My recent chat with author Janice Holly Booth regarding her recent book “A Voice out of Nowhere: Inside the mind of a mass murderer” left me a bit rattled.  The thought that a psychopathic mass murderer could be living right next door to me in plain site and I wouldn’t even know it, is the stuff of nightmares.  This is the kind of thought that grabs hold of you, and a bottle of Melatonin pills or even a couple of horse tranquilizers simply are no match for.  So I decided to do a little Googling and see if I was just overthinking things.  Clearly this was a bad idea.

An article published by Mother Jones in 2012 aggregated all the mass shootings in the US dating back to the 80’s.

  • Between 1980 and 1989 – 8 Shootings, 88 Dead, 79 Injured
  • Between 1990 and 1999 – 23 Shootings, 186 Dead, 161 Injured
  • Between 2000 and 2009 – 20 Shootings, 129 Dead, 173 Injured
  • Between 2010 and 2013 – 16 Shootings, 104 Dead, 136 Injured

The period between 2010 and 2013 is clearly the most alarming, signaling that we’re on pace to see 260 deaths and 340 injuries from mass shootings within this 10 year period.  However it is also likely possible that the shootings in the Aurora Theater in Colorado and the Newtown School shootings may be outliers that are skewing the data to make it seem much more chilling than it actually is.  However, one key fact stood out: out of the 67 cases, 42 of them were linked to mental illness.

For confirmation, I consulted a “Rampage Killers” database compiled and published by the New York Times in 2000 and found some additional nightmare fuel.  This database compiled a list of 100 cases between 1949 and 1989.  They stripped out any killings that were a result of domestic strife, robbery or political terrorism.  They also stripped out mass murders to get a precise list of what they defined as “rampage killings”.  In all there were four hundred twenty five people killed and 510 injured.  They even put together a nifty map that lets you see your proximity to these horrifying events.  Chronologically it looked something like this:

  • Between 1949 and 1959 – 1 Mass Killing
  • Between 1960 and 1969 – 3 Mass Killings
  • Between 1970 and 1979 – 6 Mass Killings
  • Between 1980 and 1989 – 17 Mass Killings
  • Between 1990 and 1999 – 73 Mass Killings

Clearly sleep wasn’t coming anytime soon.

So I went ahead and kept reading.  Who needs sleep anyway?  I found that the “rampage killer” seems to have a distinct profile:

  • Typically white
  • Typically older
  • They are Educated
  • They are out of work
  • They have been in the military
  • They kill during the day

Compared to other types of crime, these killers never get away with it.  Out of the cases examined, 100% were either captured or killed.  A staggering 33% end up committing suicide after the event.

So what was causing this spike in senseless mass murder?  Alcohol, video games, cheating spouses?  Turns out that the Times was also interested in this question back in 2000.

In only 6 of the 100 cases, did the killer show any interest in video games (then again, I never thought Pac Man was very violent.)  A divorce or breakup accounted for about 23 of the cases.  By far, the most common cause of killings like these seemed to be the loss of a job which accounted for 47 of the cases.

However, the more curious thing they found found was that at least half the killers were suffering from serious mental illness.  Society’s lack of understanding about mental illness and the inability or lack of will for dealing with these serious problems could be the perfect tinder box for the explosion of violence we seem to be seeing lately.

Individual rights groups like the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have made the problem even more complex by passing resolutions stating that the involuntary hospitalization of a mentally ill, and possibly dangerous, person is incompatible with a free society.

Janice Holly Booth has a different opinion which she expressed to be on our interview…

Sadly, this tender notion fails to take into account that many mentally ill persons do not know they are sick.  Would we fail to care for an Alzheimer’s patient because they refused to eat or take their medicine?  Throwing mental patients out on the street and defending that action on the basis of ‘respecting their freedoms’ is nothing short of reckless abandonment.

References

A Voice out of Nowhere: Inside the mind of a mass murderer

US Mass Shootings, 1982-2012: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation

List of Rampage Killers Across the Country