Why Are Mass Shooters Almost Always Men?

We are struggling with the senselessness of yet another mass shooting. The shooter at the Charleston Emanuel AME Church identified race as his motivation. We find ourselves asking again why it’s always a white man doing the killing.

Yet, there’s no evidence that race is a factor in most shootings. Based on data Mother Jones compiled, whites are slightly over-represented among mass shooters, as are Asian-Americans and Native Americans. Latinos are notably under-represented among mass shooters, and African-Americans are proportionally represented.  (The data are at the end of this post.)

Mental illness is frequently blamed, and indeed almost 85% of shooters had possible mental illness or behavioral issues. However, this figure could be lower because not all cases are clear. Further, it’s notable that depression plays almost as large a role as psychosis. Workplace problems (and related financial stress); and relationship problems, typically rejection, also seem to be common themes.

What is clear is that the shooter is almost always a man.

Why is a big question. There are more knowledgeable people than myself who have written about the issue. I will note, however, that male depression is often overlooked. It’s a central factor in men being 79% of completed suicides, and it seems to be a factor in mass shootings as well.

I also wonder why Latinos are under-represented among mass shooters. Is there something different about Latino culture? For example, shooters often seem socially isolated. Do Latino men have stronger social ties, and if so, does this give a struggling Latino man a healthier outlet for his stress?


The Data

Mother Jones published information about mass shootings in the United States from 1982 to 2012, and in June 2015 they updated their database, adding eight shootings that happened from 2013 to mid-2015. Oddly, Mother Jones missed a ninth shooting – Elliot Rodger.

Their initial report found that 44 out of 62 gunmen were white men. Only one shooter was a woman, and she was white too. Of the nine mass shootings since 2012, three of the gunmen were white only, and one (Rodger) was multi-racial (white and Asian).

This means that 48 out of 71 shooters, or 67.6%, were white only, non-Hispanic, as are 62.6% of all Americans according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Asians were 8.5% of the shooters and 5.3% of the general population, while Native Americans were 4.2% of shooters and 1.2% of the general population. African-Americans are 13% to 14% in both cases. But Latinos, who are 17.1% of Americans in general, were only 5.6% of mass shooters.

Of the 71 shooters 68, or 95.8%, were men.

Mother Jones did not say whether anyone was mentally ill or not, and instead noted how others described the person, and whether the person was known to have been under psychiatric care. Including Elliot Rodger, 46 out of 71 (64.8%) mass shooters might have had mental health issues. Eight were described as depressed (11.3% of all shooters, and 17.4% of those with possible mental health issues). Nine were described as schizophrenic or paranoid (12.7% of all shooters, and 19.6% of those with possible mental health issues). Another 13 shooters (18.3%) may have had previous behavioral issues.


Messin’ With Texas

I’ve never been to Texas, though I hope to visit someday. You can’t help but hear a lot about it. Being the second largest state, Texas has a huge impact on everything from presidential elections to textbooks.

And Texas is growing fast. The US Census claims the overall Texas population will grow by 6.7 million people over the next 15 years to 33.3 million, but the state of Texas believes it could be more.

And it’s not just a booming population – it’s a shifting population. Today, 80% of Texans identify as white, though this drops to 44% for non-Hispanic whites. Those who identify as Hispanic or Latino are 38% of Texas’s population.

But Looming Boom: Texas Through 2030 by Texas A&M University shows that in just a few years Hispanics will overtake non-Hispanic whites (table 2). By 2030 half of all Texans might be Hispanic. And unlike the northeast, Texas will remain a younger state.

Because younger and Hispanic voters are more likely to vote Democratic, liberals have hopes of Turning Texas Blue.

This is overly optimistic, however, because Anglos are more likely than Hispanics to vote. And Hispanics are a younger demographic, meaning less of the population is of voting age. Besides, Hispanics are a more diverse group than some might realize – they’re more conservative than Anglo Democrats.

That is, Anglo Texans are solidly Republican which makes Democratic inroads difficult. But the GOP may find it easier to appeal to conservative Hispanics – though this will require softening the Republican attitude toward immigration.

We won’t see any change in Texan voting patterns in the 2016 presidential election. And while there probably won’t be much of a shift in 2020’s election, wonks looking at the fine print may notice a glitch in the Matrix.

Even in 2024 most Texans will likely vote for a Republican president because Anglo voter turnout will probably still exceed Hispanic voter turnout.

But the 2028 election should be interesting. I’m guessing that by then Texas will be purple, meaning it will be a swing state like Florida and Ohio are now. This means Republicans can still carry Texas in 2028, but they’ll have to work harder.

Beyond 2028, Texas will probably remain purple, but it will never be Massachusetts or California.

US History from a Latino Perspective

European colonization of what is now the United States starts with the English landing in Virginia and Massachusetts.

Well, not so fast, says Felipe Fernández-Armesto. In his book, Our America: A Hispanic History of the United States, Fernández-Armesto points out that in 1508 Puerto Rico became the first permanent European settlement in what is now US territory. St. Augustine, Florida and Santa Fe, New Mexico are also Spanish settlements predating the English.

Fernández-Armesto challenges us to read American history, not east to west, but north to south: as Mexico expanded into Tejas, California, Colorado and points between, it ran up against US manifest destiny.

The Mexican territory of Tejas, for example, had an illegal immigration problem: white Anglos were moving into the land they mispronounced as Texas, and they brought black slaves with them despite slavery being illegal in Mexico. There were wars (remember the Alamo?) culminating in the Mexican-American War, which Anglo-Americans have mostly forgotten, but which Mexicans and Mexican-Americans remember as well as Southerners remember the Civil War.

Following US acquisition of what is now the Southwest, property owned by Mexicans was confiscated, programs of forced Anglicization were imposed, and racial discrimination (including lynchings) began.

Yet, today we hear people asking, where did all these Hispanics come from?

Fernández-Armesto closes his book by explaining “Why the United States Is – and Has to Be – a Latin American Country” :

…the perspective advocated in this book [is] the United States as a country with a Hispanic past as well as a Hispanic future. Migrants from Hispanic America need not be feared as intruders: they can be welcomed as homecomers. Their language need not be treated as a threat, but relished as an enhancement and embraced as an opportunity. …In the United States we must make pluralism work because, paradoxically perhaps, it is the one creed that can unite us.