On School Shootings

This was a difficult two weeks, and I really need to put this out for discussion. I grew up in very similar circumstances to those portrayed, however thankfully, there were predispositions that probably had adverted further deviancy by intense curiosities, followed by a series of fortunate encounters (e.g., military, martial arts, intelligence community, tech, women’s rights, and LGBTQ+ space). It had been an emotional roller coaster following last week’s reading of Thio et al.’s (2018) overview of killing in general (pp. 56-81). The ups and downs reviewing Fox & DeLateur’s (2014) review of mass shootings, Newman & Fox’s (2009) earlier review of high school & college shootings, Kimmel & Mahler’s (2003) assessments of triggers to school shootings, Kimmel’s (2013) detailing why it’s the white guy, and Kirk’s (2000) Killer at Thurston High, I must share: there is exhaustion. I believe that much of the information presented in terms of raw statistics is very valuable, and standing back, looking back to personal early years of life, there is limitless empathy. Though initial posts in this course had been overgeneralized in application of theory, theoretical understanding has become more discriminated, yet there is still further to go. I find every sociological theory, divided between positivist and constructionist, applicable in review of mass killings, and yet sitting here at the keyboard, questions linger, what is the most valuable [takeaway]… in what order?

In respect to the prior post’s focus on sociology itself, what might be valuable is to categorize each source around value, not in terms of my own values driven by bias in attempting to solve anomie-strain, nor each author’s alluded to values presented, but by consideration in each author’s own openings. These openings offer social-facts, and these exert social control (Durkheim, 1895, pp. 43-44). Each author’s foci in opening revolve around four distinct areas that serve as interchangeable indicators echoing Bartlett’s (1932) schematic reproduction in society as basic social process (BSP; Glaser, 1978, pp. 100-115). The following categories seem to be addressed in the papers, 1) myths, 2) measures, 3) motives, and 4) working contextual theory.

The first two categories of myths and measures are interesting, as myths are countered by measures (Fox & DeLateur, 2014; Newman & Fox, 2009). In terms of social facts, opening facts are offered, without statistic. Prevailing myths are assessed to be “hot topics for media coverage and public debate” (Fox & DeLateur, 2014), “media accounts” accounts are taken for “reasonable evidence” (Newman & Fox, 2009), and there is a lack of statistics to back up claims as to a “legion of political and scientific commentaries on school shootings” (Kimmel & Mahler, 2003). In terms of prevalence, what is the prevalence and incidence rate of school shootings in “media coverage”, “public debate”, “legion of political and scientific commentary”? To assess the validity of the claims therein, it is important to measure the actual prevalence and incidence of the aforementioned.

The second category taken in whole, presents research in ample statistics on shootings (Fox & Delateur, 2014; Newman & Fox, 2009) when it comes to the prevalence and incidence of the core category of the act of shootings themselves, but lacks rigor in offering measures of prevalence and incidence in media, political, and public communication. Even Kimmel & Mahler’s (2003) assertion at the outset, “violence is one of the most urgent issues facing our nation’s schools. All over the country… asking why” (p. 1439) lacks empirical evidence in supporting the assertion. In 2003, the unemployment rate was about 5.5% and 5.1% for men and women, respectively (Krantz, Natale, & Krolik, 2003). I can assure you that an urgent issue in this time was measured in statistic as the 2001 recession’s effects still lingered till late-2003 (p. 1). These very economic issues are brought up in Kimmel’s excerpt in Salon, “… these different groups of white men are angry—angry at a system that has so let them down” (Kimmel, 2013). One can hear the refrain from James Carville, “it’s the economy, stupid.” However, as sociologists continually point out, it’s more than the economy.

The third category, motives, gives way to many personal experiences and emotions, yet I refrain from offering a booming voice on the affairs of a population, the degrees of freedom between affairs growing up with trauma in a single household sample to a population are many—primacy bias (Deese & Kaufman, 1957) is irresponsible. Kimmel & Mahler’s (2003) line brought me to a dead stop, “one could say that homophobia is the hate that makes men straight.” I would like to see investigation here, scientific, and while I could offer much of my own personal experience and relate to it directly in the behaviors of my own father, extreme in arbitrarily administering smoldering to explosive mental and physical abuse (e.g., holding my neck, draping me over the side of the steps; kicking me into the corner of a cinderblock wall and a hot water heater; continually locking me outside in Virginia August exceeding 100 degrees every summer to “go play outside” to drink out of a dog dish, while he only later admitted it was a ploy to sexually abuse my sister, where the admittance was to “shock the [redacted] out of me” in a tit-for-tat over an argument over global warming on a long distance call from Alaska to Virginia while I was in the military etc.)… science, nature, music, programming, Native American culture, art, and my mother’s love for film, not as escape, but as study, quite literally saved me. I found Kimmel & Mahler spot on, yet I found myself taking a step back, because there are probably numerous instances of alternate hypothesis at play, and I’ve seen a wide gamut of these.

To continue the third category, I found the enumeration of revenge, power, loyalty, terror, and profit (as cited in Fox & DeLateur, 2014) accessible to a public subject to productivity acceleration by way of a continual stream of social facts of economic indicators, leaving less room for complexity, leaving more simplicity (the roadwork for stereotype, prejudice, and discrimination). That said, why does someone seek revenge? Why power? Why loyalty? Why terror? Why profit? I think this is where anomie-strain theory comes to play, along with other theories in both positivist and constructionist perspectives. Knowing first-hand the physical abuses of a father who had himself been abused sexually, who reporting it to his parents, had seen his parents grow depressed at losing familial bonds with their best friends, only choosing to hide the next occurrence—the next-door neighbor sexually abused him, repeatedly—it is beyond traumatizing. My father resorted to seek ritual in search of the cloth as a priest, only to later join the military… I find these stories lead to motives in my father that meet all five criteria. He hid gay exploits, using our college money to pay for prostitutes, and had admitted to having sex with my sister to prove to himself that he wasn’t gay (horror)—this to a corporate psychologist later administering electroshock therapy coincidentally after he had whistleblowing evidence of corporate fraud and white collar crime in the practice of [redacted]; he even visited the chairman of the board in [redacted], after which his personality completely changed more suicidal. And here is where psychology offers a warning because I shared quite a bit here, and that’s just the surface—this is where courtesy stigma (Goffman, 1963, p. 30) may come to play, but this was assured to be a safe place, so here it is, now to study the echoes of it.

I know that people may distance themselves, and I know why, but I know it not because I read or studied it, but because I could see it, and could make sense of it—I lived it. People are trying, all of them, and time is life’s most precious resource. The concepts in Newman & Fox’s (2009) Table 2 come alive to me, the loner, the few friends, the teasing, the bullying, the lack of evidence for challenged masculinity (p. 1295). But there is one thing I never felt, I never felt marginalized, ever. Why? Nature provided nurture—nature de-identified when social facts offered identities. I could argue that I didn’t even practice identifying with “not identifying”. Labeling theory, or rather, the concept of it undescribed was realized as young as elementary school. Nature is conceptual, not descriptive, and here, I’ll stop, and bring it to the scientific, because knowing this past, the stats on motives are necessarily lacking because it’s ethical. Any more data collection may most likely not only infringe on rights to privacy, but also risk the concept of making any phenomena of labeling theory worse, by the sheer practice of categorizing BSPs. I saw that too since a young child.

As for the fourth category of working contextual theory, I find every theory offered by sociologists credible, and that’s all I will say on this, because it has been offered before (R. Hodges, personal communication, February 2022 [a priori WSU SOC-360 DQ]). There is one area of Kirk’s documentary that I’d like to point out within theoretical context, as it seems to support a great many theoretical constructs. When Kasey Guianen, a friend of Kip, says, “I think he didn’t know what to do [1,4,5]…  he gets himself into a corner [1,5]… he doesn’t think straight [2,3,5]… he doesn’t know what to do [1,2,3,5]… he really wanted to kill himself [1,4] but he didn’t have the guts to do it [2,3,4,5]… he’s like a little boy [3,5]” (00:38:38; BSP codes added), the quote may be coded against BSPs of: 1) Merton’s strain, 2) Braithwaite’s shame, 3) Becker’s labeling, 4) context of Glaser’s differential identification, and 5) Kimmel & Mahler’s (2003) withholding of power, that being known as a “real man” (p. 1449). Many theories associated with deviance are at play in cases of murder and specifically mass murder, and it is attested that these theoretical constructs operate when considering antecedent, behavior, and reinforcement (Skinner, 1938). 

When looking at these four categories of myths, measures, motives, and working contextual theories, these, themselves are being served as social facts. In final form, I ask a question to an audience, when does the field realize that male-dominant ethnocentric majority openings utilizing cinching-anecdote to compel, persuade, and change an audience’s opinions is serving up ungrounded social-facts that harm a great many people to that have come, are coming, and will come. Perhaps it’s time to sample what young humans perceive as their parent’s greatest concerns and put the anecdotal openers of authoritative and authoritarian media empires, academics, politicians, scientists, businesses, and the great many intelligent beings to the test. The power is in social-facts served. Now, it goes without saying, all these stories of mass killers, are to me, stories of radicalization, fitting with studies on terrorism. These stories fit Kruglanski et al.’s (2019) 3N’s of needs, narratives, and networks, in each mass killer’s quests for significance (pp. 42-53) where social anomie is inversely proportional to social-unit phenomenological measures of significance. I offer no solution in this discussion post, other than a phenomenological solution itself—solve significance.


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Glaser, B. G. (1978). Theoretical sensitivity: Advances in the methodology of grounded theory. Sociology Press.

Goffman, E. (1963). Stigma: Notes on the Management of Spoiled Identity. Prentice Hall.

Kimmel, M. (2013, November 1). Why is it always a white guy: The roots of modern, violent rage. Salon. Retrieved February 8, 2022 from https://www.salon.com/2013/11/01/why_is_always_a_white_guy_the_roots_of_modern_violent_rage/.

Kimmel, M. S., & Mahler, M. (2003). Adolescent masculinity, homophobia, and violence. American Behavioral Scientist, 46, 1439-1458.

Kirk, M. [Director]. (2000). Killer at Thurston High [Documentary]. PBS.

Krantz, R., Di Natale, M., Krolik, T. J. (2004). The U.S. labor market in 2003: Signs of improvement by year’s end. Monthly Labor Review, March, 3-29.

Kruglanski, A. W., Bélanger, J. J., & Gunaratna, R. (2019). Significance quest theory of radicalization. In A. W. Kruglanski, J. J. Bélanger, & R. Gunaratna, The three pillars of radicalization: Needs, narratives, and networks (pp. 35-64). Oxford University Press.

Newman, K., & Fox, C. (2009). Repeat tragedy: Rampage shootings in American high school and college settings, 2002-2008. American Behavioral Scientist, 52(9), 1286-1308.

Skinner, B. F. (1938). The behavior of organisms: An experimental analysis. Appleton-Century.

Thio, A., Taylor, J., Schwartz, M. D. (2018). Deviant behavior, 12th edition. Pearson.