Local expert provides insight into mass shootings

Investigators are still treating the Orlando killings as the work of a sole shooter and planner, also called a “lone wolf.” A local mass shooting expert told Fox 9 that lone wolf shooters are very hard to predict, and that mass shootings are just starting to receive increased study.

Jillian Peterson, a professor of criminology and criminal justice at Hamline University, offered the following on mass shootings insight to Fox 9. 

On predicting lone-wolf mass shootings

“There tends to be more violent history, more mental health issues, more family issues. I can create this long list of factors, but for every person that looks like that, there’s a 100,000 who do not carry out a shooting. So it’s hard to come up with the exact profile." 

“We don’t really have a clear picture of if you do these three risk factors, you're the one who is going to do this. So it is sort of like searching for a needle in a haystack. There are so many risky people and you’re sort of looking for the one.”

Role in social media on reducing clusters of mass shootings

“One piece is looking for notoriety, looking to be a name that is known. And we tend to unintentionally give these people celebrity status. They’re on the front pages of magazines, and they’re all over social media, and it’s international attention…That can sometimes perpetuate the cycle of violence because people who maybe are at risk for this type of event see that, and think that could be me.”

“There are some studies that show mass shootings tend to happen in clusters. When one happens, there’s slightly increased risk another will happen. And it’s because of the societal response to it.”

“The more we can focus on victims, show their faces, talk about their stories. Say their names. That’s sort of the antithesis of what perpetrators are looking for…I do think this conversation of how we can stop this cycle, what can we do as individuals do to stop this cycle, I think just simple things like not saying the name, not sharing the picture, is something people can grab on to.”

Healing after a mass shooting

“The more we can understand that, the more healing that actually is for victims and for communities. If you can sort of wrap your head around it, that helps with the grieving process, the understanding process.”

“The more we tell of the victims, and their stories, and their trajectories, and who they are. So it’s not just fifty random names, but fifty names and fifty stories, that also seems to help with the healing and processing.”

Effects of mass shooting on public’s mental health

“I think we have to be careful not to create a world that violence is so common place that it’s a world we don’t want to live in. So you have to balance how you create that security so you feel safe, but also how we keep ourselves healthy and sane at the same time.”