Methods: Qualitative content analysis was used to evaluate mass shooting incidents through the information communicated online by media outlets immediately after occurring. Incidents (N=33) were aggregated and included if they occurred between 2015-2019, were perpetrated with a firearm, resulted in at least four fatalities, and appeared on two or more of four violence databases: Everytown for Gun Safety, the Anti-Defamation League, Mother Jones, and the Global Terrorism Database. Researchers collected articles using Google and Bing with the search terms “(incident location) + shooting + (incident year)” and “(name of accused shooter) + shooting.” Articles were eligible for inclusion if they were text-based, published within two weeks of the incident date, and appeared on the first two pages of the search engine. A template was developed to extract data pertaining to details of the incident, information about the shooter, and social contexts such as mental health, history of domestic violence, and gun control. A total of 1,086 articles were reviewed for data extraction.
Findings: Analysis revealed that about 88% of the perpetrators had prior histories of DV. Mass shooters were described as exhibiting behaviors such as misogyny and overt sexism, with beginning as early as middle school or high school ages. These behaviors were detailed by friends, family members and on perpetrators’ social media feeds. Sexism and violence against women had been tolerated or otherwise accepted by family members and peers. Perpetrators’ behaviors of misogyny were minimally discussed or given much attention by media outlets. Furthermore, most perpetrators had prior history of childhood abuse. The majority of perpetrators owned and demonstrated outward fixation with guns, had a history mental health illness, experienced economic strain such as lack of employment and inability to find sustainable source of income; these factors are also often associated with violence perpetration across a range of social dimensions.
Conclusion and Implications: Findings indicate that perpetrators of mass violence often portray key misogynistic and sexist views, as well as other social and economic factors which are associated with violence perpetration either at home or in broader social contexts. However, news media continues to under-report misogyny and violence against women as precursors to mass violence. We should continue to identify and create awareness of the red flags that lead to perpetration of different forms of violence across the life span and create interventions to avert violence before it occurs.