The suspect in today’s mass shooting (well, the biggest one I’ve heard of thus far this morning; the day is young) is a veteran of the U.S. Marine Corps.
Another mass shooter in Florida last week just happens to have been in the military.
The man who killed with a van in Toronto this year had been briefly in the Canadian military and promoted his crime on Facebook beforehand as a military operation.
The mass-killing in a Florida High School earlier this year was also promoted by the killer as a military operation, in the sense that he wore his JROTC (Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps) shirt and killed in the same school where the U.S. Army had trained him to shoot and instructed him in war-supporting views of the world and its history.
Obviously having been a member of the U.S. military can’t have any causal connection to mass shootings, and that’s why it makes the most amazing coincidence over and over again that so many individuals who’ve been trained to kill lots of people bizarrely end up killing lots of people.
Looking at a long list of mass shootings in the United States, almost all of the shooters are men, and almost all of them are between ages 18 and 59. Above age 59, the percentage of men in the general U.S. population who are veterans leaps up dramatically. Between 18 and 59 — by averaging the percentages for each age year — about 14.76 percent of U.S. men are veterans, but at least 35% of these shooters were veterans. I determined that by quickly reading available news reports online about each shooting, so the percentage is likely to be significantly higher. I found no news reports that stated that any of the shooters had not been in the military.
In U.S. mass shootings, military veterans are over twice as likely to be mass shooters, and probably more likely than that. Needless to say, this is a statistic about a large population, not information about any particular individual. Needless to say, profiling and discrimination are counterproductive. But here’s what else might be counterproductive: Training people in the arts of mass murder, launching wars, and dropping people trained for wars and having suffered through wars into a heavily armed society taught by schools and entertainment systems that mass-killing is the way to solve problems. Mass killing in the United States gets you on the news, and if you happen to be a president bombing a distant land it gets you widely praised and labeled as “finally presidential.”
Of course it’s possible that people inclined toward mass shootings are also inclined to join the military, that the relationship is a correlation and not a cause. In fact, I would be shocked if there wasn’t some truth to that. But it’s also possible that being trained and conditioned and given a familiarity with mass shootings — and in some cases no doubt an experience of engaging in mass shooting and having it deemed acceptable — makes one more likely to mass shoot. I cannot imagine there isn’t truth in that.
The most killing Western societies do is done abroad by their militaries. In the United States, hundreds of deadly shootings every year are committed by police officers — disproportionately military veterans. Suicides, as well, are disproportionately committed by veterans. And not because we are untactful in pointing to problems, but because we generally fail to admit to and deal with problems. Veteran suicides are driven by guilt over having participated in killing. That guilt is the top factor in predicting suicide, according to the U.S. Veterans Administration, and the very least likely piece of information in the entire world to be mentioned in a celebration of Veterans Day.
Consider this. If over 35% of U.S. mass shooters were Muslim or foreign or black or gay or socialist or red-haired or any of millions of other things likely actually coincidental, it would be a Big Freaking Deal. But the fact that over 35% of them have been trained by the world’s biggest mass-killing institution is simply not of any interest.