Just hours before President Obama met with families of the victims of the Umpqua Community College massacre in Oregon, a Northern Arizona University student shot classmates following an altercation in a parking lot. There would be more fatal gun violence at a school in Texas that same day.
In the wake of such tragedies, the reaction has become routine: a flurry of “thoughts and prayers,” calls for increased gun control on the Left, rebuttals on the Right, and then silence, until the next shooting ignites the same cycle.
Nothing really changes, and the whole process is infuriating in its reactiveness. Little attention is paid to the time before a shooting occurs, before these (mostly) young men feel compelled to reach for a gun.
What’s happening—or not happening—in the months and years that lead to such tragedies?
While criminal violence is down from 30 years ago, the number of targeted mass shootings has increased, particularly in the last decade. Between 2000-06 and 2007-13, active public shootings have increased about 150 percent in the U.S., according to a 2014 FBI study.
So what’s different? These young people, these angry, sometimes-loner-type-but-not-always teens and young adults, have existed in every generation before, when mass shootings weren’t splashed across front pages every few weeks. Figuring out what has changed requires asking some uncomfortable questions.