This is a follow-up to my previous post on the recent Nursing School shooting, where I look at school shootings in more depth. It is in school shootings where sex-biases will show up, more than any other type of mass shootings/killings. For example, in rampage or sniper shootings, it can be just a matter of who is around at the time, and the shooter’s objective is generally to shoot as many people as possible before being shot himself or being caught.
I started with a list of school shootings from the list of notable school shootings from the Wikipedia page. I used the USA, Canada and Europe lists, excluding South America, Asia and Australia list due to difficulty in getting enough data to analyse (there were no Australian school shootings on the list). I next excluded a number of political/faith motivated attacks which are more acts of (group) terrorism rather than traditional school (or spree) shootings.
Initially I was only going to use those shootings with five or more fatalities, but decided to broaden this to three or more fatalities. The final selection and collated data resulted in the following – click here to be taken to a full-sized image in a new tab (you may still need to click on the magnifying glass icon to get to full size in Firefox).
Unlike mainstream media, I will not glorify or give further notoriety the perpetrators in this post, identifying them only by sex and age. Firstly the basics – sex, race and age of the perpetrators:
Sex of the shooter is fairly much a no-brainer – female spree/school shooters are rare, and the one entry here is only because I lowered the level to three fatalities.
Race of the shooter – there is a nearly 80% chance that the perpetrator will be white.
Age group – broadly speaking, there is about a one-third representation for teens, twenties, and 30-52.
The actual number of institutions targeted in this study is 30 (total for High Schools, 12) but for two of the high school shootings there were two perpetrators. I used the number of perpetrators for the main piechart to relate to the segments which are further cross-referenced with the age range of the perpetrator/s.
In Primary School shootings the perpetrators are either 20s, or in the 30+ age groups.
In High School shootings, the perpetrators are overwhelmingly students or former students of the schools.
In University shootings, perpetrators are again from the 20s or 30+ age brackets, and include students, staff and outsiders.
Unfortunately with many of the shootings, a full breakdown of occupation, sex, age was not available for injuries, but was available for the fatalities.
The following tables and charts are for fatalities by occupation, and occupation and sex:
Students account overwhelmingly for the greatest number of fatalities, and female students are twice as likely as male students to be fatalities – the greatest number of all. There are slightly more male staff members than female staff members, although a number of factors can influence this depending on institution. For example, at the Primary level, most teachers and staff are female. It is roughly equal in High Schools, but frequently a higher number of male staff at the University level. Some specialist schools (two nursing schools are included) where the majority of staff and students are female. The ‘other’ male victims is almost twice as high as the female ‘other’ victims, however, many of these ‘other’ persons are either police or killed in the getaway (eg carjacking).
In looking at victims by sex, both fatalities and injuries:
This gives a dramatically different picture between Canada & Europe versus the United States (roughly equal). I believe the reason for this is due to America’s availability of guns coupled with high levels of gun crime as a result. Therefore many shootings with just a few victims would only make local and not national news – so the aim for many of the US perpetrators is for a high body count to obtain media notoriety, even posthumously. I have always maintained that the media focus on naming (and analysing) the perpetrator only leads to more similar mass shooting sprees. The perpetrators should remain the nameless losers that they really are.
Misogyny in specific shootings
The most infamous of misogyny in school shootings was the 1989 École Polytechnique Massacre. Within a 20 minute shooting (and stabbing) spree, the 25yo male had murdered 14 women, injured ten women and four men. In a suicide note he blamed feminists for ruining his life, and included a list of nineteen Quebec women he considered feminists and wished to kill. In the first shooting of the day he separated the nine women from the fifty men, and lined up the women. Shortly before shooting the women (killing six, injuring three) he had said “You’re women, you’re going to be engineers. You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.” He went on to shoot another 19 people, primarily females, before shooting himself.
In the 2006 Amish School shooting, the 32yo white gunman specifically targeted females. Instructing the hostages that if the two women who had made a break for it to get help got away, he would shoot everybody. He later released all the boys, holding ten female students – killing five and injuring five, then shooting himself. All the victims were girls aged between 6-13 years old.
The 2009 Winnenden school shooting in Germany was a spree over three locations, a high school, carjacking getaway, then an industrial estate. At the first location, in two classrooms at the school, the 17yo shooter had shot most victims in the head (showing calculated targets, not spraying the area with bullets), he killed one female teacher, eight female students and one male student. The other fatalities at the school were all female trainee teachers in their 20s. The male fatalities were primarily ‘getaway’ fatalities, and by the final location had changed to random shootings, including at police. During his getaway when asked why he had done it he replied “For fun, because it is fun.” He ended it by shooting himself.
The 22yo shooter at the Kauhajoki School of Hospitality in Finland left behind two notes indicating that his motive was “I hate the human race”, but of the ten fatalities, eight were female students ( plus one male student, one male teacher). As with Winnenden, the first victims were deliberately picked out and shot. The shooter eventually committed suicide.
The Oikos University shooting last week in California by a former 43yo student resulted in six female students murdered, three others injured. The only male killed during the event was the driver of the car carjacked during the shooter’s getaway. Whilst it is reported that the primary target was a female administrator, the shooter also wanted revenge against female students for “disrespecting him”.
Suspected misogyny in school shootings
Although not proven to have a misogynistic component, the following shooting are highly suspicious that most of the victims were female, particularly girls:
A 43yo former scout master (with suspicion of inappropriate behaviour towards the boys) opened fire in Dunblane Primary School in Scotland in 1996. Although going for maximum carnage (indicating a certain degree of randomness) the majority of the fatalities were female students. Eleven girls, five boys, and one female teacher were the fatalities, as well as thirteen others injured. Basically two thirds of the victims were female. The shooter committed suicide.
In 1913, the Bremen school shooting resulted with five girls dead. The 29yo gunman first opened fire on a classroom of about 65 girls at St Mary’s Catholic School. At that period of time it was convention in many places to have sex-segregated classes, the gunman chose to open fire on a classroom of girls.
In 1997, a 14yo teenaged gunman opened fire on a group of praying students at Heath High School. The three dead were female students, of the injured three were girls and two boys. Mental illness probably played a part, and the perpetrator was sentenced to life with a possibility of parole in 25 years (2023).
Two of the youngest school shooters in this list, aged 11 and 13 at the time, staged an ambush style shooting at the Westside Middle School. One of them pulled the fire alarm, and as the building was being evacuated they opened fire, killing five female students and one female teacher (unknown who the injured were). Both were incarcerated until they were 21, and both have since been released (2005, 2007).
The 1966 University of Texas shooting was done by a 25yo former marine. The incident was more of a sniper spree shooting rather than a traditional school shooting. However, on the night prior to the shooting the gunman he knocked his mother unconscious then stabbed her in the heart (killing her) then returned home and stabbed his wife in her sleep (killing her). He went on to kill another 13 people at random, as well as the unborn child of one pregnant woman wounded in the shooting. The shooter was shot dead by police.
The above list of ten shootings accounts for one-third of the school shootings.
The 2002 Enfurt Massacre was discounted, even though about two thirds of the victims were female. The 19yo expelled student gunman was targeting teachers, methodically moving from classroom to classroom, opening the door and shooting the teacher. The two students killed were shot through a locked door, and a policeman was also killed. Nine female and four male teachers were killed, one female and one male student, one police officer.
The 1989 Cleveland School massacre is unclear if girls were the primary targets. Of the five children killed, four were girls. Twenty-nine other children were injured. However the attack appeared to be racially motivated. The 24yo gunman committed suicide.
Males as targets
In a few of the shootings males were the majority of victims.
In 1976 at the California State University Fullerton, a 37yo paranoid schizophrenic targeted co-workers at the university library, the majority of victims (6 males, 1 female killed, 2 males injured) were male. This was primarily a workplace shooting that happened to take place at a university.
In 1991 at the University of Iowa a 28yo former graduate was angry at not being awarded a physics prize. The four professors shot were male (not surprising in the male-dominated field of physics), and the female grievance officer was also short and killed. The gunman then committed suicide. This was primarily a targeted revenge shooting, rather than a spree shooting.
In 1996 at San Diego State University a 32yo mechanical engineering graduate student shot three of his professors at a meeting regarding his thesis (the three students were uninjured). The perpetrator remains incarcerated without the possibility of parole. This was also a targeted revenge shooting, with specific targets.
In 2010 at the University of Alabama in Huntsville, the only female shooter in the list, shot six members of staff during a faculty meeting. The shooter was a 44yo biology professor who had been denied tenure the previous year. The shooting was more systematic, going around the table, and the result was two male staff and one female staff members dead, two male staff and one female staff injured. The shooter was arrested, and possibly faces the death penalty. This is primarily a workplace shooting.
The 1992 Concordia University massacre in Canada, a 52yo associate professor, killed four male engineering department professors, and the female department secretary. The shooter was also denied tenure. This was primarily a workplace shooting with specific targets. The perpetrator is eligible for parole in 2017.
When males are the majority of targets, the motivation is usually revenge against specific targets (and usually those in authority). Also three of the five cases here are workplace shootings rather than traditional school shootings.
The only school shooting with revenge against the teachers, where all three of the dead were female professors, was the University of Arizona shooting in 2002. This was the University’s Nursing School, a female-dominated area. The shooter, a student, had been barred from sitting a midterm exam. After shooting the three professors, he then shot himself.
Whilst there are, out of the 30 shootings, five cases that are clearly misogyny, with a further five of strongly suspected misogyny – the comparison of the five cases where males were the majority of victims does not correspond as ‘misandry’, but as specific revenge usually against specific individuals. In the misogyny cases, female students are most likely to be the victims. If some of the ‘high body count’ US shootings were set aside, then a trend towards more female victims would be evident.
Mental illness and SSRIs
There are some medical professionals and others pointing the finger at the class of drugs known as SSRIs (selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors, drugs like Prozac) as a cause of the increase in school shootings and other violent incidents. After cross-referencing the above list, it would be folly to try to attribute SSRIs as the sole cause of school shootings, for example the underlying mental illness could not be fully ruled out as a contributing factor. The SSRIs may serve as a trigger to the event.
Of the 30 cases above, the anti-SSRI site lists the following eight shootings – Columbine High School (1999), Appalachian School of Law (2002), Red Lake Senior High School (2005), Virginia Tech (2007), Northern Illinois University (2008), Jokela school Finland (2007), Kauhajoki school Finland (2008), Winnenden school Germany (2009). The problem I have with attributing the cause solely to SSRIs is, for example, in the Columbine shooting there were two shooters and only one listed as taking SSRIs, so clearly there are other factors.
Mental health problems prior to shootings were evident in about six cases, and some anti-social or problematic behaviour towards peers in about three or four other cases. Overall, counting SSRIs, mental health and behaviour problems accounted for less than half of the shootings. Nor are they all ‘strange loners’, the University of Illinois shooter was described as “a very good academic record, no record of trouble.” The Kauhajoki school shooter was described as “He was happy, a social guy – there was nothing exceptional – and he got along with people well and he was not lonely. He had friends.” Although these two were cases that mentioned SSRIs.
The media, all types, is a significant contributing factor. For some, particularly the teenaged boys (to young adult males), infamy and notoriety are strong motivations, and the news media feeds this by plastering their names and photos everywhere. Sites such as Wikipedia and murderer fascination/fan sites also dedicate many paragraphs or pages to the full life story of these killers. As one shooter said (and others have said similar) “One day, I want everyone to know my name and I want to be famous”. I have proven with this blog post, it is actually possible to write about the shootings and not give these shooters what they crave, that they can remain nameless anti-social losers who can be forgotten and dismissed. Their victims rarely get the column inches and coverage that the perpetrators do.
Other types of media can contribute long term in the lead up to these crimes. An endless supply of violent film and television through to violent video games, the latter sometimes obsessively played by shooters and the average teenaged boy or young adult male.
Gun availability is a factor, and the main reason why the USA seems to be the world capital in mass shootings as well as high levels of individual gun crime. The high levels of gun crime generally is most likely the reason why some of the US shooters aim for a high body count, to gain the fame for the crime, because the shooting of just a handful of people in the US generally only makes the local news.
Either fascination with, or a past in the military features in a significant minority of the shootings.
Specific revenge targets, with collateral victims, also feature in a minority of the shootings – these tend to be fatalities less than five. Specific revenge is the key factor when the number of male fatalities or victims is higher, otherwise in high body count shootings a roughly equal female/male ratio results.
A significant number of the shootings show or evidence misogyny as the main factor, more than any other. Female victims tend to be innocents (as in there is generally no personal involvement with the shooter), and it seems that ‘any female’ is deemed a suitable replacement for any specific female or females in general. The two most shocking facts to arise from the above study is that female students are twice as likely to be killed than male students, and also the high numbers of primary-aged girls being targeted (by mature males generally aged 30-50).
School shootings differ from sniper/spree shootings in that as well as being soft targets, security is low, and victims are grouped together in a confined space such as a classroom. Even so, with some of the shootings, the shooters specifically picked out victims from the group.
The most outstanding elements of this study – the shooter is likely to male, and white – anywhere from eleven to 52 years old. Female students are twice as likely to be killed in a shooting than male students. Misogyny as motive or evidenced factors in a significant number of school shootings.