical advice is to be more concerned by your
co-worker with the bad hygiene who mutters about putting his
“things in order” than by the war veteran in the next cubicle.
The basic pattern found by the New Jersey DHS fusion center,
by Public Intelligence(.PDF), is one of a killer who lashes out
at his co-workers. Thirteen out of the 29 observed cases “occurred
at the workplace and were conducted by either a former employee or
relative of an employee,” the November report finds. His “weapon of
choice” is a semiautomatic handgun, rather than the rifles
that garnered so much attention after Newtown. The
infamous Columbine school slaying of 1999 is the only case in which
killers worked in teams: they’re almost always solo acts — and
one-off affairs. In every single one of them, the killer was male,
between the age of 17 and 49.
So, what can we learn in public policy terms from this knowledge
about how to stop these events in the future? Pretty much nothing.
Even as we muse from Senate to drawing room over how access to guns
makes or might make such crimes more likely, Ackerman writes, “It’s
worth noting that the fusion center study doesn’t mention the
circumstances under which the shooter obtained his guns.” While I
don’t know their official reason, a good guess is because in a
world where guns and a Second Amendment exist, it doesn’t really
make any difference. And Ackerman’s zinger conclusion:
One of the most striking patterns about U.S. mass killings is
visible only through its absence. Terrorists aren’t committing
these crimes. Ordinary, unhinged American men are.
Jesse Walker on
mass shootings and on the general uselessness of