The types of mass shooters

As I was writing classes for law enforcement this week, it dawned on me that some of the same factors that will guide law enforcement through an investigation might be helpful to the churches and the individuals who fill those churches. For that reason, I will share some of the basic research findings about mass shooters.

Many classify mass shooters as mentally ill, but this does an injustice to the mentally ill, and lead people to wrongly classify the motivations behind mass shootings. Through my research, I have identified five different types of mass shooters (which could also be a mass bomber in most instances). Some may wonder why we would classify mass shooters. The explanation is simple: The more unique factors that we can identify, the more we know what makes them tick. As we learn more about what makes them tick, the better we can prevent these mass killings. The classification of mass shooters are:

  • Terrorists Mass Shooter/Bomber
  • PTSD Mass Shooter
  • Domestic Spillover Mass Shooter
  • Mental Illness Mass Shooter
  • Fame and Recognition Mass Shooter

It should be noted that these classifications of mass shooters are the basic classification. It provides a guide of what warning signs and actions we need to be looking for: However, as can be seen from the Venn Diagram below, they may be part of two or more classifications.

As an example, a veteran returning from war may have PTSD, Mental health problems, and Domestic Spillover that have combined and drives them to become a mass shooter. From knowing this information, we can deduct that pressure is building, and if and when they explode, it will likely be a rage shooting, meaning they can’t take any more and they act out with little warning and little to no planning.

It is important to note that not all PTSD cases are military veterans. These individuals can have PTSD from  multiple different reasons including; sexual abuse, child abuse, public safety work, and more. In instances where multiple classifications interact, pretty much only those trained in classifying potential shooters will be able to differentiate the melding of more than one type of shooter classification.

Understanding the driving factors which identify the type of (potential) shooter someone might become can help to mitigate and stop the actual act of violence. By knowing what their motivations are, we can gain basic knowledge of how to approach them, what their motivators and triggers are, and the type of help they may need or the actions that can legally be taken to stop them in advance of an incident.

It is important to remember that untrained individuals should not approach them, but refer your suspicions to an expert who knows what typically works, up to and including taking them off of the streets. Should you think that you have identified a potential shooter, do not attempt to engage them! This action could have deadly consequences. Also, you should never (EVER) visit them at their home, even if invited. Many individuals have thought out what they would do if they had “their enemy” on their home turf.

Next week, I will begin describing each of these mass shooters/bombers classifications, and describe what their motivators often are, as well as their preferred weapons. Until then, … Mark

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