The United States is starting to experience a hauntingly familiar routine of mass murders within it’s own boarders at an alarming rate. As long as America continues to promote, publicize and even create a place in the spotlight for such evil to be idolized it will only spawn more copy cat killers and those who will go to extreme measures for their voice to be heard.

There are two questions that haunt the minds and hearts of loved one’s left behind. What motivates someone to kill strangers in a senseless way? And what, if anything, can we do to stop these tragedies from recurring?

Their eagerness to explain themselves in print and videos and the accumulating large sample of mass murderers provides a rich data base. A leading forensic psychiatrist, Dr James Knoll, is an expert in mass murderers and describes the pattern of their demographics and psychological profiles.

“In 2013, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) issued a report on public mass shootings. The CRS used as its working definition incidents “occurring in relatively public places, involving four or more deaths,” writes Dr Knoll. In the U.S. the CRS identified 78 public mass shootings that resulted in 547 deaths and 1,023 casualties since 1983. After carefully planning out the event most perpetrators are young males who act alone. They’ve collected large stores of weapons and often have a longstanding fascination with them. The shootings usually occur during the daytime in a public place.

Common psychological themes are suggested due to individual case studies involving psychological autopsy and a careful analysis of the often copious communications left behind. The mass murderer usually spends a great deal of time ruminating on past humiliations feeling resentful about real or imagined rejections and is an injustice collector. He has chronic feelings of social persecution, envy, and grudge holding along with a paranoid worldview. He is tormented by beliefs that he must peer through the window of life as an outside loner always looking in while privileged others are enjoying life’s all-you-can-eat buffet.

He longs for power and revenge to obliterate what he cannot have and is aggrieved and entitled. The mass murderer is reduced to violent fantasy and pseudo-power since satisfaction is unobtainable lawfully and realistically. When he does not like the way the game is going he is reduced down to being a child who upends the checkerboard and seeks to destroy others for apparent failures to recognize and meet his needs. Fantasies of violent revenge on a scale that will draw attention eventually crystalize due to fury, deep despair, and callous selfishness. A mass homicide-personal suicide results because the mass murderer typically expects to die and frequently does in the process. He may script matters so that he will be killed by the police or kill himself.

It is not clear where to draw the line between ‘bad’ and ‘mad’ so the frequency of mental disorders in mass murderers remains a controversial issue. Some may justify their acts on political or religious grounds that clearly do not meet criteria for any mental disorder. Others have the frank psychotic delusions of schizophrenia. Many perpetrators are in the middle, gray zone where psychiatrists will disagree about the relative contributions of moral failure versus mental affliction.”
The other question remains, “What, if anything, can we do to stop these tragedies from reoccuring?” Sadly the answer to that is, No. It is just not possible to find needles in haystacks.

Lots of people never act out their fantasies even though they fit Dr. Knoll’s demographic and psychological profile of being a mass murderer. We have no way to identify the one specific person who will go haywire, or when it will happen even though we can easily predict a high-risk group. Unfortunately, we would have to seriously violate the civil rights of the hundreds of thousands of others who resemble him, but turn out to be harmless, if we wanted to prevent the act of the killer who winds up pulling the trigger. Mass murders happen way too rarely to be easily preventable by identifying and isolating the mass murderers but way too often for us to tolerate. It would be nearly impossible to stop everyone who has violent fantasies and then jail or hospitalize them.

None-the-less awareness has increased that mental health treatment is underfunded and inaccessible to most people who desperately need it. Beds in psychiatric hospitals are so few and it often takes months to get an outpatient appointment that getting into a psychiatric hospital is almost impossible. It is a national necessity that we improve accessibility to mental health services because there will always be guns and deadly weapons. It’s the men and women who wield them that we must give our undivided attention to rather then exhausting our limited energy to outlaw the weapons themselves. The answer does not lye within the weapons but the silenced voices of those incapable of knowing the root of their pain and turning anything into a weapon in one moment when they finally cry out in a murderous rage.