In the past two weeks we have seen 30 people killed by mass shootings in America. In Philadelphia we just witnessed 6 police officers that were shot. Fortunately none of them died. Nevertheless, this shooting could have been so much worse for these officers and their families.
We have heard it suggested that this type of activity is due to violent video games, mental illness and related issues. To some level these issues could be factors. However, in a recent Op-Ed in the LA Times two individuals researched mass shooters to discover what were the main contributors to such severe and destructive actions.
This Op-Ed was written by Jillian Peterson and James Densley. Jillian Peterson is a psychologist and professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University. James Densley is a sociologist and professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University. Together, they run the Violence Project.
After extensive research the first conclusion they realized about active shooters is in the following quote:
“Our goal has been to find new, data-driven pathways for preventing such shootings. Although we haven’t found that mass shooters are all alike, our data do reveal four commonalities among the perpetrators of nearly all the mass shootings we studied.
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.
Here is the link to the rest of the article if you wish to read further about the rest of the results.
Once again, we see the impact of early childhood trauma that is prevalent in so many of our social ills. Due to these shootings there is a great deal of public relations about gun legislation, exposure to violence and mental illness which are all important issues to discuss.
It is my hope that we can also reflect and have open discussions about the impact of trauma on mass shooters. Like so many other issues like opioid addictions the research is compelling that decreasing early childhood trauma will be a significant step in preventing some of these tragic events like we have seen in the last few weeks. We know that dealing with children early in their lives can make a huge difference in their ability to cope with stress and prevent some of the issues that concern us all.