Tuesday, October 03, 2006

More on the Amish school shooting


One person interviewed for the story says that the school shooting in Amish country proves that "there is no safe place." While inner cities are still hotbeds of violent crime, it can happen anywhere, even among the God-fearing, technology-eschewing Amish.
Of course the gunman's wife, who he called in the middle of his rampage to tell her he was "settling a grudge" now says what a great guy Roberts was, that he was a good father. We still don't know much about him, except that he was shattered after he lost his daughter a few years ago. But many, many parents have lost children without going on a shooting spree. And at the momen, we don't know what that additional factor was that made him snap. But unlike the Colorado gunman, there is no evidence that any of the female hostages and victims in the Amish schoolhouse were sexually abused by their captor.
Unlike serial killers, who typically live alone, many mass murderers have been married, as Roberts was. Charles Whitman, of Texas bell tower infamy, was recently married when he went on his rampage. A man who left about 30 dead in a McDonald's (I can't remember his name at the moment) was married and had children, and his crime was likely a violent manifestation of his resentment at his failed businesses, which left him unable to provide for his children. Since Whitman, like so many other mass murderers, including Roberts, who shot himself, ended his rampage shot by police, his motives are unclear. But a recent development indicated that he had a tumor in the frontal lobe of his brain, which controls behavior. But it's still uncertain, and we will probably never know what set Whitman off.
That so many mass murders end with the death, either by the killer's own hand or "suicide by cop" is probably no accident. As has been frequently noted, mass murders are suicides with a higher body count. While the killer wants to exact revenge on the world he feels has wronged him (which was also likely Beltway Sniper John Muhammed's motive), his ultimate target is himself. School shooter Kip Kinkel begged police to shoot him (they didn't, and he's still in prison). The Columbine killers shot themselves. And the Colorado and Amish schoolhouse gunmen both ended their rampages by taking their own lives.
I use the male pronoun here because the vast majority of mass murderers, like serial killers and killers in general, are men. This is one element that criminologists and law enforcement officials have noticed and been investigating for years. Women get angry too, and have the same motives as men to rage against the world (I know there were times when I was in school that I wanted to destroy everyone in my path). While there have been female mass murderers (Brenda "I don't like Mondays" Spencer comes to mind), they are rare. I read an article about the Columbine shooting a few years ago, which offered a theory on this. When something bad happens to a woman, she tends to think it's her own fault, but when something bad happens to a man, he often blames someone else. Women usually turn their rage inward, and the majority of self-mutilators are women. But men are more likely to project their anger onto someone else. Of course, there are exceptions to every rule, and whether these differences are the result of biology or social conditioning is open to debate.
On a different topic, last night's Prison Break was full of surprises. Mahone shoots Tweener, Linc breaks from the fold to get his son, who has been suddenly released and the murder charges against him dropped, Sara's father appeared to have killed himself (though Sara has her suspicions), and Sucre demands every bit of Westmoreland's money for himself. And I have to wait three weeks for a new episode.

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