December 17 2013
What Do All Recent School Shooters Have in Common?
W. Bradford Wilcox, a senior fellow at the Institute for Family Studies and a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, has noticed something interesting about the killers in mass shootings:
Another shooting, another son of divorce. From Adam Lanza, who killed 26 children and adults a year ago at Sandy Hook School in Newtown, Conn., to Karl Pierson, who shot a teenage girl and killed himself this past Friday at Arapahoe High in Centennial, Colo., one common and largely unremarked thread tying together most of the school shooters that have struck the nation in the last year is that they came from homes marked by divorce or an absent father.
From shootings at MIT (i.e., the Tsarnaev brothers) to the University of Central Florida to the Ronald E. McNair Discovery Learning Academy in Decatur, Ga., nearly every shooting over the last year in Wikipedia’s “list of U.S. school attacks” involved a young man whose parents divorced or never married in the first place.
I happened upon Wilcox’s post on National Review’s “The Corner” on the heels of reading a City Journal article by Kay Hymowitz headlined “Boy Trouble.” Hymowitz wrote about the effects on boys of growing up fatherless. But then she observed something that was new to me: divorce is more traumatic for boys than for girls (though both suffer from divorce). I blogged on the Hymowitz piece yesterday, and I urge you to read Kay’s article.
Wilcox says that in pointing out that these young killers come from fatherless households, he doesn’t want to minimize the importance of discussions over guns and other facets of mental health. Wilcox does believe, however, that it is necessary to recognize that turmoil at home often spills over into our public spaces.
The social scientific evidence about the connection between violence and broken homes could not be clearer. My own research suggests that boys living in single mother homes are almost twice as likely to end up delinquent compared to boys who enjoy good relationships with their father. Harvard sociologist Robert Sampson has written that “Family structure is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, predictor of variations in urban violence across cities in the United States.”
His views are echoed by the eminent criminologists Michael Gottfredson and Travis Hirschi, who have written that “such family measures as the percentage of the population divorced, the percentage of households headed by women, and the percentage of unattached individuals in the community are among the most powerful predictors of crime rates.”
Wilcox, who was himself raised by a single mother, says that most boys who grow up without a father manage to pick up the right social cues from another man in their lives (a coach, a grandfather, for example), but others “are more vulnerable to getting swept up in the Sturm und Drang of adolescence and young adulthood, and in the worst possible way.” Wilcox concludes:
[I]f the nation is serious about ending the scourge of school shootings, it must also get serious about strengthening the families that are our first line of defense in preventing our boys from falling into a downward spiral of rage, hopelessness, or nihilism that can end in the kind of senseless violence that Karl Pierson, a son of divorce, visited upon Arapahoe High this past Friday.
I want to just emphasize that, despite bum luck in their formative years, these young men are in my opinion culpable for their crimes. Along these lines, I want to comment on a despicable Boston Globe “profile” of the Boston Marathon bombers that seeks to lessen the guilt of the two killers. I’ll let Boston Herald columnist Howie Carr set it up:
The Boston Globe is ?going for a Pulitzer Prize — in Political Correctness.
And if some other ?money-hemorrhaging broadsheet does manage to out-moonbat the Globe, well, there’s always the consolation prize — the Profiles in Courage award, for being courageous enough to take the wrong, but fashionable, position.
The Globe’s take: the Tsarnaevs are “homegrown” terrorists. Yes, they were. Their home was a Third World backwater overrun with savages like themselves — Muslim terrorists.
I’m going to go out on a limb and guess you didn’t read the mega-puff piece Sunday on the foreign welfare terrorists who ?destroyed the Boston Marathon last April. It was ?almost as long as my new book, and it had at least one thing my book doesn’t have — a dreamy painting of ?Dzhokhar, the Joker.
Although maybe the picture is just supposed to make us believe that the Joker really, really likes ?Albert Einstein a lot.
The headline was “The Fall of the House of Tsarnaev,” although a more ?accurate title might have been “The Fall of the ?Sect. 8 Apartment of Tsarnaev.”
I’ll confess that I didn’t finish the Globe piece, which sought to portray the older Tsarnaev as young man who heard a voice in his head that “in the end may have directed him.” Also, in the end, it may not have directed him. Still, the Globe’s headline for the first segment is:
Tamerlan’s Dream in Shards, the Voices Inside Grew Louder
If Tamerlan was schizophrenic, that is certainly a factor in determining guilt. But the Globe is so determined to exonerate the Tsarnaevs that I couldn't take seriously what I did read.
Among the claims made for the Globe investigation, is that it:
Casts doubt on the claim by Russian security officials that Tamerlan made contact with or was recruited by Islamist radicals during his visit to his family homeland.
In trying to play down the Muslim terror angle, the Globe inadvertently highlights it:
If the truth is that Tamerlan Tsarnaev and his rangy teenage brother acted out of private motives, reinforced by the fervent entreaties of the Muslim militants whose voices and images boiled on their computer screen, they would join the ranks of homegrown murderers such as the Colorado movie theater shooter and the Oklahoma City bombers. Other than their run-ins with local law enforcement, little about them cried out for intervention. When the FBI, responding to a tip from Russian intelligence, checked out the Tsarnaevs in 2011, they apparently found nothing to trigger alarm or particular precautions — their findings were tucked away in a database with hundreds of other similar cases.
Got that? The FBI is exonerated for missing any clues. The Muslim militants are purely incidental in the Globe's take--just voices and images that "boiled" on the computer screen of vulnerable boys.
No doubt, a trial will iron out these issues. And no doubt the turmoil inside the Tsarnaev family wasn’t conducive to turning out Rhodes Scholars. But this “investigation” by the Boston Globe is pathetic.