Mass shootings are not strictly an American phenomenon. Yet they happen with sufficient regularity to be thought of by many as an American issue.
Narrowing it down even more tightly, mass shootings in America seem, at least since 1980, to be a white male phenomenon.
Experts and pundits have kicked around ideas about the triggers behind mass shootings. Almost everything has been blamed at some point. A permissive culture. Evolution. Working moms. Birth control pills. If it can be thought of, it’s probably been blamed.
“Aggrieved entitlement” is the theory postulated by Rachel Kalish and Michael Kimmel in 2010. The authors believe mass shootings are an attempt to regain what was perceived to be lost by financially impotent, low-educated white males.
When Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, the shooters at Columbine were asked by one of their victims, “Why are you doing this?” Klebold replied, “This is payback. This is for all the shit you put us through.”
White men seem to be having a crisis of aggrievement, entitlement, and control. Looking back no further than the 2012 election, there are mind-numbing examples of white men losing their power and “paying it back.” The authors say the 2012 “Republican Meltdown” is an example of men who formerly had control and lost it.
Before the 1980s, when mass shootings became the domain of primarily young white males, there was no need for payback. No matter what happened in society, white men were still the “winners.”
Women’s rights have grown. Marriage is now more advantageous to women thanks to no-fault divorce and women even routinely get custody.
For eight years there has been a black president. Indoctrination into the God, Country, Mom and apple pie mentality of the white male, it becomes simple to see how white males feel they’re on an unsteady foundation. Google any of the thousands of “men’s rights movement” sites, and they turn out to be thinly veiled hate groups.
While some observers feel that white men are angry about losing their power, others point out that white men have, in reality, not lost any power. Other social groups, blacks, gays Mexicans, women, and so on, are finding new power as they speak up while white males still bowl and set on the couch watching conservative news channels which feed their insecurities.
Las Vegas criminal lawyer Nick Wooldrdge says that many of the mass shooters end up dead. Either by their hand or “suicide by cop.” For many men, masculinity for many white males is equal to their sense of self. To be a man is to be masculine. When someone feels like they’re nothing, suicide feels like a reasonable option.
Most of the nation’s mass shootings occur in conservative “Christian” areas. It’s not a coincidence. Americans in rural areas tend to see themselves has religiously conservative, and the regions create the breeding grounds for white males bent on male superiority. The traditional Christian model of masculinity and man-power is not America’s reality today. When men can’t understand, they get frustrated and feel emasculated. And aggrieved. And entitled to retribution.
Other perspectives exist alongside the one suggested here. Mental health is often mentioned, and it is easy to blame mental health issue. People in all demographics have mental health problems, but it’s primarily white males that pick up a gun and go on shooting sprees.
Not every mass murder since the 1980s has been perpetrated by white males. However, the subset has enough unique characteristics that it demands an answer.
It’s not too late for the conversation to start. Americans need to “man up” and admit the possibility