Are Mass Murders on the Rise?

In the year since Orange County's deadliest mass murder, dozens more have died in similar massacres around the nation including Friday's school shooting. Why is this happening?

It's barely a year since Orange County suffered its deadliest mass murder when eight people were killed by a lone gunman at a Seal Beach salon. Since that tragedy, dozens more have been killed in similar massacres, victims of a disturbing increase in mass murders.

July brought the Aurora movie theater massacre, in which 12 people were killed and 58 wounded. A UC Irvine professor was arrested in late July before carrying out what authorities say was a plot to shoot, in his own words, 200 students at an Irvine high school. In August, there was the shooting at a Sikh Temple in Wisconsin that left seven dead. In October, a gunman killed three women in a beauty salon in Casselberry, Fla. A few days later, another gunman killed three women and wounded four at a Brookfield, Wis., beauty salon.

Last month, two people were killed and another critically injured when a gunman strolled into an Oregon Mall and opened fire in the food court. Today, a gunman rained fire on an elementary school in

How could this happen? Why do there seem to be so many mass murders lately?

Mass murders, in fact, are occurring more frequently in the United States, said Dr. Alan J. Lipman, a clinical psychologist at the George Washington University Medical Center and the founder of the Center for the Study of Violence.

Lipman, who has been studying mass murders for three decades, said he's noticed a snowball effect over the last decade as more mass murders are committed.

Friday’s tragedy appears to have similarities to other recent attacks, Lipman said.

As with the shooters at the Oregon mall, the Aurora movie theater and the Tucson massacre in which 18 people were shot along with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, the Connecticut shooter was reportedly a man in his early 20s.

“This is happening more and more with a certain kind of person,” Lipman said.

The early 20s are a key age for people vulnerable to developing psychosis. Mental illness combined with some sort of acute stress can trigger a psychotic break from reality, said Lipman. A U.S. Secret Service study of mass murders found that 90 percent of the killers had an underlying mental illness compounded by some kind of stressful event in their lives, added Lipman.

In the case of the alleged Connecticut shooter, 20-year-old Adam Lanza, his parents were divorced, and police said he killed his mother first before heading to the school where she worked to open fire on students and administrators, Lipman said.

“Why did he shoot the kids? At that point, his life is over, and the kids become targets of his vengeance,” Lipman said. “He’s so angry, he wants to make the whole world disappear around him.”

Lipman links technology, globalization and the fast pace of life with an increase in mass murders. It’s similar to the Arab Spring, when technology and globalization sped up the pace of the revolution by enabling people to connect and act.

For potential killers, the Internet can increase the stress they are exposed to, he said. They can go online, read paranoid fantasies, learn about military regalia and read about other mass murders, said Lipman.

“These environmental stresses have a pipeline into the souls of individuals at any given moment,” Lipman said. Added to that, “you have a person who is on the edge. He is a ticking time bomb. He has a genetic disposition to be more violent, and he suddenly experiences a stressful event that triggers the break. It’s called the diathesis stress model."

It’s rarely the case that there are no signs of mental illness prior to such violence, said Lipman. These people fall through the cracks, in part, because there is a diffusion of responsibility, society’s collective unwillingness to risk the embarrassment of wrongfully butting-in when someone seems off, said Lipman.

He encourages people to get over the fear of interfering. If someone seems unusually stressed or agitated, ask them how they are doing, said Lipman. If it is a family member or friend, offer to go with them to get help. The best way to prevent such tragedies is to be attuned to signs of illness, to overcome the stigma of mental illness and intervene to get help, added Lipman.


What do you think is behind the rise in mass murders, and what can we do to prevent such tragedies?

JustUs December 16, 2012 at 02:05 AM
Poor Tyrone. Doesn't realize that all laws have many drafts before they are finally approved. Poor Tyrone. Doesn't realize that guns are as ingrained into the american culture as apple pie or the TeeVee set. Tyrone might as well call for a ban of apple pie or the TeeVee set. The outcome would be the same. Poor Tyrone. He has probably never read the gist of the 2nd Amendment. Here, I will post it for his convenience: "A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." Tyrone, note that it says: "SHALL not be infringed." not "MAY not be infringed." SHALL means cannot be rescinded under any circumstances since they are INALIENABLE right - not man made. There, I hope you learned something. If you need another lesson let me know.
Joe Hall December 16, 2012 at 03:17 PM
Hey everyone take a moment here. Maybe I'm the crazy one for thinking this but: Since guns and crazies have been around for some time why not look what has changed instead of repeating what we are told to repeat from the media. FIRST: As we have seen repeatedly the police are useless and ill trained. Look at Columbine and the shooting afterwards you will see the police hiding behind trees and doing nothing. They do nothing until everything is over. Second: Although they are not entirely at fault the media presents these tragedies mostly as a celebration and blatantly advertise it and promote it a al special anniversary shows. This not only gives the potential crazy advice on how to get world attention but show him what to do. THIRD: Much much more attention needs to be brought upon the drug industry and seriously look at the side effects of anti-depressants. We have already seen these drugs in action for our military and we had our own soldiers killing each other because of the drug. YET the drug has NOT been pulled is still used and not one law suit was allowed to happen. Keep in mind that if the shooter only had a revolver it still would have been a tragedy granted with less dead....... maybe so gun control is not really the answer. I don't pretend to have answers I just think we are being prevented again from asking the right questions.
JustUs December 16, 2012 at 05:36 PM
Joe Hall, Thanks for your comment. Let me respond item by item: (1) Yes, the cops have shown to be pretty much worthless at these shootings. They show up after all the damage has already been done. Columbine, V-Tech and now this one. I heard it took the cops about an hour to actually enter the CT school when their station was only a 30 minute walk away from the school. (2) The media is only there to push the government's agenda and to sell advertising. This was obvious during the presidential elections and it's obvious during these tragedies. Now the media will start promoting the abolishment of the 2nd Amendment. Watch. (3) Joe, I disagree with you here. Anti-depressants help millions of people function. And they help to reduce the anger factor in many people. So SSRI's have deleterious side effects? All drugs do. But for a very low percent of those who take them. How many of these shootings would there be without psychotropic medications, Joe. That is the question you should ask. (4) And the shooter did not have an automatic 'assault weapon' type rifle. As much damage could be caused with a 9mm handgun as the rifle. Rifles are only more effective at long, long distances. All these shootings were said to be at close range. Clips for a 9mm can hold a lot of rounds, Joe.
Alty48 December 16, 2012 at 06:05 PM
Again we get another example of Justhim spreading nonsense and blowing smoke....it was a semi-automatic assault type rifle firing .227 rounds designed to blow up on contact with living tissue.....the news media does criticize the government...it is not liberally bias as implied by Justhim and it will not advocate dumping the second amendment...some media will advocate controls be placed on certain weapons.....and then we get Justhim asking Mr. Hall to ask a really dumb question: ..."how many shootings would there be without psychotropic medications"? Not only is that question stupid, it is impossible to test. Hey Justhim, how many angels could dance on a pin if the pin head were a micron larger?
Lisa Wood Russo December 21, 2012 at 05:59 PM
"mental illness trumps education" JustUs, I Absolutely agree! Add this, you have a child who begins displaying issues very young, as parents you find out he/she has Autism or Aspergers and you treat him/her, love & care for them as best you can, then he/she turns 18. They are now a legal adult and regarded as independent, self-sufficient, and responsible. They sneak out of the house and the parent has no rights to detain them. They are now the publics problem, police and taxpayers problem. They are 20 year old boys who like to play video games of the more violent nature, their mental state results in having no social skills, no empathy, and stressfull situations aren't dealt with correctly. And whola, there in lies the problem. In my household guns are locked away in a gun safe, children present or not.


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