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Schoot shootings: what is the proximate cause?

 
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22 May 2019 13:46
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 22 May 2019 10:46 AM

burt

The racial/ethnic demographics of school age shooters is the one piece of data I’ve noted conspicuously absent from all sources I’ve found.  But let’s assume for the sake of argument that white young males are disproportionately school shooters (I’m all but certain without seeing the sex data that males outnumber women, vastly, since males are responsible for roughly 90% of violent crime generally).  So, if disproportionately young white males, why?

The short of it is, I have no idea.  Whatever the explanation, it has to be intergenerational to some extent, I think; something common but increasing across several of them.  I’ve seen data on behavioral and psychological factors about Boomers, GenX, Millennials, and iGen (what this new one is being called), not related to school shootings per se, but just generally, and while there are clear up and down trends across these generations, I can’t see any connection to the self-regulation disorder than seems to me the almost self-evident basis of school shootings.  What in the American gestalt accounts for them?  Some specific technology or changing social-institutional structure?  Is there something specific to the schools themselves?  I just don’t know, and I can’t even come up with an anecdotal account of what the cause(s) might be (but no_profundia’s point seems as good a place as any to start).  Instead, it just seems possible to eliminate certain ones, like “availability” or “per capita” or “household” ownership of guns.  If we get that far, I think, we can start addressing the underlying problem.  As you’ve thankfully picked up on, that was my intent here.

Like I suggested to Skipshot, I think this can be done by focusing generally on self-regulation and a tendency toward ‘violence’ in general in school age kids across generations, absent making gun violence the primary issue.  If the focus were broader than guns (school shootings of course would have to be mentioned, being the elephant in the room)—say, instead, on bullying, fighting, suspensions, expulsions, etc.—then maybe we could put two and two together without running afoul of the idiotic Federal prohibition against funding gun violence studies.  I think the causes of school shootings are separable enough from gun violence generally to pull this off.  Anyway, I hope someone does this.

If you have any reference to the professional literature beyond stuff like the Lott/Levitt debacle, I’d love it.  This is not something I’ve really looked into, beyond what I’ve posted here.


I’m as much at a loss as you, although agreeing that it’s something having to do with self-regulation. One thought that might relate has to do with a cross cultural study on child rearing I came across. What was highlighted for me was the identification of four culturally universal means that were used to rear children to be social adults (in whatever culture was being looked at). The first three of these were obvious, but the fourth was striking. The author called it “predispositional priming” meaning that starting from earliest infancy a child would be primed to respond to a certain emotion that was used to energize the other three methods. The emotion, however, was culturally dependent. For example, in Asia (especially China) it was shame. In some cultures it was some variety of fear. In the US it depended on social class. For working class children it was “toughness” while for middle class children it was “self-esteem.” So I could speculate on the school shooters (no idea on statistics of class though) having to deal with issues of self-esteem and an American “cowboy” mentality. But pure speculation.

 
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22 May 2019 14:57
 
burt - 22 May 2019 01:46 PM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 22 May 2019 10:46 AM

burt

The racial/ethnic demographics of school age shooters is the one piece of data I’ve noted conspicuously absent from all sources I’ve found.  But let’s assume for the sake of argument that white young males are disproportionately school shooters (I’m all but certain without seeing the sex data that males outnumber women, vastly, since males are responsible for roughly 90% of violent crime generally).  So, if disproportionately young white males, why?

The short of it is, I have no idea.  Whatever the explanation, it has to be intergenerational to some extent, I think; something common but increasing across several of them.  I’ve seen data on behavioral and psychological factors about Boomers, GenX, Millennials, and iGen (what this new one is being called), not related to school shootings per se, but just generally, and while there are clear up and down trends across these generations, I can’t see any connection to the self-regulation disorder than seems to me the almost self-evident basis of school shootings.  What in the American gestalt accounts for them?  Some specific technology or changing social-institutional structure?  Is there something specific to the schools themselves?  I just don’t know, and I can’t even come up with an anecdotal account of what the cause(s) might be (but no_profundia’s point seems as good a place as any to start).  Instead, it just seems possible to eliminate certain ones, like “availability” or “per capita” or “household” ownership of guns.  If we get that far, I think, we can start addressing the underlying problem.  As you’ve thankfully picked up on, that was my intent here.

Like I suggested to Skipshot, I think this can be done by focusing generally on self-regulation and a tendency toward ‘violence’ in general in school age kids across generations, absent making gun violence the primary issue.  If the focus were broader than guns (school shootings of course would have to be mentioned, being the elephant in the room)—say, instead, on bullying, fighting, suspensions, expulsions, etc.—then maybe we could put two and two together without running afoul of the idiotic Federal prohibition against funding gun violence studies.  I think the causes of school shootings are separable enough from gun violence generally to pull this off.  Anyway, I hope someone does this.

If you have any reference to the professional literature beyond stuff like the Lott/Levitt debacle, I’d love it.  This is not something I’ve really looked into, beyond what I’ve posted here.


I’m as much at a loss as you, although agreeing that it’s something having to do with self-regulation. One thought that might relate has to do with a cross cultural study on child rearing I came across. What was highlighted for me was the identification of four culturally universal means that were used to rear children to be social adults (in whatever culture was being looked at). The first three of these were obvious, but the fourth was striking. The author called it “predispositional priming” meaning that starting from earliest infancy a child would be primed to respond to a certain emotion that was used to energize the other three methods. The emotion, however, was culturally dependent. For example, in Asia (especially China) it was shame. In some cultures it was some variety of fear. In the US it depended on social class. For working class children it was “toughness” while for middle class children it was “self-esteem.” So I could speculate on the school shooters (no idea on statistics of class though) having to deal with issues of self-esteem and an American “cowboy” mentality. But pure speculation.

The plot thickens, it would seem.
 
I just skipped to some sections in the book I am reading on intergenerational trends (iGen, by Jean Twengle), and according to her data homicide rates among teens and young adults hit a 40 year low in 2014, and the number of teens carrying a weapon to school is now one third of what it was in the early 1990’s.  Add this to the argument that “if fewer homes owned guns, fewer kids would be capable of shooting someone at school.  The rate would necessarily go down if the number of guns is reduced” and one has quite a dilemma, since fewer homes do own guns (down from ~50% to ~30%), even as the frequency of school shootings has risen.  If homicide rates are going down, weapons are being brought to school less frequently, and access to guns is decreasing, what is causing these explosive exceptions to the trends one would expect, given this data?  There clearly must be multiple factors at work here.

I wonder now if the increasing trends toward protecting and sheltering young people is a contributing factor.  There have been positive results from this, to be sure, but one factor with potentially dangerous consequences is that the critical period when children learn to resolve disputes among themselves is being missed.  Over this same time frame, children are spending less and less unsupervised time with one another, and in unsupervised time, they have to use their social instincts to resolve disputes.  If parents are always on the horizon to solve them for them, then they will not develop these skills for themselves, leading to potentially mal-adaptive (to put it mildly) results .  And note: of incidents by category, anger and escalation of dispute together comprise the largest category, by far—nearly 2.5 times the next nearest categories (gang-related and accidental), more than both of them combined (suicides are third of the known categories).  So, apparently, kids are exploding into catastrophic violence when in disputes or angry, perhaps as an unintended effect of recourse to the undeveloped social instincts of children with access to adult means.  They are, in effect, still children themselves lashing out from the psyches of adolescents.  And to this point, the age of the shooter spikes dramatically from 14 to 18, being the statistically largest age group of shooters by far.

Your point about self-esteem and no_profundia’s about status would bear directly on the need for these explosive assertions over their peers….

 

[ Edited: 22 May 2019 15:00 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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22 May 2019 21:38
 

Anal and burt, could you extrapolate a bit on what you mean by self-regulation? If the problem is one of self-regulation what kinds of solutions would you propose?

I guess one question I have is, can we distinguish between individual and social pathologies? Is it possible for a society to be sick? If it is possible for a society to be sick then I think we need to ask at what level a change needs to be made. If mass shootings were the result of a social pathology we would not necessarily want to treat individuals at an individual level, as if there were just a whole bunch of individuals who happened to be suffering from the same mal-adaptation at the same time, but would potentially want to alter society in some way.

This is the insight I thought I had when I read The Red and the Black. Julien may have wished to have his problem solved at an individual level so that he could be more successful within society as it existed but really I think there was nothing wrong with Julien. There was something wrong with the society he lived in and it produced a series of revolutions until the social structure was drastically altered (I am not proposing revolution for our current problems, one reason being, I am not really sure what would need to be changed.)

it seems as if there is something about the American gestalt that leads this one subset of individuals to be particularly vulnerable to a deadly cognitive disorder involving, as you indicate, self-regulation.

It would be interesting to see studies to see approximately what percentage of individuals (but especially teens/young adults) fantasize about committing mass shootings but never do. Obviously, the number of people who actually commit mass shootings is a very tiny percentage of the total population but presumably that is largely because there are extremely powerful forces (psychological, social, moral, etc.) that one has to overcome in order to actually commit mass murder. But those forces are certainly going to be less powerful inhibitors of fantasies.

We are proposing general social causes for this mass violence, but while these causes would effect everyone (or most people) clearly not everyone reacts to them by committing mass murder. I would be very curious to know what percentage reacts with the same kind of violent ideation. Is this a relatively widespread reaction and the people who actually commit mass murder are just the few who have overcome the strong inhibitors against it or do most people react to these social problems in other ways? If it is the latter, then I would want to know what the cause is for this mass violence ideation among this small sub-group. What leads to certain people being effected in that way?

I think Anal is on to something when he talks about a lack of social skills, especially regarding dispute resolution, but it is not immediately obvious to me that mass murder is merely an escalation of more ordinary violence (fights, etc.). The case of a youngster not knowing how to resolve a dispute and punching someone in a moment of anger seems to me very different from the person who spends months fantasizing about indiscriminately shooting up a school, planning it all out, stockpiling an arsenal, and then following through with their plan. Maybe the latter is just a more extreme version of the former but I’m not sure.

I also don’t think we should rule out simple contagion. I know that whenever there is a mass shooting, and it is being covered widely by the media, the chance that another one will occur increases. It is possible that once there are a certain number of mass shootings it increases the probability of another by enough to lead to another in a short period of time and it has a kind of snow ball effect. Of course, you would expect the contagion to spread beyond the borders of the US more than it has but I am not sure how much media coverage our mass shootings get in other countries? It also occurs to me that the contagion theory would not explain the demographic profile that burt has pointed out.

[ Edited: 22 May 2019 21:42 by no_profundia]
 
 
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22 May 2019 23:55
 

If we are going to discuss assumptions and hypotheticals then I’ll take a stab at it and blame the gun culture’s shift in the 80’s from a focus on sporting and firearm safety to a balls-out protection of the 2nd Amendment.  The NRA has put all its efforts to making guns available to everyone while at the same time putting the fear of anarchy in the minds of Americans if the right to guns were removed.  Combine this with white, hetero, Christians losing the culture wars, fanned by radical right wing media outlets constantly blaring how America has lost its way by giving in to liberalism and minority rights and there is a toxic mix brewed to try to reclaim a fabled great past

I think GAD is onto something when he wrote that white people are not expected to lose, and this is them lashing out against the doctrine of social equality which they do not accept.  Unarmed blacks are shot by police fairly regularly, but when a group of white assholes point guns at law enforcement after taking over federal property at gunpoint, well. . . they are patriots against an oppressive government.

Or perhaps mass shootings are a copycat effect of people who have a propensity toward grand violence which is made easier with the easy availability of guns.  One thing is certain, the American romanticism of guns has carved out an exception to access to dangerous weapons.  After the Oklahoma City bombing fertilizer was highly regulated.  After 9/11 airport security was increased to electronic strip searches.  After the airline shoe bomber we have to take off our shoes to pass through airport security.  But shoot up a classroom full of 6-year-olds, or a gay night club, or a church, or a large outdoor concert from a hotel room in Las Vegas, and nothing changes about gun laws, except in some states which relaxed gun laws in response to mass killings in a vainglorious attempt to blame the victims for their deaths for not being armed and prepared for the next mass shooting, then the federal government and society at large says mass shootings are OK and worth the price to keep guns freely available for whatever fear-based bullshit reason the NRA concocts to divert blame from the tools used to commit the crimes.  The message is it is OK to kill as many people as you like as long as you use guns to do it ensures that guns are available to the next guy who cracks under the pressure.

Here is proof that guns are sacred in America - my home state of California recently lost a federal court case which overturned a state law restricting gun magazines to 10 rounds, meaning the 100-round drum to clip to your AK-47 is available once again.  Now the next mass murderer won’t have to worry about running out of ammo on his next rampage, and he will have the backing of the NRA and conservatives who will rush to the gun’s aid, while vilifying the sorry state of mental health care, while at the same time refusing to fund mental health care because that is socialism, but they won’t know if the shooter has mental problems because white people wouldn’t shoot up the place if they weren’t crazy because white people are sacred, too.

 
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23 May 2019 04:02
 

no_profundia

For tractability, I would distinguish mass shootings from school shootings.  Bracketing the considerable overlap, I think the relative age range of the two types of murder is important (6-18 versus 20+), the locality varies considerably (schools versus in ‘society at large’), and the magnitude generally varies (school shooters generally have fewer victims, with exceptions, for sure).  In any case, in my mind they get analyzed separately, though I admit this may not reflect the underlying reality. 

Self-regulation refers to the ability to express, channel, or otherwise direct one’s behavior toward socially acceptable ends, especially with respect to the emotional and motivations causes of that behavior, and this with regard to one’s own anticipations and expectations, as opposed to direct imposition or intervention from others.  We start to see self-regulation during the toddler years and by 6 or so, it’s pretty well in place.  By then children can adopt the perspective of others have on them and things generally, they are able to tailor their own behavior and expectations accordingly, and in general they can begin to assimilate the cultural norms and learning of adults (this is about when schooling and basic responsibilities start in most cultures).  There seems to be a critical period for this to form, and absent its development from ~2-~6, problems tend to arise in adolescence and adulthood.

I am not entirely sure myself how to distinguish a pathology of a society from the pathology of an individual.  Can a society be sick?  If one grants that society is ultimately composed of individuals bound together in a common culture and heritage (language, norms, governance, etc.), then I would say a society can be sick if something creates an incentive or otherwise causes individuals to behave a certain way, thus over the spread of a population, some number of people will respond to it.  The sickness of society per se comes in the aggregate of these responders, and this aggregation can certainly feedback on itself, as may happen with the media coverage of school shootings—something I think definitely affects their frequency.  So, the sickness has its starting point on the impact on an individual, but the net effect of this starting point across so many potentially affected individuals gives the impression—an reasonably useful one, I think—of a sick society.  Put enough individuals in the direction and the direction can become self-fulfilling, even should these incentive or causes be removed.

Putting all this together re school shootings, I think the violence in our culture generally—in video games, movies, play, etc.—offers one canalization for violent impulses in children and adolescents, and even adults.  I am thinking of something like how seeing someone else do something gives one a certain sanction to do it oneself, like when one person jaywalks past a crosswalk sign, the rest of the crowd tends to follow.  Seeing violence even recreationally opens the possibility of violent behavior, and once the possibility is seen and given some kind of social sanction—however weak—the probability of acting on an impulse toward it increases.  Granted, this probability is quite small in virtually all given individuals—even vanishingly small in most.  But put 326 million of them together and one is going to see an effect, if only by the working out of small probabilities amidst large numbers.  I think this goes to the school shooting phenomenon, especially along with the media coverage, which adds recognition, a basic desire that taps deeply into most people’s psychology. 

By “escalation” I am referring to the single shooter, single-to-few victim cases, not cases like Columbine, where months of planning were involved.  In these more singular cases, there may be months of stewing over a dispute, or it may be more over a span of a few days—both seem possible.  But in any case, the escalation comes in recourse to adult means of violence as an outlet for what should have been better developed conflict resolution skills, but since these skills are not honed, one lashes out like an adolescent might, absent having learned the value of more direct means of conflict resolution.  During the critical phase of socialization, children are rarely capable of doing one another serious harm, and their fights among themselves are usually resolved rather quickly, if in a group.  If one hasn’t experienced this kind of conflict resolution in group for oneself, absent being directed by adults, a conflict will seem more catastrophic the older one gets, principally because the stakes are higher.  Approaching these higher stakes without the basic equipment to navigate the conflict will lead to ‘escalation’—the use of the most effective means of ‘solving’ the dispute.  And when violent means like a gun or other weapon are available, absent the basic skills otherwise, this means will be incentivized.  And so on.  I suppose the phenomena is a simple as a confident person not panicking in a crisis situation because he feels he has the means to come through it, as opposed to one panicking because the possibilities and needs of the situation overwhelm him.  Adolescents who convergently lack the self-confidence of conflict resolution skills developed in childhood and the ability to self-regulate will ‘panic’ and ‘lash out’ catastrophically when overwhelmed by a conflict.  That analogy to ‘panic’ is the ‘escalation’.

As for solutions, I have one that will seem far out there and outright lunacy.  Let kids be kids unsupervised by adults.  Let them walk to the park themselves, play among themselves, wander the neighborhood by themselves, and so forth.  Trust them to learn how to get along for themselves and this will pay massive dividends later in their life.  As to the risk of this, society has never been safer than it is now, and this ‘parenting strategy’ was so normal no one even deigned to call it a ‘strategy’ when I was growing up; it’s just what parents—and kids—did.  I think a return to this might mitigate many of the pathologies we are seeing in minimally this coming generation but somewhat over all of them over the last 50 years, as this unsupervised time has diminished to the point of becoming illegal—the time period, not incidentally, I think, we’re talking about with increasing school shootings.

To be sure about this, I would need to see more precise numbers on what kind of shootings have occurred, when, and at what ages.  A lot of them are gang-related, accidents, and suicides, so the relative frequency timing of those relative to anger and escalation would need to be teased out.

 
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23 May 2019 04:02
 

Skipshot

Why don’t we work to repeal the 2nd Amendment and model our gun laws on Germany?  Their solution reduced gun violence dramatically over 40 years, so something like that might work here.  I don’t think this will do much, if anything, to prevent school shootings—the main topic here—but it’s a proven means of mitigating gun violence in a culture that values sporting and hunting almost as much as we do, given their relative resources and opportunities for it.

[ Edited: 23 May 2019 04:07 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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23 May 2019 06:49
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 23 May 2019 04:02 AM

Skipshot

Why don’t we work to repeal the 2nd Amendment and model our gun laws on Germany?  Their solution reduced gun violence dramatically over 40 years, so something like that might work here.  I don’t think this will do much, if anything, to prevent school shootings—the main topic here—but it’s a proven means of mitigating gun violence in a culture that values sporting and hunting almost as much as we do, given their relative resources and opportunities for it.

I am fully on board with repealing the 2nd Amendment.  It is strange that you believe school shootings are unrelated to gun violence in society in general, or the availability and proliferation of guns.  I have not read your answer to no_pro yet, but perhaps an explanation is in there.

 
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23 May 2019 08:41
 
Skipshot - 22 May 2019 11:55 PM

If we are going to discuss assumptions and hypotheticals then I’ll take a stab at it and blame the gun culture’s shift in the 80’s from a focus on sporting and firearm safety to a balls-out protection of the 2nd Amendment.  The NRA has put all its efforts to making guns available to everyone while at the same time putting the fear of anarchy in the minds of Americans if the right to guns were removed.  Combine this with white, hetero, Christians losing the culture wars, fanned by radical right wing media outlets constantly blaring how America has lost its way by giving in to liberalism and minority rights and there is a toxic mix brewed to try to reclaim a fabled great past

I think GAD is onto something when he wrote that white people are not expected to lose, and this is them lashing out against the doctrine of social equality which they do not accept.  Unarmed blacks are shot by police fairly regularly, but when a group of white assholes point guns at law enforcement after taking over federal property at gunpoint, well. . . they are patriots against an oppressive government.

You may have something here, the right wing response to the 60s counter-culture exacerbating the urban/rural divide, coupled with both the left (the government is oppressive of marginalized peoples) and right (the government has been taken over by liberals who want to take away our rights) distrusting government (stoked even further by Vietnam and then Watergate).

 
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23 May 2019 09:44
 
Skipshot - 23 May 2019 06:49 AM
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 23 May 2019 04:02 AM

Skipshot

Why don’t we work to repeal the 2nd Amendment and model our gun laws on Germany?  Their solution reduced gun violence dramatically over 40 years, so something like that might work here.  I don’t think this will do much, if anything, to prevent school shootings—the main topic here—but it’s a proven means of mitigating gun violence in a culture that values sporting and hunting almost as much as we do, given their relative resources and opportunities for it.

I am fully on board with repealing the 2nd Amendment.  It is strange that you believe school shootings are unrelated to gun violence in society in general, or the availability and proliferation of guns.  I have not read your answer to no_pro yet, but perhaps an explanation is in there.

I never said “unrelated” and in fact have said the opposite.  What I’ve argued is that availibility of guns is not a cause of school shootings, and that making them less available isn’t going to address that cause.  As far as minors are concerned, guns are already less available that they were in 1970, and what you call the proliferation of guns is in actuality the concentration of more guns in fewer households (minus the criminal underworld, which as I’ve argued almost certainly has nothing to do with school shootings, except probably the subcategory of gang related).  In short, there is no evidence that these guns school shooters are getting aren’t coming from households that even under German laws would be allowed guns.  Given the demographics of the shooters, they probably are.  As a result, restricting gun ownership like Germany will not solve the underlying problem of school shooting. 

School shootings are separable from gun violence generally because even in places where there has been comparable gun violence, there has not been school shootings.  Plus, what drives a 6-18 year old is quite different than what drives an adult, even if the effects and means are the same.  Also, school shootings in the US do not tract statistically with gun violence generally.

Except for that last one, I have made these points repeatedly and am honestly at a loss as to how you’re still looking for an explanation.

[ Edited: 23 May 2019 09:46 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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23 May 2019 10:03
 

I do not believe a general cause for school shootings can be found, and tend to agree with your point about the change in culture having something to do with it, but mostly these rampages are people lashing out at a perceived social and individual injustice, which is not new to humanity. 

Nor did I assert guns are a cause of school shootings, but the release of military grade weapons certainly has an detrimental effect on the number of people shot during a rampage.  Combined, these factors are a deadly mixture, and though we may not be able to change cultural perceptions easily, we can change access to deadly weapons easily if the people want it.  Right now Americans would rather live in fear of certain random mass shootings than live with the unlikely possibility of social and cultural collapse if their right to guns were removed.

 
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23 May 2019 10:30
 

Regarding causes: Nasruddin was walking with a friend who asked him: “what is your view of cause and effect?”
Nasruddin replied: “a complex interwoven combination of actions and events.”
“What do you mean?” the friend asked.
Nasruddin gestured toward the square where a public hanging was about to take place. “You see that man? He is about to be hung for murder. Is the cause of this the fact that he killed somebody, or that they were in a drunken argument, or that he had a knife, or that somebody sold him the knife, or that he had earlier argued with is wife and was in a foul mood, or that somebody had sold his wife a bauble that he thought was too expensive because he had just lost money gambling, or that the person he killed was a known bully who liked to provoke people, or that he was insulted in public, or….” 

A question for me is what sort of social conditions (and these could be local to particular schools) are such that students who are susceptible are being drawn into violence of the school shooting type. And is there a particular thread in this tangle that can be pulled on to unwind it, or is it too interconnected with American culture for that sort of resolution?

 
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23 May 2019 11:29
 

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I don’t believe a “general cause” (except in a formal sense) can be found for school shootings either.  As I stated before, I think there are multiple factors at work in the cause(s).

If it matters, I am for an assault weapons ban, including confiscation with compensation.  The obvious devastation these weapons cause offsets, in my opinion, the pleasure people get from shooting them (they are not used for hunting, in some states by law).  But this is not going to impact school shooting very much because rifles as a class are a tiny proportion of weapons used, and assault weapons are presumably even a small proportion of that class.

Also, “rampages” in the social sense are different than school shootings as circumscribed in this thread.  Most of those are not rampages, and most of them have nothing to do with social injustice and only by a stretch have anything to do with individual ‘injustice.’  In this sense, school shootings do seem quite new, though I haven’t seen a true history of the phenomena to know for sure.

Right now Americans would rather live in fear of certain random mass shootings than live with the unlikely possibility of social and cultural collapse if their right to guns were removed.

As far as I can tell, this is political metaphysics that reflects in no way the attitude of anyone I know, or have ever known.  It is unhelpful hyperbole, in my opinion.

burt

A question for me is what sort of social conditions (and these could be local to particular schools) are such that students who are susceptible are being drawn into violence of the school shooting type. And is there a particular thread in this tangle that can be pulled on to unwind it, or is it too interconnected with American culture for that sort of resolution

.Yes, that.

[ Edited: 23 May 2019 11:40 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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23 May 2019 15:21
 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher - 23 May 2019 11:29 AM

Skipshot

I don’t believe a “general cause” (except in a formal sense) can be found for school shootings either.  As I stated before, I think there are multiple factors at work in the cause(s).

If it matters, I am for an assault weapons ban, including confiscation with compensation.  The obvious devastation these weapons cause offsets, in my opinion, the pleasure people get from shooting them (they are not used for hunting, in some states by law).  But this is not going to impact school shooting very much because rifles as a class are a tiny proportion of weapons used, and assault weapons are presumably even a small proportion of that class.

Also, “rampages” in the social sense are different than school shootings as circumscribed in this thread.  Most of those are not rampages, and most of them have nothing to do with social injustice and only by a stretch have anything to do with individual ‘injustice.’  In this sense, school shootings do seem quite new, though I haven’t seen a true history of the phenomena to know for sure.

Right now Americans would rather live in fear of certain random mass shootings than live with the unlikely possibility of social and cultural collapse if their right to guns were removed.

As far as I can tell, this is political metaphysics that reflects in no way the attitude of anyone I know, or have ever known.  It is unhelpful hyperbole, in my opinion.

burt

A question for me is what sort of social conditions (and these could be local to particular schools) are such that students who are susceptible are being drawn into violence of the school shooting type. And is there a particular thread in this tangle that can be pulled on to unwind it, or is it too interconnected with American culture for that sort of resolution

.Yes, that.

One thing that comes to mind is the feelings of group guilt or group pride. This connects to GAD’s comment as well. If white males identify as such, there could be a feeling of group guild at the mass shootings (school or otherwise), but being a dominant social group this gets deflected with justifications of things like mental illness, or “not really one of us.”

 
TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
 
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TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher
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23 May 2019 16:29
 

burt

One thing that comes to mind is the feelings of group guilt or group pride. This connects to GAD’s comment as well. If white males identify as such, there could be a feeling of group guild at the mass shootings (school or otherwise), but being a dominant social group this gets deflected with justifications of things like mental illness, or “not really one of us.”

I’m not sure, and actually I question whether white males are disproportionately school shooters, based on both the data I’ve seen and the data on mass shootings generally.  Males certainly, proportional to violent crime generally.  But disproportionality white…?

As far as mass shootings in general go, blacks are disproportionately mass shooters relative to their representation in the population (~16%), with whites more or less on par with their representation (~56%), and Hispanics notably below theirs (~7%).  So whites are a clear majority, but not one beyond what one would expect given their percentage of the population.  The question seems to be, then: does this proportionality scale to school shootings?

I don’t think there is any apriori reason to think it does, and in fact I think there are good reasons to think it might not, given my belief that school shootings are a different animal than mass shootings.  But, of school shootings, gang-related incidents represent about ~20% of non-accidental/suicide shootings, and whites nationally comprise only ~10% of gangs.  So already a large chunk of school shootings are not by white youth—nearly 18%.  How many of the rest are white?  I don’t know, and I can’t find any clues in the data to indicate race.  So it may well be that white males are a disproportionate majority, not just a majority, but given the available data, there is no way to tell (unless someone can find something I’m missing).

In any case, I have never met a youth who identifies as being white in any appreciable sense, so I am not sure how many would feel a “white” shooter reflects on them per se.  My guess is they will identify as “student,” not by race or ethnicity, and will thus make excuses or exceptions based on that. 

I don’t know of any data that groups shooters by mentally ill or not, but I am pretty sure students in general want to think of any given shooter as “not really one of us.”

[ Edited: 23 May 2019 16:42 by TheAnal_lyticPhilosopher]
 
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23 May 2019 18:57
 

Self-regulation refers to the ability to express, channel, or otherwise direct one’s behavior toward socially acceptable ends, especially with respect to the emotional and motivations causes of that behavior, and this with regard to one’s own anticipations and expectations, as opposed to direct imposition or intervention from others.

So, I think I can perhaps illuminate what I am getting at by asking: how do we determine what a socially acceptable end is? We have to use some normative standard to determine whether something is pathological or a “sickness” - whether we are takling about individual or social pathology. In contemporary US society, if a person were to try to make their living by raping and pillaging their neighbors we would say they had a mental illness or they were psychopaths or we would find some label for what we consider deviant behavior. But if you were a Viking and you refused to rape and pillage for moral reasons the average Viking would probably think there was something wrong with you (not their social norms or way of life).

So, if we have a situation where an individual is unable to adapt to a particular social environment then I think we can ask whether our normative standard should be what society deems socially acceptable or something else. If we decide to use society as our yardstick we will say the individual is sick but we could also adopt an alternative normative standard and say society is sick.

What you are describing as self-regulation is likely to be a useful and necessary skill in any society so in that respect I agree if someone lacks these skills we can/should consider that a problem and try to remedy it. But it seems to me, without really understanding the concept of self-regulation in any depth, that it could potentially apply to a Viking who learns to regulate undesirable emotions of empathy when raping and pillaging. If that would be an example of successful self-regulation than I think we can legitimately ask whether we want to call the individual who is unable to adapt to raping and pillaging sick, or the society that lives by raping and pillaging sick, depending on our normative standard (And I am aware my particular example is based on a stereotyped image of Vikings and the conditions and opportunities that existed at the time were drastically different, etc. My point is not to criticize Vikings but simply to make a distinction between calling an individual versus a society sick).

If one grants that society is ultimately composed of individuals bound together in a common culture and heritage (language, norms, governance, etc.), then I would say a society can be sick if something creates an incentive or otherwise causes individuals to behave a certain way, thus over the spread of a population, some number of people will respond to it.

Yes, I think norms are important here. Let me give another example where I think we might be tempted to talk about a social sickness rather than an individual sickness. Let’s take a very simple example, this comes from Augustine’s Confessions. He talks about falling in with a group of boys who decide to steal apples from an orchard. He says that none of the boys would have stolen the apples on their own but somehow when they got together they were driven to steal the apples. I suspect this is at least partly explained by pluralistic ignorance (I have been familiar with this concept for a while but just learned there was a term for it today).

All the boys think the other boys want to steal apples and there are some norms operative that make them hesitant to express their true feelings (fear of looking like a coward, etc.). So they are all driven to do something they don’t want to do out of fear of social judgment. This, to me, could qualify as a social pathology. I am not sure it would make sense to say that there is something wrong with each individual boy considered on their own (other than, perhaps, a lack of courage) but there is something wrong in the group.

As for solutions, I have one that will seem far out there and outright lunacy.  Let kids be kids unsupervised by adults.  Let them walk to the park themselves, play among themselves, wander the neighborhood by themselves, and so forth.  Trust them to learn how to get along for themselves and this will pay massive dividends later in their life.

I would agree with this policy. I am not sure what effect it would have on mass shootings but I think it would potentially have other positive effects.

As far as mass shootings in general go, blacks are disproportionately mass shooters relative to their representation in the population (~16%), with whites more or less on par with their representation (~56%), and Hispanics notably below theirs (~7%).  So whites are a clear majority, but not one beyond what one would expect given their percentage of the population.  The question seems to be, then: does this proportionality scale to school shootings?

I don’t think there is any apriori reason to think it does, and in fact I think there are good reasons to think it might not, given my belief that school shootings are a different animal than mass shootings.  But, of school shootings, gang-related incidents represent about ~20% of non-accidental/suicide shootings, and whites nationally comprise only ~10% of gangs.  So already a large chunk of school shootings are not by white youth—nearly 18%.  How many of the rest are white?  I don’t know, and I can’t find any clues in the data to indicate race.  So it may well be that white males are a disproportionate majority, not just a majority, but given the available data, there is no way to tell (unless someone can find something I’m missing)

I am getting a little confused about how you are dividing things up. In your first paragraph you seem to be talking about mass shootings in general, no matter where they take place, but what does this include? Would this include gang shootings? Any shooting where there is more than a certain number of victims? What constitutes a mass shooting? In the second paragraph you seem to be referring to any shooting that takes place in a school, including rampage shootings, gang shootings and even suicides. Am I getting that right?

I am not entirely sure this is the best way to divide things up if we are trying to get at underlying causes. Gang shootings seem very different from rampage shootings to me and I am not sure lumping them together when they both happen to take place at a school is going to help us determine the causes in each case. I also think the policies that would likely be effective in each case are probably different.

For example, in relation to gang shootings I actually think stricter gun control might have a very large impact. There is a study referenced in David Hemenway’s book Private Guns, Public Health where students in Boston (I think) were asked whether they owned a gun and then asked to rate how easy they thought it should be to get guns on a one to seven scale (from very easy to impossible, if I am remembering correctly). I can’t remember the exact percentages but I think over 50 percent of the students said they owned a gun (this was in a high crime, high gang area) but between 70-90 percent thought it should be very difficult or impossible to get guns.

I think this is a classic collective action problem. There were a few individuals in the community who were dangerous and owned guns and everyone else felt they needed to own guns to protect themselves. What they really wanted was for nobody to have guns but they didn’t want to be the only person without a gun. I think this is the kind of problem government regulation can potentially solve. By keeping a few dangerous individuals from getting guns the rest of the population no longer has an incentive to own guns. With fewer guns in the environment there would be fewer gang shootings. So while I think stricter gun control would potentially reduce gang shootings I am less convinced it would have a huge impact on mass shootings for many of the reasons you have outlined in your posts and I think this is one reason to separate them (and I think there are others but for reasons of space I will leave it at that).

At any rate, I would be more inclined to lump all rampage shootings together - along with other rampage attacks like driving a car into a crowd of people - and all gang shootings together no matter where they take place. I think this might alter the demographic analysis you provided above. I have a feeling genuine rampage shootings are rare enough, and our sample is small enough, that we can’t say with any certainty whether whites are over-represented, but I am not sure we can rule it out either.

 
 
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