The Violence Project
The headline in Politico (05/27/22) reads:
Two Professors Found What Creates a Mass Shooter.
[SPOILER ALERT: IT’S CORPORAL PUNISHMENT!]
But Will Politicians Pay Attention?
In the 1980s and ‘90s, Dr. Christian Pfeiffer, a criminologist with the Criminological Research Institute of Lower Saxony in Germany (Kriminologisches Forschungsinstitut Niedersachsen, KFN), surveyed violent criminals in prison and found the majority of them had something in common — they had suffered corporal punishment as a child. As a result, in 2000 Germany became the 9th country in the world to outlaw corporal punishment in homes and in schools. (You can read the full story here.) Over 50 more countries have followed suit in Europe, Asia, Central and South America and Africa (just NOT the United States or Canada), based in large part on Dr. Pfeiffer’s research.
In 2018 Jillian Peterson, an associate professor of criminology at Hamline University (Minnesota), and James Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metro State University (Minnesota), began a new research project which has recently been published, called "The Violence Project: How to Stop a Mass Shooting Epidemic." Essentially, they got the same results in the U.S. that Dr. Pfeiffer had in Germany….
They confirmed that in the U.S., “mass shooters overwhelmingly fit a certain profile….. There’s this really consistent pathway [a mass shooter takes.] Early childhood trauma seems to be the foundation, whether violence in the home [corporal punishment], sexual assault, parental suicides, or extreme bullying, which means it’s possible to identify and treat them before they commit violence. "
Translation: corporal punishment has a fundamental role in creating mass school shooters. If we want to really address the underlying causes of these continuing tragedies, we have to go beyond the gun control arguments and change the violent childhood environment prevalent in our corporal punishment society.
POLITICO: Since you both spend much of your time studying mass shootings, I wonder if you had the same stunned and horrified reaction as the rest of us to the Uvalde [Texas] elementary school shooting [May 24, 2022]. Or were you somehow expecting this?
JILLIAN PETERSON: On some level, we were waiting because mass shootings are socially contagious and when one really big one happens [like Buffalo, NY], and gets a lot of media attention, we tend to see others follow. But this one was particularly gutting.
POLITICO: Are you saying there’s a link between the Buffalo and Uvalde shootings?
PETERSON: We don’t know for sure at this point, but our research would say that it’s likely.
POLITICO: I’ve heard many references over the last few weeks to “monsters” and “pure evil.” You’ve said this kind of language actually makes things worse. Why?
JAMES DENSLEY: If we explain this problem as pure evil or other labels like terrorist attack or hate crime, we feel better because it makes it seem like we’ve found the motive and solved the puzzle. But we haven’t solved anything. We’ve just explained the problem away. What this really problematic terminology does is prevent us from recognizing that mass shooters are us. This is hard for people to relate to because these individuals have done horrific, monstrous things. But three days earlier, that school shooter was somebody’s son, grandson, neighbor, colleague or classmate. We have to recognize them as the troubled human being earlier if we want to intervene before they become the monster.
PETERSON: The Buffalo shooter told his teacher that he was going to commit a murder-suicide after he graduated. People aren’t used to thinking that this kind of thing could be real because the people who do mass shootings are evil, psychopathic monsters and this is a kid in my class. There’s a disconnect.
To read the entire article, go to Politico.