In the aftermath of America’s most recent mass shooting, it’s easy to engage in several discussions. The first, and most obvious, is perhaps the most daunting — how to impose meaningful gun control, or at the least, how to introduce legislation that limits or fully bans the purchase of silencers, “bump stocks” and other military-grade accessories. The second is a desperate attempt to rationalize the actions of the shooter — was it ISIS, Al Qaeda, a lone wolf? Did they post a manifesto online or allude to their plot on social media? Unfortunately, this discussion proves to be as futile as the first, and less trivially, creates two separate narratives — one for shooters who are white, and one for those who are not. The third variety of conversation, which often comes alongside the second, is a discussion about who ought to have access to firearms in the first place — on the Right, this conversation is often part and parcel with the mental health debate, particularly when the shooter is a white male.
It should go without saying, but approximately 20 percent of Americans will suffer from mental illness in their lifetime, and while gun violence affects more Americans per capita than in any other industrialized nation, far fewer than 20 percent of Americans are violent shooters, and over half of civilian guns are owned by just three percent of the population.
The Sutherland Springs Shooter, 26-year-old Devin Patrick Kelley was among many other things, a white male. He pledged no allegiance to ISIS, or any other group for that matter. But this is only one component of the Sutherland Springs story, though it is not one that is to be ignored, especially in light of the immediate calls for racial profiling, immigration prevention and all together bigotry advocated following Halloween’s truck attack in New York City. Much like Kelley, James Hodgkinson, and the Colorado Springs or Newtown shooter before them, were white men. Importantly, each also had a history of domestic violence. It has been widely reported that Kelley had served in the Air Force but was discharged in 2012 for assaulting his wife and child.
Though Omar Mateen (Orlando), Cedric Anderson (San Bernardino) and Seung-Hui Cho (Virginia Tech) were not white men, each had domestic or sexual violence histories. In at least 54 percent of mass shootings, the perpetrator also shot an intimate partner or relative. American women are 11 times more likely to be murdered by a firearm than women in any other developed nation. Eighty percent of people killed by firearms annually are women, and a woman is fatally shot by a current or former partner every 16 hours. Finally, though James Fields’ deadly weapon was an automobile, he too had a history of violence against women.
Often, it is said that “no one could have known” when mass shooters would strike. While with many young shooters, such as in the case of Columbine, this may be the case, a significant number of America’s mass shooters do have a documented pattern of violence — unfortunately, however, one where those affected are routinely shamed and questioned. Want to fight gun violence? Pay better attention to domestic abuse.