While America braces itself for the final death toll of the tragic mass shooting at Robb Elementary School, the country is, yet again, left wondering why these senseless killings keep happening. Even though we have yet to learn the 18-year-old shooter’s motive, what we have learned—from all the other thousands of mass shootings in this country—is that there’s a connection between mass shooters and domestic violence.
The shooting on Tuesday in Uvalde, Texas is no different. CBS news reported that the gunman allegedly shot his grandmother right before he arrived at Robb Elementary, where he killed at least 19 children and a teacher. Information on his background has yet to be released, but what seems clear is the common thread he shares with other mass shooters: a history of assaulting women they’re either related to or have been romantically involved with.
According to the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence (EFSGB), more than two-thirds of mass shootings are preceded by domestic violence-related incidents, or perpetrated by shooters with a history of domestic violence. Domestic violence-related mass shootings are also associated with higher fatality rates than those unrelated to domestic violence.
“These things aren’t happening in a vacuum. Women and girls are canaries in a coal mine,” Gabrielle Perry MPH, the Founder of Thurman Perry Foundation told Jezebel in a phone interview Tuesday night. “The Virginia Tech shooter, the Aurora shooter, Las Vegas, who beat his mother and stole her car. Pulse nightclub shooter who was abusing his wife. People think these are inconsequential things, but it starts with women.”
And while federal law prevents those convicted of domestic violence from purchasing a firearm, there are still loopholes, mistakes, and oversights which continue to allow perpetrators to own and carry guns without consequence. Even more alarming are these findings from Bloomberg:
Shootings committed by domestic abusers aren’t only routine, they’re among the deadliest. The higher the casualty count, the more likely the perpetrator was reported to have had a history of domestic violence or violence against women, Bloomberg’s analysis found. In shootings with no fatalities, only 15% of aggressors had records of beating, harassment or other acts of brutality at home. In those with six or more deaths, that number shot up to 70%.
The link between domestic violence and mass shootings has been well documented. In 2017, Melissa Jeltsen and Sarah Ruiz-Grossman of the Huffington Post reported:
From 2015 to early November 2017, there were 46 mass shootings in the U.S., defined as an incident in which four or more people were shot and killed, not including the gunman. According to data collected by Everytown for Gun Safety, in 27 cases, or about 59 percent, the perpetrator killed an intimate partner or family member during the massacre or had a history of domestic violence.
It’s a repeat pattern that our society (and government) consistently chooses to ignore. The list goes on and on. The shooter in Dayton, Ohio? A history of threatening women with violence. The assailant at the Orlando nightclub in 2016? He reportedly beat his wife while she was pregnant. And the gunman in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017? He was convicted of domestic violence, and his ex-wife said he once told her that he could bury her body where no one would ever find it.
“Most mass shooters have a history of domestic or family violence in their background,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “It’s an important red flag.” Unfortunately, lawmakers continue to allow these red flags to go unchecked. Perry cites the paper, “Entitled and Anguish: An Analysis of Masculinity and Misogyny in American Shooting”:
[The UCLA shooter’s] autobiography described an “ideal world,” in which women are quarantined in concentration camps where “the vast majority of the female population will be deliberately starved to death [& where Rodger] can gleefully watch them all die.”
Perry shared with Jezebel that this is why she works to study gender-based violence and why she advocates for women and girls—she believes mass shootings are often a result of our inability to check male privilege and misogyny.
“Things are able to escalate, because most violent organizations and individuals have committed crimes against women and we don’t want to grapple with all the powerful people that affects,” she said. “People should be looking at this from the public health lens. We are seeing a new generation responding to women’s continued struggles for equity.”
The through-line between violence towards women and senseless gun violence in America is no coincidence, and the cure for the sick starts with radical justice for women.
Correction: An earlier version of the story implied the shooter shot and killed his grandmother. Reports now show she was wounded and airlifted to a hospital.