Mass shootings in the United States are disproportionately committed by white men, according to the data, and it has been this way for decades.
In the wake of the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 people dead and nearly 1,000 more wounded, Mother Jones analyzed data dating back to 1982 and found that 54 percent of all mass shootings were perpetrated by white men, Newsweek reported.
While black people were the second most responsible ethnic group, they accounted for just 16 percent of total incidents in that time period.
And although mental illness often emerges as the explanation of choice for mass shooters, other research points to a sense of entitlement as a key factor.
“James Holmes, for example, had failed out of his PhD program when he opened fire in a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado,” Newsweek recalled. And “Dylann Roof was unemployed when he gunned down nine people at the end of a prayer service in a Charleston, South Carolina church.”
James Alan Fox, a criminologist, told The Washington Post in 2012 that, “There’s a feeling of entitlement that white men have that black men don’t.”
"They often complain that their job was taken by blacks or Mexicans or Jews. They feel that a well-paid job is their birthright,” he continued. “It’s a blow to their psyche when they lose that. . . . If you’re a member of a group that hasn’t historically experienced unemployment, there’s a far greater stigma to [losing a job] than those who have."
But never is there a single cause that informs human behavior, and it is no different with mass shootings. Jeffrey Swanson, professor in psychiatry and behavioral sciences at Duke University, told CNN after the Charleston shooting that “it’s not a one thing kind of problem. It's going to be an accumulation of things, kind of a whole cocktail of factors.”
That white men are the most likely to commit such atrocities is no surprise, considering that white people have constituted the majority of the American population, and men are more likely than women in general to resort to violence.
Newsweek noted that in the U.S., “98 percent of mass shootings and 90 percent of all murders are committed by men.”