He had been obsessed with weapons and had attended military training workshops. He also physically abused his ex-girlfriend. Nikolas Cruz is the 19-year-old former student who murdered 17 people and wounded 15 in a shooting at his old high school in Florida. A student of the school told The Boston Globe that Cruz had been expelled for fighting with his ex-girlfriend’s current boyfriend. Additionally, according to the leader of The White Nationalist Militia – an ultra-right group – the shooter belonged to the organization and had participated in their events in Tallahassee.
Men, and men with a past marked by hate and violence toward women.
This is the general profile of mass murderers in the USA. Data verifies this statement: 98 percent of mass murderers are men. Between 1982 and 2017, only two women were behind two mass shootings. In the same period, 92 were carried out by men. According to a study by Everytown for Gun Safety, nine out of the past 10 killers in U.S. massacres have had a history of violence toward women. The same investigation shows that, between 2009 and 2016, 54 percent of mass murderers had a record of domestic violence. Here is a summary of these men:
Stephen Paddock, the 64-year-old millionaire, carried out the largest massacre in the USA. He killed 58 people, shooting rounds into a crowd at a concert from his hotel room. Later, it was revealed that he was known to berate his girlfriend in public.
Omar Mateen killed 49 people and wounded 53 in a shooting in a gay club in Orlando. Besides his homophobia, he had a criminal record of abuse against his ex-wife, whom he kept as a “hostage” during the four months his marriage lasted. (After the massacre, she revealed, "He started abusing me physically, very often, and not allowing me to speak to my family.")
Robert Lewis Dear murdered three people – a police officer among them – and wounded nine others at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs in 2015. He had been reported to the police for domestic violence by two of his three ex-wives. In 1992, he had been arrested for rape and sexual violence.
James Hodgiskon, the man who shot at over 20 Republican members of Congress who were playing baseball near the Capitol (he wounded 5 people, among them Republican House of Representatives Majority Whip Steve Scalise), also had a record for domestic violence. In 2006, he had been arrested for domestic battery and discharge of a firearm when his foster daughter was at a neighbor’s house. He later lost custody of the 19-year-old.
Devin Patrick Kelley, the ultra-right extremist who killed 26 people in a Texas church last November, had been court-martialed and expelled from the U.S. Air Force for assaulting his wife and son. He had also sent threatening messages to his mother-in-law, who attended the church where the killings took place.
Cedric Ford shot 17 people at his work in Kansas, killing three colleagues, only 90 minutes after receiving a restraining order from his ex-girlfriend, who confirms that he had abused her.
Dylann Roof, the racist youth who killed nine African-American churchgoers in Charleston, carried out a massacre that was “tinged with a sense of patriarchal control over women,” as Rebecca Traister reminds us in her essay, “What Mass Killers Really Have in Common.” Before he shot his victims, Roof yelled, “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country and you have to go.” The young man had grown up observing how his father physically and verbally abused his stepmother for 10 years.
“I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me but I will punish you all for it. .... You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male,” said Elliott Rodger in the video that preceded the shooting and stabbing that he carried out at his college in 2014, murdering seven people, and killing himself.
After the tragedy, Jeffrey Kluger asked himself in Time magazine, “If you say that you were surprised that his name was Elliott and not, say, Ellen, you either haven’t been paying attention or you’re playing at political correctness. But the fact remains: It’s almost always boys who go bad. The question is, Why?”
“Obviously, not everyone accused of domestic violence becomes a mass shooter,” explains Jane Mayer in The New Yorker. If that were the case, Spain would have serious problems with these types of massacres. But in is indisputable that over half of those who commit mass killings in the United States have this trait in common. “[I]t’s clear that an alarming number of those who have been accused of domestic abuse pose serious and often lethal threats, not just to their intimate partners but to society at large,” she adds.
Also noting the male shooter trend, Rebecca Traister thinks we should “examine the patterns of violence toward women.” Essayist Rebecca Solnit, who delves into this phenomenon in her 2013 essay “The Longest War,” emphasizes the lack of both visibility and analysis of the link between the (problematic) concept of white masculinity in the USA as related to mass shooters: “Someone wrote a piece about how white men seem to be the ones who commit mass murders in the U.S. and the (mostly hostile) commenters only seemed to notice the white part. It’s rare that anyone says what this medical study does, even if in the driest way possible: “Being male has been identified as a risk factor for violent criminal behavior in several studies, as have exposure to tobacco smoke before birth, having antisocial parents, and belonging to a poor family.'”
For Solnit, the pattern of male violence is “plain as day.” She laments the other labels that are often associated with these crimes. “[W]hen you say lone gunman, everyone talks about loners and guns but not about men.” Asked a few months ago in our magazine what she thought about the lone wolf stereotype, the writer and activist reaffirmed her desire to underscore that gender in these types of incidents is significant and that we must pay attention to the kind of masculinity we construct as a society which leads to mass killings. She told us, “If a Native American commits a crime, we talk about their category. If a lesbian commits a crime, we talk about her subcategory. Of course we do that if a Muslim commits a crime. And still there are crimes being committed by white men, and we don’t talk about the pattern. Naming it is to say that the violence isn’t 'theirs' but 'ours,' a violence that doesn’t come from outside but from inside, and that it isn’t a threat to our culture – it is our culture. That’s why it’s so important to say it, but so many people don’t see it, others become angry when you talk about it, and others are too timid to say anything.”