WASHINGTON: One hundred and sixty mass public shootings that have taken place in the United States since 1966. Since Parkland in February of 2018, there have been 24 additional mass shooter incidents. That was until the horrific assault rifle shootings – one right after another in Gilroy, El Paso and Dayton.
In 2018, following Parkland, President Trump moved to increase the age to purchase assault weapons from 18 to the age of 21. Once again, his instincts were correct. Though the target age was short by about nine years. It should be raised to thirty.
The case to raise the age to purchase assault rifles
Each of these shootings committed by young men. In Dayton, the shooter was 24. El Paso 21. Gilroy, 21. The had legally purchased the instruments of carnage. The Violence Project has been studying mass shooting incidents, and it is usually the young man, that kills at will.
The Violence Project reports:
Everyday gun violence claims or changes hundreds of lives each week, disproportionately young Black and Latino men. In 2017 alone, the Centers for Disease Control reported 14,542 homicides by discharge of firearms. 112 of those deaths were attributable to public mass shootings, according to our data—the highest of any year recorded because of the Las Vegas shooting that claimed an unprecedented 58 lives. The fact that public mass shootings account for fewer than 1% of all firearm homicides does not diminish their extraordinary tragedy. Mass shootings cause damage far beyond that which is measured in lives lost. They are rare but focusing events.
The report’s writers James Densley and Jillian Peterson, Jillian (2017) report in Gun Violence in America:
First, the vast majority of mass shooters in our study experienced early childhood trauma and exposure to violence at a young age. The nature of their exposure included parental suicide, physical or sexual abuse, neglect, domestic violence, and/or severe bullying. The trauma was often a precursor to mental health concerns, including depression, anxiety, thought disorders or suicidality.
Maybe this is the link we are missing in order to stop further shootings.
Parkland Shooter’s Family and Genetic Markers
Two years before he killed his classmates, the Parkland Shooter sought help, showing a teacher that he was “cutting”, self-inflicted cuts on his arms that are a sign of a troubled youth. He was basically ignored.
The Marjory Douglas Stoneman shooter was just 19 years of age. And his genetic history is a nightmare. His mother, Brenda Woodward put him up for adoption shortly after his birth. But it did not save him or the victims at Parkland.
His adoptive parents, Lynda and Roger Cruz were able to give Nikolas and his half-brother Zachary a much better life than his mother, or sister, Danielle had. The women are both repeated cocaine and drug offenders with long criminal records and time spent in prisons.
Woodward’s Florida arrest records show 28 arrests, among them drug, car theft, weapons possession, burglary, domestic violence, and battery charges.
Shooters mother and half-sister habitual felony offenders
In a 2018 Judge Martin Zilber cites half-sister Danielle Woodard a “habitual felony offender,” with convictions for attempted second-degree murder, cocaine possession, credit-card fraud and battery on a law enforcement officer. She is expected to be released in 2020. However, while Woodard serves her sentence at the Lowell Annex prison in Ocala, her children are being raised by someone else.
Unfortunately, a new home, the new environment did not help Nickolas Cruz. His half brother Zachary has not followed in his mother or half-sisters, much less sister’s drug-fueled criminal lives.
There is often a trigger, after a long build-up, that causes a young person to pick up a gun and kill. For Cruz, it may have been Lynda’s death in November 2017. Reports are that it devastated Cruz. Roger Cruz had died when Nikolas was 5. With his mom gone, he was constructively abandoned, moving from the luxury home he had to family friends living in a Palm Beach County trailer park. Remember, Cruz did reach out for help.
The signs were all there. (Nikolas Cruz’s birth mom had a violent, criminal past. Could it help keep him off Death Row?)
The El Paso Shooter offered plenty of clues before they picked up the gun
The El Paso shooter posted a 2,356-word “manifesto” to the 8Chan forum shortly before the shooting. That manifesto was and was filled with “racist hate” and the shooter’s extreme environmental views. The manifesto was full of anti-immigrant and racist rhetoric. It is hard to imagine that he did not share his views with others.
The shooter writes that Hispanics will overwhelm the state’s voting bloc of white people. Thus turning Texas, historically a Republican stronghold, toward the Democratic Party. The writer denies in the manifesto that he is a white supremacist but suggests “race-mixing” is destroying the nation and recommends dividing the nation into race-based enclaves.
The manifesto may provide some insight into the shooter’s mind. Titled “The Inconvenient Truth,” referencing Al Gore’s environmental screed, the unsigned writings offer support for the Christchurch, New Zealand shooter who targeted Muslims at two mosques in March leaving 51 dead.
The El Paso shooter is one killer who was raised in an two-parent household. Though he was living with his grandparents at the time of the shooting. His high school years include incidences of bullying and being an outcast. The Washington Posts writes: (As his environment changed, suspect in El Paso shooting learned to hate)
Friends and classmates said that Crusius — who has an older brother in addition to his twin sister — grew up as a somewhat odd, lonely boy who loved snakes and playing video games such as Halo. He had difficulty interacting socially and had an aversion to loud noises — particularly music. His parents had a troubled marriage that was marred by his father’s drug and alcohol problem, the father, Bryan, said in a self-published memoir in 2014.
In 2013, Patrick Crusius was enrolled in Liberty High School, where his mother, Lori, taught health sciences. She resigned from her teaching position in June 2014 to return to nursing, and her son ultimately enrolled in Plano Senior High School, where classmates said he was bullied.
Allison Pettitt, a classmate, said she saw Crusius pushed around in the hallways and “cussed out by some of the Spanish-speaking kids.” She said that bullying was common at the school and that teachers often ignored it.
“He started getting more depressed closer to the end of junior year,” Pettitt said. “He started wearing a trench coat to school and becoming more antisocial and withdrawn.”
His trigger was watching his affluent white neighborhood being diversified with both black and Latino residents. His family says he began spending more time online, which may have radicalized him. His mother did call police after he purchased the rifle but still did not act beyond that call. She simply did not see the threat.
But what mother would expect her son to step out on a Saturday morning and kill 22 people, from those in the first months of life. To seniors there with grandchildren.
Dayton Shooter had kill and rape lists but not a red flag was raised
The Associated Press, reports the Dayton gunmen was suspended from high school for compiling a “hit list” of people he wanted to kill. There was also a “rape list” of girls.
A former classmate telling The Associated Press that Betts was suspended during their junior year at suburban Bellbrook High School after a hit list was found scrawled in a school bathroom.
That followed an earlier suspension after Betts came to school with a list of female students he wanted to sexually assault.
“There was a kill list and a rape list, and my name was on the rape list,” said the female classmate.
The classmate says she didn’t really know Betts. That she was surprised learning that her name was included on a list of potential targets.
“The officer said he wouldn’t be at school for a while,” she said. “But after some time passed he was back, walking the halls. They didn’t give us any warning that he was returning to school.”
A male classmate, who was on the track team with Betts, said Betts routinely threatened violence toward other students.
“Most people avoided him,” the man said. “He would say shocking things just to get a reaction. He enjoyed making people feel scared.”
A former girlfriend says that the Dayton Shooter had mental health issues, again not fully acted upon.
One of Betts’ victims was his 22-year-old sister, Megan Betts.
Gilroy Garlic Festival Shooter more of an enigma
The Gilroy shooter was 19 years old. Little about his motive is known right now. However, in a search of his digital media, the FBI found a list of organizations he was targeting. These include religious, government and political organizations, including federal buildings, courthouses, and the food festival.
The family of the shooter expressing shock over their son’s actions.
“We have never and would never condone the hateful thoughts and ideologies that led to this event, and it is impossible to reconcile this with the son we thought we knew,” the family said. “Our son is gone, and we will forever have unanswered questions as to how or why any of this has happened.”
“To the City of Gilroy and to everyone affected, we are tremendously sorry. No words can begin to express this,” the family said.
The one thing that all these shooters share is an extended childhood
Suzanne Veneker points to a correlation between shooters and fatherless homes.
“Indeed, there is a direct correlation between boys who grow up with absent fathers and boys who drop out of school, who drink, who do drugs, who become delinquent and who wind up in prison,” she writes. “And who kill their classmates.”
Jillian Peterson, a psychologist and professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University, and co-author of the above-referenced study says:
Most mass public shooters are suicidal, and their crises are often well known to others before the shooting occurs. The vast majority of mass shooters leak their plans ahead of time. People who see or sense something is wrong, however, may not always say something to someone owing to the absence of clear reporting protocols or fear of overreaction and unduly labeling a person as a potential threat. Proactive violence prevention starts with schools, colleges, churches and employers initiating conversations about mental health and establishing systems for identifying individuals in crisis, reporting concerns and reaching out — not with punitive measures but with resources and long-term intervention. Everyone should be trained to recognize the signs of a crisis.
And both of these experts offer concrete ways to “red-flag” potential shooters. But one thing neither mention is that our children, who should be reaching adulthood by the end of their teens are immature still living at home. They are failing in college, spending time playing video games instead of pursuing adult activities such as a job.
In Next Avenue, the article When Your Twentysomething Hasn’t Grown Up offers the following:
Most people would agree, the road to adulthood is longer than it has ever been before, by any measure.
Young people stay in school longer, live at home longer, marry later, become parents later and find their first job later. In fact, the transition to adulthood lasts so long Jeff Arnett proposed that it constitutes a new life stage between adolescence and young adulthood, called “emerging adulthood,” lasting from age 18 to 29.
According to the writers, Elizabeth Fishel and Jeffrey Arnett say “the extended years of emerging adulthood enhance the likelihood that young people will make good choices in love and work.”
They write that in their late 20’s, young people reach more cognitive and emotional maturity. That the 28-year-old can make a better choice than the 18-year-old. The writers, offering advice for young people and relationships, not on the maturity of mass shooters, also say:
But overall, the prospects of choosing well are enhanced by waiting until at least the late 20s.
Is raising the age to purchase guns one step in stopping mass-shootings.
Nielsen Media Research has defines millennials as youth between 21 and 37 years old in 2018. In many states, the age to purchase a long gun or semi-automatic rifle is just 18. In March of 2018, following the Parkland shooting, President Trump put a call out to raise the legal age to purchase guns to 21.
However well-intentioned the President’s idea may be, the better age might be the age of maturity. Which, for too many of our millennial youth, is extending well into the late twenties. (Millennials Don’t Consider Themselves Adults Until 30, Researcher Says)
David Poltrack, chief research officer at CBS, and Nielsen Catalina Solutions defines an adult as “someone who has moved out of their parents’ home, has a job and pays their own bills.”
Thanks to factors like the recession and rising housing costs life milestones are happening later and later for millennials.
Students today are consuming information they aren’t completely ready to handle. The adult part of their brain is still forming and isn’t ready to apply all that our society throws at it. Their mind takes it in and files it, but their will and emotions are not prepared to act on it in a healthy way. They can become paralyzed by all the content they consume.
They want so much to be able to experience the world they’ve seen on websites or heard on podcasts, but don’t realize they are unprepared for that experience emotionally. They are truly in between a child and an adult. (This is the genius behind movie ratings and viewer discretion advisories on TV). I believe a healthy, mature student is one who has developed intellectually, volitionally, emotionally and spiritually. I also believe there are marks we can look for, as we coach them into maturity.
Raising the age to purchase assault rifles to 28-30 may be the answer to keep young people from killing each other. Though it is doubtful that either Democrats or Republicans will take this easy step to save our society from future mass shootings.