Author(s) Stone, Michael H.
Year 2015
Title Mass Murder, Mental Illness, and Men
Published in Violence and Gender, Vol. 2, No. 1
Pages 51–86
DOI 10.1089/vio.2015.0006
Link [1]
Abstract Although mass murder is a rare event in the United States—perhaps a dozen to a dozen and a half incidents a year in the recent decades—occurrences tend to overshadow the much greater number of other murders, because of the electrifying effect upon the public of so many lives being lost all at once. Much of the heightened frequency and greater death toll stems from the easier availability of semiautomatic weapons since the 1970s. Several recent, highly dramatic mass murders were committed by mentally ill persons, which has led to unwarranted stigmatization of the mentally ill as an inherently dangerous element in society. Mass murder is an almost exclusively male phenomenon (male:female ratio ∼24:1)—a reflection of evolutionarily driven tendency for males to be more aggressive than females. Most mass murders are planned well in advance of the outburst, usually as acts of revenge or retribution for perceived slights and wrongs. Overwhelming hopelessness is often present: this may help explain how nearly half the persons committing mass murder either commit suicide or are killed by the police in the immediate aftermath of the event. The percentages of mass murder among white and black persons approximate their percentages in the general population; the ratio for Hispanics appears less than expected. The majority of mass murderers are persons with paranoid personality configurations (including, at the more severe end, paranoid schizophrenia)—typically associated with a deep sense of disgruntlement and unfairness. Persons at high risk to commit mass murder are hard to spot in advance, given the much greater number of grudge-holding persons than those who ever carry out a mass murder. This complicates the task of law enforcement: Mass murder is difficult to prevent, all the more so given the unpopularity of government confiscation of semiautomatic weaponry.
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