By Jeffrey Nall
Between 1982 and mid-2013, there were 67 mass shootings across the United States. As Mother Jones reports, mass shootings are defined as the killing of four or more people, not including the killer, in a single event. Thirty of these shootings occurred between 2006 and 2013. This list grew on September 16, 2013, when Aaron Alexis, a 34-year-old former Navy Reservist, killed 12 people and wounded several others on a District of Columbia naval base. Alexis, too, was killed during a shootout with police.
Following the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, former NRA Executive Vice President Wayne Lapierre explained these events in part by stating: “The truth is that our society is populated by an unknown number of genuine monsters.” Joseph Engeldinger disagrees. Speaking of his nephew, Andrew, Joseph said, “I can only assume there was some kind of mental break there. He wasn’t a monster. … He was a real good kid, a real good person. He had a real good heart. … “ Certainly what Andrew did was evil. But the simplistic notion that such evil – causing profound unjustified pain and suffering to others – is the work of “genuine monsters” obscures the truth that the capacity for evil lurks in virtually all of us. Just as importantly, it obscures the social factors facilitating such evil, factors that are at least partially within our control.
One crucial factor associated with violence is gender, a lens that dictates “proper” characteristics, interests, and even behavioral trends. While Lapierre wishes to placate our fears (and undermine demands for stricter gun laws) with talk of “monsters,” a far more significant and undeniable fact about 66 of the past 67 mass murderers is that they were men. This is a fact that often goes without notice – or at least without acknowledgement. Even Michael Moore’s thoughtful post-Sandy Hook discussion of American violence failed to identify the relevance of gender. Moore wrote that the slogan, “Guns don’t kill people” is incomplete: “Guns don’t kill people, Americans kill people.” Given that the vast majority of our nation’s violent acts, including gun violence, are perpetrated by men, a truer clarification of this saying would be: “Guns don’t kill people, (far too many) American men kill people.”