Mass Shootings Dubbed the "Dark Side of American Exceptionalism"

Mass shootings are a problem, that is something we can all agree on. Usually these shootings are by some "lone wolf" gunman who takes a mini-arsenal to a school, movie theater, or other public place and opens fire. In the wake of these shootings the gun control debate has raged on. One side arguing for greater gun control (I'll note that most of these shooters obtained their firearms legally), to the NRA saying we need more guns to solve the problem. 

In the Common Dreams article by Nadia Prupis she breaks down a recent study by Adam Lankford on mass shootings in America. Not surprisingly we rank on top for both gun ownership and mass shootings. Lankford also argues that American Exceptionalism is the culprit. While he is correct that economic disparity is a factor in increased violence, it's not exceptionalism alone that plays a factor.

Exceptionalism and how it plays into social privilege should be more closely examined. Many of these shooters have some level of social privilege, and react based on either what they see a loss of their "rights", or in feeling they are being kept from the fruits of their privilege and therefore inferior. Dylan Roof, a white man, was motivated by racism. Wade Michael Page, another white man, shot up a Sikh temple. Elliot Rodger, a man, was motivated by frequent rejections by women. While biracial, he held a resentment to the Asian part of his heritage, and a greater resentment towards Asian men who were dating white women. Some of these killers have even drafted up elaborate manifestos related to violently preserving their racial privilege, sex privilege, religious privilege, etc.

While there is economic stress related to the rat race, we need to look beyond it to see why mass shooters are motivated to kill. For many it is all about the competition, and the dynamic of which groups should be dominant over others. An enforcement of old-fashioned status quo. 

While guns are of course a factor in mass shootings, what other contributing factors do you see? 


Mass shootings are a perennial crisis in the U.S., unmatched in numbers anywhere else in the world—and it's a problem that may grow worse over time without addressing underlying issues, according to a new study unveiled on Sunday.

In "Mass Shooters, Firearms, and Social Strains: A Global Analysis of an Exceptionally American Problem," presented at the annual meeting of the American Sociological Association in Chicago, criminal justice professor Adam Lankford analyzed mass shootings around the world from 1966 to 2012 and found that the phenomenon is "a bigger problem today than it was a decade ago and it may be a bigger problem in the future."

Speaking with Newsweek about his study, Lankford, who teaches at the University of Alabama, said that while the U.S. accounts for less than five percent of the world's population, it had 31 percent of mass shootings during that time period.

With 90 such incidents in 46 years, the U.S. had five times as many as the Philippines, which was next on the list at 18. At the same time, 15 occurred in Russia, 11 in Yemen, and 10 in France.

The most consistent connective thread between all of those shootings, Lankford said, was firearm ownership.

"What was surprising was how strong the relationship was—no matter what test I ran the data always showed the same thing," he told Newsweek. That finding "suggests that essentially you can’t be in the top five in firearm ownership and not have this problem."

Mother Jones investigation published in July found that most mass shooters obtained their weapons legally.

But firearm ownership was not the only underlying factor in the phenomenon. As Lankford explains, there may be uniquely American social and cultural issues at play.

"In the United States, where many individuals are socialized to assume that they will reach great levels of success and achieve 'the American Dream,' there may be particularly high levels of strain among those who encounter blocked goals or have negative social interactions with their peers, coworkers, or bosses," Lankford explained in a statement.

Mass shootings, Lankford said, are the "dark side of American exceptionalism."

Newsweek continues:

To try to further speculate on the prevalence of mass shootings in the U.S. and to look beyond firearm ownership rates, Lankford turned to his own and others’ previous research to ask: Is there something about American culture that incubates more mass shooters?

“At least one explanation” about violence in the U.S. has suggested that “crime and deviance occur when there’s an unhealthy gap between people’s dreams and aspirations and their ability to reach those dreams,” Lankford explains.

Original article: http://www.commondreams.org/news/2015/08/24/mass-shootings-dubbed-dark-side-american-exceptionalism

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