SUTHERLAND Springs. The Capitol Gazette. LA Fitness in Collier Township, Pa. Parkland. Isla Vista, Calif. Tallahassee, Fla. Atlanta. Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla.
That short list of mass shootings all have one thing in common — they were all committed by men who either physically abused or otherwise expressed hatred for women.
Cause of deaths: Misogyny.
And that’s not nearly a comprehensive list. A 2021 study by the Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence, now the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions, indicated that 68.2% of mass shootings between 2014 and 2019 involved shooters who either killed family or intimate partners, or had a history of domestic violence.
That’s more than two out of every three mass shootings.
This data indicates at least one cause for hope in the bipartisan gun safety law adopted last month.
The law expands the definition of “intimate partner” to include romantic pairings where the partners do not and never have shared a residence. Previously, the term referred to people who were married, lived together as a couple or had a child together.
In closing what has been called the “boyfriend loophole,” the new law greatly expands federal and state governments’ ability to restrict weapon ownership by people who have committed domestic violence.
But we can — and we should — do more. We can treat irrational hatred of women as the manifestation of a mental illness that makes men more likely to commit violence.
Based on the data, a focus on misogyny could have a real impact.
In the wake of the Uvalde, Texas, shooting, on May 24 — when an 18-year-old man murdered 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school — much of the discourse has fixated on mental health solutions.
The law passed last month even includes funding for mental health care.
While there is a need for improved mental health treatment, it would be unrealistic to see that alone as an adequate solution to gun violence.
Psychology, generally speaking, does a good job of telling us on Wednesday that Tuesday’s mass shooter fit a profile. But we needed to know that on Monday.
People with mental illness are 10 times more likely to be the victims of violence than they are to commit it, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Fixating on overall mental health is more likely to stigmatize people with mental illness than it is to stop mass shootings.
But confronting misogyny and domestic violence might have a greater impact. And that isn’t to say all misogynists are men, or are likely to commit violence.
But even when men who hate women don’t lash out violently, they tend to practice self-destructive behavior. A 2018 study by the National Institute of Health indicated a link between misogyny and substance abuse, and found that men with high misogyny scores were more likely to be unemployed.
Men in general are more likely than women to take their own lives — the CDC determined in 2009 that the male suicide rate was four times that of women.
Viewing violence through the lens of misogyny gives us an opportunity to help everyone — women by preventing domestic violence, society by preventing mass shootings and men by freeing them from self-destructive masculinity.