What Do Mass Killers Have in Common?

Once again someone has carried out a deadly mass shooting.

On Sunday night in Las Vegas, Nevada, a man opened fire from high above a huge crowd at an outdoor music show. At least 58 people were killed and more than 500 injured. It is the worst mass shooting in American history.

Police say the shooter was Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old man from Mesquite, a small town in Nevada, about 180 kilometers from Las Vegas. They say he killed himself in the hotel room from which he attacked the crowd.

More than 20 firearms were found in the hotelroom, on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay Resort. Others were found at his home in Mesquite, Nevada. Police say he checked in to the hotel Thursday.

Investigators have not discovered why the shooter attacked. Police said Paddock did not have a criminal history; the FBI said he had no connection to any international terrorist group.

Paddock’s neighbors in Mesquite said he was retired. They said he gambled often. He lived with his girlfriend, Marilou Danley.

His brother Eric Paddock of Florida expressed shock. He said his brother was a former accountant and a wealthy man.

He said he did not believe his brothr was a member of any political or religious groups, had any ties to white supremacists or a history of mental problems.

Eric Paddock said, “Where the hell did he get automatic weapons? He’s a guy who lived in a house in Mesquite and drove down and gambled in Las Vegas.”

Experts say the number of mass killings has tripled in the past few years. In the United States, most of the deaths in such incidents are from gunfire.

Psychologists have studied the killings and have created a profile of the kinds of people who do them.

Psychologist J. Reid Meloy is such a researcher. VOA spoke to him after a mass killing.

"We find that these individuals typically have more in common than they do in terms of differences."

He said the killers are mostly men. They usually have a history of mental problems. Their relationships are often unstable.

Meloy said the killers are often searching for fame. He said normally they have not acted in support of a cause even when they claim that to be the reason for their attack.

“Oftentimes the pathway to violence begins with a personal grievance,” Meloy said.

“And that grievance, is typically has three components to it: One is there’s some kind of loss; secondly there’s the feeling of humiliation; then thirdly, there’s anger toward and blaming of a person or a group of people that have caused them to have this problem.”

There is another reason mass killings happen: unstable people are able to get weapons. Experts say social media may also add to the urge to kill. Reports of mass attacks quickly spread on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media platforms. Today that is often how many people learn about major events, including information about friends who die in mass killings.

Meloy said social media makes killers famous. When others who are unstable and in search of fame see this they may decide to imitate the acts of the killer so that they, too, can be famous.

Meloy also said he believed there would be more mass killings.

I’m Caty Weaver.

This story was reported by Correspondents Carol Pearson and Victoria Macchi in Washington. Christopher Jones-Cruise adapted their reporting for Learning English. Caty Weaver was the editor.

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Words in This Story

gamble – v. to play a game in which you can win or lose money or possessions; to bet money or other valuable things

triple – adj. three times bigger in size or amount

profile – n. a brief written description that provides information about someone or something

grievance – n. a feeling of having been treated unfairly

component – n. one of the parts of something (such as a system or mixture); an important piece of something

humiliate – v. to make (someone) feel very ashamed or foolish

imitate – v. to make or do something the same way as (something else)