A Formulated Opinion Behind Mass Shootings

Minute of silence at White House for Sandy Hook school shooting
Former President Obama gives a moment of silence at the White House for the Sandy Hook school shooting.

Gun Violence Overview

A glance at the list of gun assaults that have taken place on American soil is chilling. The earliest traces of a massacre was in Colonial America in the 18th century, and the number of casualties as a consequence of gun-related violence at schools has shown a sharp increase since then. It has increased gradually and now has come to the forefront of the minds of the populace and the media.

 The shooting at Santa Fe High School in Santa Fe, Texas, and Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida are just some of the high-profile cases of shootings at schools.

While the regularity and prevalence of these events are alarming and subsequent gun control demonstrations have resulted in endless debate, there is another intriguing factor of mass shootings that evades the attention of the average person and that is not often highlighted by the media.

The central question we will focus on is what drives a person to shoot innocent people? Specifically, what incites them to carry out school genocide? 

Our objective is to understand a person’s reasons for inciting a mass shooting, particularly those aimed at schools where the victims are innocent children and teachers.

Our conclusions were not designed to imply a defense for the actions of the attackers or condone their actions. There are scores of conclusions from experts and non-experts alike and our discussion is but one of them. 

Executive Partner and Director of the Mental Health Law Practice Group of the Abrams, Fensterman law firm, Carolyn Reinach Wolf’s Psychology Today article “Guardrails for the College-Bound With Mental Health Needs – What every worried parent should know to keep on-campus risks in check” was discussed on CBS Radio 880 by Dr. Steve Kussin.

Suggested Motives 

School shootings are the subject of raging debates in forums varying from media outlets to public demonstrations and social media. Nonetheless, the main impression that people gather from their discussions is twofold.

One prevailing notion is that these atrocious attacks are the result of the perpetrator’s psychiatric condition, but another popular rationale is that such deeds are the side effects of a dysfunctional social environment. 

High School Students Demonstrate in the March for Our Lives Protest (27126435158)
Students Demonstrate in the March for Our Lives Protest
Pretty much agreed upon by the experts and citizens alike is that these actions can be attributed to a combination of individual and societal determinants, not specifically one or the other.

For instance, the treatment meted out to Anders Behring Breivik, the antagonist who executed 77 people in two separate terrorist attacks on July 22, 2011, provides an interesting case study. Although he did not target a school, he did provoke genocide, which is exactly what a school shooting is: a bloodbath in the public domain.

In this particular case, the Norwegian media and the world at large concluded that the aggressor was concluded to be insane as a socially impaired individual; hence, the lone wolf narrative that is often attributed to such people. He was motivated by a radical right-wing ideology. Truthfully, both considerations are correct to varying extents. Simply attributing the attacker’s intentions to just one of the two would simply be a misnomer.

Part of the reason this stance is significant is that there is unlikely to be a single, definitive event that transpires in a person’s life that would make them feel the need to become a mass murderer. Rather, the impetus and incentive are far more likely to germinate over time due to their mental frailty and the negative impact on society.

We can assume that the assailant was free to make independent decisions which led to such a catastrophe and we can also yield to the notion that his surroundings played a part in his cognitive dysfunctionality.

The likelihood is that both the aforementioned factors supplement each other. Every individual harbors of angst and is inclined to be aggressive at one point or another. It is human nature; however, hardly any individuals are driven to vent their frustration with the aid of weaponry in a public venue.

With regards to the pressure that society has impaired on some individuals, a number of these murderers who executed this type of genocide showed symptoms that they felt that others were against them and this adversity led them to carry out such ill-conceived and unfortunate acts.

The guilty individual’s perception of society may shape and eventually trigger their need for violence. The extent to which they are affected determines if they are willing to take extreme measures. Therefore, we can conclude that the interaction of personality traits and external factors is what causes an individual to behave in such a way.

The Lone Wolf

Iberian WolfAs mentioned, individuals who engage in such drastic behavior are likely to suffer from a lack of social integration.

For example, in his studies, French sociologist Emile Durkheim concluded that cultural determinants can contribute to mental illness.

He also estimated that individualistic societies are far more likely to have cases of suicide, homicide, and genocide in contrast to societies that accommodate individuals.

A person who is considered a misfit or does not have the required social skills is likely to become a ‘lone wolf’. In time, the aggression and rage they feel towards the community that has shunned them may manifest as violent outbursts. 

These individuals may look for some group to identify with, especially if it is political. This could be the first red flag of which there may be many more.

On the other hand, an individual who has developed strong bonds with others in their environment is more apt to be free from such thoughts, this rationale bears a striking resemblance to many of the school shooters when it is learned that they exhibit lackluster social and interpersonal skills.


We are not saying that people who feel that they are social outcasts are going to exhibit such behavior or that those who get violent feel a lack  of being accepted. Their overwhelming emotional chaos can lead them down a path of violence, which becomes an outlet for the animosity they can potentially feel towards society; consequently, we should be vigilant in noticing such behavior, be aware of red flags, and take the necessary actions to prevent a full-blown tragedy.