The Link Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings

Learning that the gunman behind the mass shooting at the Burnette Chapel Church of Christ had a history of domestic violence is sadly not surprising.  Researchers have long been aware that domestic violence is a predictor of gun violence including mass shootings.

According to the annual report published by the Violence Policy Center, Tennessee is currently fourth in the nation for women murdered by men.  In the last report, Tennessee was ninth.

Below are several useful articles and analyses that address the link between domestic abusers and mass shooters.

Profile of a Mass Shooter: The Domestic Violence Link
Psychology Today – May 2016
In the aftermath of public shootings, researchers are at a loss to compile a thorough and foolproof profile of a shooter. There are so many extraneous variables, and not everything that would appear on the surface to be linked to risk factors for public acts of violence necessarily holds up to scientific scrutiny (for instance, in an earlier post I report that approximately 4% of mass violence in our culture can be attributed to mental illness, a staggering statistic that surprises most people and defies media depictions of the mentally ill; for the full article click here). The unpredictability of public mass shootings in particular make them very hard to prevent or predict for policy makers and scholars alike.

An often overlooked link regarding mass shootings, whether private or public (a mass shooting is defined as a violent act where there are at least four fatalities—it need not be a public act per se to meet this standard) has to do with incidents of domestic violence.

In that same analysis of recent mass shootings a sample size of 133 incidents were studied, and in addition to that 57% number being identified, the researchers uncovered that a prior domestic violence charge was also present for a significant number of cases that were in the sample (“Analysis of Mass Shootings”, 2015).

The Link Between Domestic Violence and Mass Shootings
The New Yorker – June 16, 2017
As Rebecca Traister has written, for New York magazine, “what perpetrators of terrorist attacks turn out to often have in common more than any particular religion or ideology, are histories of domestic violence.” Traister cites Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel, who drove a truck through a Bastille Day crowd in Nice, last summer, and Omar Mateen, the Pulse night-club shooter. She also cites Robert Lewis Dear, who killed three people at a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, in 2015. According to Traister, “two of his three ex-wives reportedly accused him of domestic abuse, and he had been arrested in 1992 for rape and sexual violence.”

Many mass shooters have a history of domestic violence. It’s time to pay attention.
Vox – January 10, 2017
“But one of the best predictors of future violent behavior, researchers say, is past violent behavior. And a crucial warning sign — one too often ignored — is domestic violence against intimate partners and other family members.”

Once Again, A Mass Shooter Has a History of Domestic Violence
Slate – June 14, 2017
By now, news consumers are used to hearing in the wake of a public shooting that the perpetrator has been charged with domestic abuse or committed violence against women before. The shootings at the Fort Lauderdale airport; Virginia Tech; Isla Vista, California; Orlando’s Pulse nightclub; and San Bernardino—all were committed by men who had histories of abusing women. It would be more accurate to assume that any random mass shooter is a domestic abuser than to assume he’s not: The average mass shooter in America, defined as someone whose attack killed four people not including himself, has committed domestic abuse.

Domestic Warnings Signs of Mass Shootings
US News and World Reports – August 2, 2016
Reports suggest that the shooter in Dallas left the Army after a sexual harassment charge. The Orlando shooter allegedly abused his first wife. The Colorado Springs Planned Parenthood shooter was accused of sexual assault, domestic violence or stalking by three different women, including his then-wife. The Sandy Hook shooter targeted his mother. And though the police have released little information about the Baton Rouge shooter, a suspect who opened fire on a Milwaukee police officer that same day was a domestic violence suspect. The list goes on and on. And each time there’s a shooting that grabs national headlines, the debate centers on gun control and the Second Amendment. Now it’s time to further explore the connection between violence against women and murder.