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Ari Schulman @AriSchulman
, 28 tweets, 9 min read Read on Twitter
Some thoughts on why we and our institutions may be failing to deal with mass shootings because we approach them as part of broader problems, not as a distinct and self-perpetuating plague.
The problem with almost every narrative that mass shootings are “actually an X problem” is that X is usually so broad it’s like saying the real problem with asteroid impacts is that the Earth is so big.
Take mental health: It’s easy to say “mass shootings are really a mental health problem” because, well, you’d have to be crazy to commit one, right?

No, not really. James Knoll: “the literature does not reflect a strong link with serious mental illness.”
Some, like the Virginia Tech shooter, had serious diagnosed or diagnosable mental illness like psychopathy or major depression. But the large majority don’t. And the vast majority of people with strong mental illness aren’t violent.
“This is really about America’s love of guns” or “It’s just the most visible edge of our gun violence problem”: Again, important partial truths. But it doesn’t go that far in explaining mass shootings, which have moved opposite to gun ownership and overall gun homicide trends:
Or take this popular chart, from a sloppy NYT piece. I don’t find it meaningful. Mass US gun ownership didn’t start in 1966. In 1965 this chart would still have shown the US a world leader in guns, with 89 million, but mass shooters at ~0.
“Let’s put armed guards in every school”: Not outlandish, but 99.9% would never encounter a shooter, and the few who did would be taken by surprise after years of bored roaming the halls. Probably why there are already many cases of shooters not being stopped by them.
Mass shootings are a white (or Asian) problem? I’ve never seen this argument made in good faith, but it’s bunk. The racial distribution of mass shooters is basically the same as the general population.…
Male toxicity or a crisis of masculinity? Hard to put numbers on that, but just about any definition would have peg the problem far earlier than the late 1980s, when the active-shooting phenomenon really started to pick up in the United States.
Mass shootings do have something to do with all of these factors (except race). But weakly. Saying they’re “actually about” any one thing misses the singular nature of this violence. It doesn’t go anywhere, rhetorically or practically or politically.
To the extent that mass shootings are about anything, it’s themselves. They have a distinct etiology: They’re a form of imitative apolitical terrorism, fueled by antisocial rage but spread by infamy-seeking and social contagion.…
Strategies with a chance of doing anything must, like past efforts to stop hijacking, terrorism, and assassinations, understand mass shootings as a distinct form of self-perpetuating violence, and strategically target them as such.…
There’s a theme with the AF failing to put the Sutherland shooter in the NCIC db, “protocols were not followed” re Parkland, local cops told of shooter’s Instagram but shrugging. It’s the butt-covering of institutions without a strategy, a clear sense of what to pursue and why.
What’s failing, exactly? I wonder if, like intel agencies pre-9/11, mass shooting threats are lumped in to a vastly broader pool, responsibility spread across many agencies federal and local, so no single force is in charge, dedicated to spotting them.
Dedicated local task forces like the ones described here strike me as having a great deal of potential. We should be thinking and talking about them more.…
There is, to my knowledge, no dedicated national law enforcement + criminologist group specifically looking for potential infamy shooters, for institutional holes that might impede finding them, or trying to educate local officials on warning signs.
This may also offer a way to think more clearly about security reforms and the like -- Not arming teachers or lightly trained, bored rent-a-cops, but increasing both random and occasionally intel-based patrols by trained police who are specifically there to deter shooters.
I think there are ways here to consider how at least some of the shooters for whom there were clear warning signs could have been kept from getting guns, or had the collection of an arsenal itself raise a red flag.
And finally, there is more reason than ever to believe we could slow the spread of mass shootings by reducing the contagion effect and the incentives for infamy.

(Fin, will reply to @'s in a bit.)…
Yes, but increase in guns per owner started decades before mass shootings, and the rate of increase has been much slower. It's clearly an enabling factor, but gun availability and prevalence per se does not explain mass shootings.
I meant to include a tweet here about domestic violence. A similar point holds: A lot of mass shooters have a prior history — I’ve seen no comprehensive stats, but my anecdotal sense is clearly at a higher rate than the general population — but again the large majority don’t.
This is a great example of a gun control measure that's focused on people showing clear warning signs of intending violence, and is compatible with due process and 2A. Kudos to @DavidAFrench for this.…
Re: the aghast response to @DouthatNYT's proposal: Age limits by firearms class are already on the books — 21 to buy a handgun from a dealer, 18 a rifle. Adding new classes & raising age limits may restrict liberty too far, but it's not a radical break.…
Useful overview of existing age restrictions for gun purchase & possession here:…
This is interesting.
There is indeed strong evidence for this kind of restriction — see my essay here:…. Kudos to @benshapiro for this move.
Note that the Connecticut State Attorney's 2013 report on the Sandy Hook shooting, highly detailed at 48 pages, used the shooter's name only once (to say it would henceforth refer to him as "the shooter").…
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