Not deranged, depressed
When two people die in a Canadian shooting it’s called a tragedy. In America, we call it Friday.
Commonality is not the only characteristic of American mass shootings. We rush to dismiss them as the senseless work of the deranged or psychopathic. Aside from inaccurate, our superficial analysis discards the frightening reality before us of why most mass shootings happen.
Few attacks are the impulsive work of the delusional. As part of the Safe School Initiative of 2002, the United States Secret Service completed our most detailed study of mass shootings. After investigating 41 school shootings, the Secret Service found most shooters are self-hating and calculated: 78 percent attempted suicide or had suicidal thoughts prior to their attacks, 93 percent planned their attack between one day and eight months prior, 73 percent held a grievance of some sort against at least one intended target and 67 percent had no history of violence.
These attacks are not the work of the deranged. They are executed overwhelmingly by deeply depressed people who blame themselves for perceived inadequacies. This hopelessness reaches a tipping point, where the depressed either continue to direct anger toward themselves or assign it a target with thinking along the lines of “I hate myself and it’s your fault.”
No politician speaks of this reality for fear of discomfit. It’s easier to say we have no explanation than admit an unpleasant one.
America’s gun violence is exceptional. We average 20 mass shootings a year, with 25 this year alone according to the Brady Campaign. In spite of our wealth and our religion, the Centers for Disease Control and prevention believes one in 10 Americans are depressed.
Gun control is no solution. Neither are second amendment platitudes. We’re among the most religious of the developed nations, but our kneeling does nothing. Until we treat the Empire State shooting, the Aurora shooting and the overwhelming majority of mass killings in America as part of a mental health epidemic harming our national security, American violence should be understood as nothing but predictable.
Brian Marceau can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org