Contrasting Serial Killers & Mass Shooters

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mass shooters, serial killers

The media keeps pushing shootings and their agendas. This is all so familiar. The media did the same thing with serial killers decades ago. Is this the right move? Is the rise in mass shootings directly related to the rise of serial killings in the 70s, 80s, and 90s? The media helps give these people what they want. At the same time, is it safe to say that mass shooters are the serial killers of today?

Crime definitions are very finicky. Even the term “serial killer” doesn’t have a specific definition, Crime Museum defines a serial killer as “a person who murders three or more people in a period of over a month, with “cooling down” time between murders,” however Salon defines a serial killer “as someone who kills two or more people on separate occasions.”

It also seems as though our psychology is changing ever so rapidly with technology. The psychology of a person from the pre-2000s is going to be different from that of a person post 2000.  The way we interact is today is vastly different than it was ten years ago. This was not as much the case between 1970 and 1980. 

While there is an intersection between the decline in serial killings and the uptick of mass shootings, there is a brief lull where neither is drastically high. Leading up to the year 2000 serial killings were declining. It wasn’t really until 2007 that mass shootings began to really climb. Did we have nearly a decade with no mass murderer? I don’t think so. Instead, I believe that there was a change in society. 

One way that serial killers of the 70s-90s differ from today’s mass shooters, is the immediate gratification. During that gap between 2000 and 2007, we saw a massive increase in the immediate gratification of the general public. Something that has continued to get worse over time. Mass shooters get the immediate pay off of killing several people in a short period of time. In turn, this also leads to them being caught quicker. 

Most mass shooters commit suicide, either at their own hands or at those of the police. With serial killers, it was more meticulous, and often times the killer was eventually apprehended. Also, the attitude was different. Serial killers were not particularly seeking notable fame. Similar to a game of chess, most enjoyed the news talking about them but seemed to get off at the fact that they were not known. Mass shooters seem to be more interested in people knowing their name and their cause. Even the Australian mosque shooter had written a manifesto.

There is a level of sick that goes into being a serial killer that is different from the level of sick that goes into being a mass shooter. Serial killers are more connected to their victims. Serial killers seem to want a more sadistically personal connection with their victims, hence the strangulation, kidnapping, rape, dismemberment, etc. Some of the high profile cases are centered around people who ate their victims, wore their skin, made furniture out of their body parts, and more. At the same time, there is a disconnect from this approach and the mass shooter who just fires a gun into a crowd of people attempting to cause as much harm, hate, and discontent as possible. However, This doesn’t mean that mass shooters are unorganized or not psychologically motivated. 

Crime Museum made the separation of mass murderers and serial killers as being the difference between being organized and psychologically motivated. I believe this to be untrue as the Columbine shooting had specific targets, was well thought out, and even was motived by psychological issues. Rather, I would tend to agree with DUWE in his assertion that mass shooters believe that the “world has wronged them in some way,” and this thought process manifests a target. These targets can be specific or general. Sometimes they can be specific based off of a general target, as the Orlando night club shooting.

These are two different types of mass murderers. They are from different points in time wherein carrying out these types of attacks varies greatly. This doesn’t mean that the El Paso killer would have been Charles Manson had he been born November 12, 1934. The serial killers of before were centered around something far more henious. Much of the shooters we see today are cowardly. In so far as believing that they have the right to take the lives of others, they are sick, but they are not the same caliber of killer that we have seen fall into the history books.

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