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Why We Need to Talk About Domestic Violence After Mass Shootings

November 07, 2017

What do mass shootings and domestic violence have in common? A lot, actually.

As history shows, there’s a very strong link between shootings and domestic abuse or highly misogynistic behaviour. After each mass shooting, evidence often emerges that shows the perpetrator, who is almost always male, was abusive to a spouse, former spouse or other women. As we already know, domestic violence begins in the home but can then easily escalate. For instance, Omar Mateen, who killed 49 people at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida in 2016, physically abused his former wife on a regular basis before he committed his atrocity. Seungh Hui Cho, who killed 32 people at Virginia Tech in 2007, was accused of harassing women at the university two years prior. And Marc Lepine, who gunned down 14 women at the Ecole Polytechnique in Montreal, grew up with an abusive father and was full of hatred for women himself, particularly career women and those in traditionally male occupations such as engineering. His rationale for the deadliest shooting in Canadian history was his claim that he was “fighting feminists.” We now know this hatred and violence was something he had been taught and inherited from his father. The recent shooting in Las, Vegas proves to follow the same link. The shooter, Stephen Paddock, was known to regularly demean and verbally abuse his girlfriend in front of others.

No firearms

And, most recently, the tragic shooting at a church in Texas follows the same link. The shooter had a strong history of violence, even being discharged from the Air Force due to being charged with assaulting his ex-wife and child. Sadly, his domestic violence offense was not entered into the United States National Criminal Information Center database, a move that potentially could have thwarted his ability to so easily purchase weapons. It’s now known that he threated his ex mother-in-law shortly before he committed his deadly crimes. Why is it then that we aren’t treating domestic-violence murders in the same manner in which we react to terrorism? Both are motivated violent behaviour intended to spread fear and gain control.

It’s become clear that a terrifying number of men who have been accused of domestic abuse pose severe threats to society. There’s also a serious risk of death or women who are being abused by their partners, particularly when they’re trying to leave the relationship. Domestic homicides in Canada represent 17% of all solved homicides in Canada and almost half (47%) of family murders. This violence often enters the workplace and becomes a threat to those beyond the relationship, as we’ve seen in many cases. There’s the recent death of Elaine Smith and a child in California, as well as the domestic violence-related murder of Vancouver, Starbucks manager Tony McNaughton in 2000.

Some times, this violence escalates to extremes like mass shootings. Obviously not every man committing domestic abuse will commit a shooting crime, but there is a strong correlation between mass shooters and their history with domestic violence that cannot be ignored.

Virgina Tech Vigil

Mass shootings have, tragically, become all too commonplace in society, particularly in the United States. It seems like every time we turn on the news, there is a new shooting. In fact, on average, there is a mass shooting every nine out of ten days in the country. When these crimes are committed by lone white men, as is often the case, they tend to be labelled as “lone wolves” or “psychologically impaired.” But we need to be looking more closely at their history. Did they grow up in abusive households? Were they abusive to their partner? Once we can acknowledge the strong connection between these perpetrators and domestic abuse, then perhaps we can help prevent some of these tragedies. After the recent shooting in Las Vegas, many Starbucks employees came forward to admit they had witnessed, on numerous occasions, Paddock being verbally abusive to his girlfriend in public. What if one of these employees had called authorities? Is it possible that Paddock’s plan might have been discovered or thwarted? We can only wonder.

If you see something, if you hear something, or if you know something, please take the next steps in helping end domestic violence. The power of regret is strong and you may help save a life, or in this case, many lives.


The Link Between Domestic Violence and Shootings

At his local Starbucks, Las Vegas shooter remembered for berating his girlfriend

Stephen Paddock shared a trait with other mass killers: He abused women

Texas church gunman escaped from mental health facility in 2012 after threatening military superiors

Domestic Violence is the 'Canary in the Coal Mine' for Mass Shootings

Texas church shooting and domestic violence: A large and disturbing pattern