On Sunday, June 12th 2016, the worst mass shooting on American soil took place. Omar Siddiqui Mateen, a 29-year-old man, arrived at Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, Florida armed with an AR-15 and a handgun. The mass shooting that ensued left 50 dead and 53 more wounded, making it the largest death count for a single mass shooting in American history. People are outraged and distraught to see this kind of violence inflicted. Unfortunately, one of the questions that can be asked in this situation is… was this mass shooting preventable?
While the extent to which Mateen was involved with Radical Islamic groups hasn’t been fully revealed, Mateen did declare his allegiance to the Islamic State before the shooting. That being said, not every mass shooter is a terrorist. In fact, of the mass shootings that take place on US soil, many of them don’t have anything to do with the Islamic State at all. While the motives behind mass shootings tend to differ from shooter to shooter, there are some distinctive qualities most potential mass shooters will have.
In the particular case of Mateen, he showed quite a few of these signs and a few people were even scared of him. His co-worker, Daniel Gilroy, even reported Mateen’s aggressive behavior and homophobia to his supervisors at their job. Gilroy eventually left the job, after his supervisors took no action. He stated, “The company wouldn’t do anything. This guy was unhinged and unstable. He talked of killing people.” Gilroy did the right thing by saying something, but despite his best efforts Mateen was still able to purchase semi-automatic weapons (even though he had once been under investigation by the FBI) and go on to execute the largest mass shooting that America has seen.
Being able to identify if someone is exhibiting these qualities and may be a danger to society could save the lives of many and stop the next mass shooting before it even happens.
11. They Have A Narcissistic Personality
Most of us know someone who is narcissistic but this goes beyond the run of the mill inflated ego. Someone who has a deep narcissism will not only have a certain admiration for themselves but will believe that they are so special they can do whatever they want. In fact, they believe they have the right to do as they please without any consequences. Obviously, one can see how this would lead to someone planning a mass shooting.
The narcissism may also be seen in their beliefs. A narcissistic person will speak confidently about their world views and beliefs and feel disdain towards anyone who disagrees with them.
10. They Collect Their Wounds
Generally, a mass shooter will be someone who “collects” the wounds inflicted on them from society. Whether real or imagined, they feel that society as a whole or a specific group has wronged them again and again. They will not only remember and talk about these wounds, but they will also nurture them in a way that the wound grows deeper instead of healing. These particular rejections from society or small groups of society provide the potential mass shooter with justification for their coming rampage. They will feel that since they were wronged, this is their retribution. Both Eric Harris, one of the shooters at Columbine High School in 1999, and Seung Hui Cho, the shooter at Virginia Tech in 2007, wrote in detail about their peers making fun of them, the pain they suffered due to this, and their plans to make them pay.
9. They See Violence As Only Answer
After collecting these wounds, a potential mass shooter will let the pain manifest into hatred and fear. Instead of working out this pain in a healthy way, a potential shooter will see violence as the only way to cure this pain. They don’t want to talk through or let time heal anything or see a therapist. Instead they are hungry for revenge in the worst, most violent manner. Unfortunately, something has convinced them that this is the only cure for their pain.
8. They’re Single Or Divorced
Obviously, not everyone who is single or divorce is a potential mass shooter, so this cannot be used as the one descriptor. Furthermore, mass shooters are generally men but again, not every man is a potential mass shooter so take this with a grain of salt. Considering the fact that most mass shooters feel marginalized and isolated in some way, it makes sense that not having a companion or family would make someone more likely to commit a mass shooting. Mateen was married and divorced. In a statement following the shooting in Orlando, his ex-wife has said, “He was not a stable person. He beat me. He would just come home and start beating me up because the laundry wasn’t finished or something like that.”
7. They’re Isolated Loners
In most cases of a mass shooter, the culprit tends to be someone removed from society. Whether they removed themselves from society due to the fact that they disagreed with society, or people avoided this said person due to their inability to relate, it generally ends with someone who is detached from human connections. This is lethal for two reasons. The less human interaction one has with other people, the easier it is for them to imagine people as moving targets as opposed to living, breathing human beings with passions and friends and families. The second reason this can be lethal is that the person is being left up to his or her own devices. This isolation can further their hatred and their plans and leave them without anyone telling them that this is wrong.
6. They’re Very Intelligent
The level of intellect varies from shooter to shooter, but generally speaking, someone who has the wherewithal to pull off a mass shooting isn’t unintelligent. It would be nice to think that these are not intelligent people who don’t comprehend the pain they are inflicting, but it’s mostly that these smart people put their energies into the wrong places. For example, Ted Kaczynski (pictured above), better known as “The Unabomber”, has a genius IQ of 167 and was a professor at Berkeley. When someone who is that intelligent puts their mind to work for evil instead of good, mass causalities can happen.
5. They’re Crying Out
An individual planning such an act will generally be crying out for help in one way or another. Whether it is verbal or something more subtle like a change in clothing or activities, this may be their last ditch attempt to scream out for someone to stop them. The Columbine shooters wrote about their plans in detail in notebooks. If only someone had found these notebooks, the lives of those high school students could have been saved. Potential shooters may leave anonymous comments or messages or make veiled comments on their social media accounts. Whatever it may be, these signs can help stop someone from taking several lives.
4. Having Weapons Like An AR-15
This is not to get everyone all riled up about the second amendment. We all have the right to bear arms but there is most certainly a difference between bearing arms to defend one’s self and bearing arms in order to commit a mass shooting. The AR-15 is a semi-automatic rifle that can rapid-release bullets until the cartridge is empty. This weapon is quickly becoming known as the go-to rifle for anyone planning a mass shooting. No only did Mateen use this rifle in the shooting at Pulse this past Sunday, but it was also used at shootings at a Sandy Hook elementary school (26 dead), a Colorado movie theater shooting (12 dead), a community college in Roseburg, OR (10 dead) and an office holiday party in San Bernardino, CA (14 dead). Guns like the AR-15 are designed to do much more than just defend one’s self. Sure, a true gun enthusiast may have an AR-15 for whatever reason, but if someone is stocking up weapons that could injure or kill large groups of people, you may want to start asking some questions.
3. They Experience Hatred And Paranoia
During the act, mass shooters are often described as “cold and unfeeling,” mostly because the act itself puts them in a trance of some sort due to the adrenaline and shock. Before committing a mass shooting though, a mass shooter will often display strong feelings of hatred or paranoia. Generally, hatred and paranoia can nurture one another, as the fear and anxiety that one feels when paranoid can breed more hatred and more hatred can create deeper paranoia and so on and so on. Whether it is a hatred of the “cool kids” in the Columbine shooting, or a hatred of a group of people like the LGBT community as it was in the Orlando shooting, passionate hatred against one group of people is a sign of a potential mass shooter.
Idolization in the form of extreme worship of something can be a dangerous sign of a potential mass shooter. Radicalized terrorists have recently been making the news due to mass shootings. As of right now, the extant of Mateen’s connection with terrorists remains unclear, but he did pledge allegiance to the Islamic State before the shooting. A shooting in San Bernardino, CA in 2015 was also linked to Radical Islam.
The idolization of Radical Islam, however, is not the only form of idolization that can turn into a mass shooting. A shooting at a Planned Parenthood in Colorado Springs in 2015 was motivated by strong anti-abortion views of the mass shooter. In some cases, a deep idolizing friendship can encourage such a mass shooting, as the friends will encourage one another and their friendship becomes the thing they worship.
1. They Don’t Just Snap
If you take anything from this article, just know that mass shootings aren’t necessarily executed by people who “just snap.” That is very rarely (if ever) the case. Yes, there are crimes of passion in which a person may snap and kill someone or maybe two people. To shoot dead 50 people, these events are usually planned ahead of time and methodically thought out. Between obtaining the weapons and plotting out the where/who/how/when of the whole ordeal, potential mass shooters can become obsessed with their potential massacre.
That being said, these situations can be prevented. If someone you know exhibits the signs on this list, you should reach out to professionals who will hopefully be able to prevent another horrible mass shooting, in which many, many innocent lives may be lost.
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