Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Mass shootings and the "culture of honor"

Jeff Kaas a former reporter for the Rocky Mountain News and author of Columbine: A True Crime Story wrote a recent op-ed for the Washington Post exploring, "Five Myths about mass shootings."

Kaas dispels the idea that shooters are insane.  Only about 17 percent of mass shooters had mental health problems, but interestingly 78 percent were suicidal.  Also dispelled is the myth that parents or family should see it coming.  No necessarily.  Eighty-one percent of shooters tell someone of their plans but more than 9 times out of 10 its a friend or peer.

The issue, "It can happen anywhere," is most compelling.  Kaas wrote:

"[M]ass shootings at schools tend to occur in suburbs and small towns, where high school is the main driver of social status. Students who feel like outsiders have few, if any, other places to turn for friends and self-esteem.

School shootings also tend to occur in the South and the West, where researchers have identified a “culture of honor,” in which people place a high value on their reputation and, in some cases, are willing to fiercely defend it to the point of violence. This culture comes from long-standing regional traditions that combine chivalry with the need to defend one’s property in places where law enforcement was sparse.

It has been translated to the schoolyard by shooters who retaliate with violence when they feel they have lost their status. A 2009 study by researchers at the University of Oklahoma found that states with a culture of honor had more than twice as many school shootings per capita as other states. Mapping just some locales shows the pattern: Bethel, Alaska; Springfield, Ore.; Littleton, Colo.; Pearl, Miss.; and West Paducah.

Similar issues of vengeance for a wrong, or a perceived wrong, committed by individuals or society are also typical with adult shooters."

To read more:

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