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Why have random mass shootings become relatively commonplace in American society?

Mass shootings by lone gunmen seem to be a uniquely American phenomenon. To date, the 2017 shooting of nearly 600 people (of whom 58 died) in Las Vegas by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock is the deadliest such attack. Paddock fired from a guest room on the 32nd floor of a nearby resort into a music festival crowd of more than 30,000 people. In 2016, Omar Marteen (who is featured in a Criminal Profile  box elsewhere in this text) shot over 100 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine of them died. Marteen, who was 29 years old at the time of the attack, was killed after a police SWAT team forced its way into the building.In 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, a mentally troubled young man, killed 25 people at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut—20 of them children.Mass shootings show no signs of declining, despite an overall drop in the U.S. homicide rate. “The frequency of gun violence does not fluctuate much year to year,” said James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University. Looking back 35 years, Fox counted 19 such shootings in 1976 and 18 in 2010, with a range of 7 in 1985 to 30 in 2003.A study of past incidents reveals a portrait of the mass shooter. He tends to be a young man without friends and recently encountered some humiliation. He’s aiming for a high body count. Sometimes he copies another mass shooter or a figure from the movies, as Colorado shooter James Holmes did when imitating the Joker, Batman’s sworn enemy. Although many mass shooters are depressed, they rarely suffer psychosis, according to James L. Knoll, a psychiatrist at SUNY Upstate Medical Center.Little in this portrait, however, can help predict future mass shootings. Mass shooters rarely talk about their exploits in advance. But many of them do undergo a personality change just before their crimes, as evidenced by Holmes dyeing his hair orange. Larry Burton, a professor at Bryn Mawr College in Pennsylvania, thinks people should notice these changes and report them to authorities.Other ways to address mass shootings might be to ban assault rifles, which could reduce the carnage, and the imposition of stricter background checks for gun purchases. But a mass shooter, like Paddock, without a criminal record might not be identified and prevented from buying weapons. Fox argues that preventing these calamities is pretty much impossible. “We’re not going to turn our country into one big fortress,” he said. “People hate it when I say this, but it’s true. This kind of tragedy is one of the unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms.”1. Why have random mass shootings become relatively commonplace in American society?2. What can be done to prevent future incidents of random mass shootings?Post your response to the questions for the vignette you selected. Also, briefly explain whether you think the individual or society is more to blame for the crime portrayed and why.
VIGENETTE
Why Mass Shootings Won’t Go Away
Mass shootings by lone gunmen seem to be a uniquely American phenomenon. To date, the 2017
shooting of nearly 600 people (of whom 58 died) in Las Vegas by 64

year

old Stephen Paddock is the
deadliest such attack. Paddock fired from a guest room on the 32nd
floor of a nearby resort into a music
festival crowd of more than 30,000 people. In 2016, Omar Marteen (who is featured in a
Criminal
Profile
box elsewhere in this text) shot over 100 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty

nine of
them died. Marteen, who was 29 years old at the time of the
attack, was killed after a police SWAT team
for
ced its way into the building.
In 2012, 20

year

old Adam Lanza, a mentally troubled young man, killed 25 people at an elementary
school in Newtown, Connecticut

20 of them children.
Mass shootings show no signs of declining, despite an overall drop in the U
.S. homicide rate. “The
frequency of gun violence does not fluctuate much year to year,” said James Alan Fox, a criminology
professor at Northeastern University. Looking back 35 years, Fox counted 19 such shootings in 1976 and
18 in 2010, with a range of 7
in 1985 to 30 in 2003.
A study of past incidents reveals a portrait of the mass shooter. He tends to be a young man without
friends and recently encountered some humiliation. He’s aiming for a high body count. Sometimes he
copies another mass shooter or a
figure from the movies, as Colorado shooter James Holmes did when
imitating the Joker, Batman’s sworn enemy. Although many mass shooters are depressed, they rarely
suffer psychosis, according to James L. Knoll, a psychiatrist at SUNY Upstate Medical Cente
r.
Little in this portrait, however, can help predict future mass shootings. Mass shooters rarely talk about
their exploits in advance. But many of them do undergo a personality change just before their crimes, as
evidenced by Holmes dyeing his hair orange
. Larry Burton, a professor at Bryn Mawr College in
Pennsylvania, thinks people should notice these changes and report them to authorities.
Other ways to address mass shootings might be to ban assault rifles, which could reduce the carnage,
and the imposit
ion of stricter background checks for gun purchases. But a mass shooter, like Paddock,
without a criminal record might not be identified and prevented from buying weapons. Fox argues that
preventing these calamities is pretty much impossible. “We’re not go
ing to turn our country into one big
fortress,” he said. “People hate it when I say this, but it’s true. This kind of tragedy is one of the
unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms.”
Discussion Questions
1.
Why have random
mass shootings become relatively commonplace in American society?
2.
What can be done to prevent future incidents of random mass shootings?
PROJECT
Pos
t
your response to the questions for the vignette you selected. Also, briefly explain whether you
think the indivi
dual or society is more to blame for the crime portrayed and why
.
VIGENETTE
Why Mass Shootings Won’t Go Away
Mass shootings by lone gunmen seem to be a uniquely American phenomenon. To date, the 2017
shooting of nearly 600 people (of whom 58 died) in Las Vegas by 64-year-old Stephen Paddock is the
deadliest such attack. Paddock fired from a guest room on the 32nd floor of a nearby resort into a music
festival crowd of more than 30,000 people. In 2016, Omar Marteen (who is featured in a Criminal
Profile box elsewhere in this text) shot over 100 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando. Forty-nine of
them died. Marteen, who was 29 years old at the time of the attack, was killed after a police SWAT team
forced its way into the building.
In 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, a mentally troubled young man, killed 25 people at an elementary
school in Newtown, Connecticut—20 of them children.
Mass shootings show no signs of declining, despite an overall drop in the U.S. homicide rate. “The
frequency of gun violence does not fluctuate much year to year,” said James Alan Fox, a criminology
professor at Northeastern University. Looking back 35 years, Fox counted 19 such shootings in 1976 and
18 in 2010, with a range of 7 in 1985 to 30 in 2003.
A study of past incidents reveals a portrait of the mass shooter. He tends to be a young man without
friends and recently encountered some humiliation. He’s aiming for a high body count. Sometimes he
copies another mass shooter or a figure from the movies, as Colorado shooter James Holmes did when
imitating the Joker, Batman’s sworn enemy. Although many mass shooters are depressed, they rarely
suffer psychosis, according to James L. Knoll, a psychiatrist at SUNY Upstate Medical Center.
Little in this portrait, however, can help predict future mass shootings. Mass shooters rarely talk about
their exploits in advance. But many of them do undergo a personality change just before their crimes, as
evidenced by Holmes dyeing his hair orange. Larry Burton, a professor at Bryn Mawr College in
Pennsylvania, thinks people should notice these changes and report them to authorities.
Other ways to address mass shootings might be to ban assault rifles, which could reduce the carnage,
and the imposition of stricter background checks for gun purchases. But a mass shooter, like Paddock,
without a criminal record might not be identified and prevented from buying weapons. Fox argues that
preventing these calamities is pretty much impossible. “We’re not going to turn our country into one big
fortress,” he said. “People hate it when I say this, but it’s true. This kind of tragedy is one of the
unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms.”
Discussion Questions
1. Why have random mass shootings become relatively commonplace in American society?
2. What can be done to prevent future incidents of random mass shootings?
PROJECT
Post your response to the questions for the vignette you selected. Also, briefly explain whether you
think the individual or society is more to blame for the crime portrayed and why.

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