Following the deadly shooting at a Uvalde elementary school in May, criminology experts analyzed more than five decades’ worth of mass shootings across the country in hopes of preventing more from happening.
The study was conducted by Tarleton State University’s Institute For Predictive Analytics (IPAC) under the direction of Dr. Alex del Carmen, who also serves as an associate dean at the university’s School of Criminology.
IPAC analyzed a database produced by The Violence Project that contains details on 178 mass shootings occurring between 1966 and 2021. The Violence Project is a nonprofit, nonpartisan research center in Saint Paul, Minn., dedicated to data-driven violence prevention.
“What we were looking for was some sort of typology as to the type of individual who would commit such a crime,” Dr. del Carmen said.
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According to the research, mass shooters are almost universally male (98%) and typically younger than 30. Researchers say the past 20 years shooters have become more racially diverse. Shooters have a high likelihood of being single, divorced or separated.
“Almost 70% have a mental illness component. A little bit of half of them have some sort of criminal history,” del Carmen said.
He added in many instances, the perpetrators would give a warning before committing the act.
“The problem with that, of course, they each chose a different platform in which they wanted to let the world know. Sometimes it was seconds or minutes before the event took place, so there’s no way for law enforcement to know or detect or isolate the event,” he said.
Researchers add the workplace is the most common location for a mass shooting, followed by commerce areas, restaurants/bars, and schools. Most of the shootings studied by IPAC occurred at schools and workplaces, del Carmen said. The recommendations to prevent more shooting tragedies listed by researchers include school leaders and employers being vigilant of social media postings and language.
“[Legislatures] should carefully consider the current age restrictions to buy weapons, particularly assault rifles. And they should consider developing a mechanism regarding the legal purchase of weapons being reportable to local law enforcement,” the report states.
Dr. del Carmen said he personally believes ‘responsible citizens’ should have access to self-defense mechanisms.
“Having said that, I do not believe that an AR-15 doesn’t belong in the hands of an 18-year-old. We found that were some circumstances in some of these active shooting scenarios or mass shooting scenarios where most of the individuals involved in these cases actually bought the weapons legally,” he said. “So, the question really is…how do we prevent somebody who is emotionally attached to a violent act to simply have time to cool off? I know some of our laws already require that, versus somebody who simply does not have access to a weapon.”
Recently, the issue of raising the age requirement for purchasing assault-style rifles was addressed by Gov. Greg Abbott.
“There has been three court rulings since May that have made it clear that it is unconstitutional to ban someone between the ages of 18 and 20 from being to buy an AR,” Gov. Abbott said at an event on Aug. 31. “It is clear that the gun control law they are seeking in Uvalde, as much as they may want it, it is already ruled to be unconstitutional.”
The full report can be found here.