The recent mass shooting event in El Paso, Texas has shocked everyone. This is not the first time since an event of this nature was experienced by the Americans and unfortunately certainly not the last. A quick glimpse of the past would show us mass shooting events taking place in Las Vegas, San Bernardino, Fort Lauderdale among others.
These incidents have instigated a flurry of activity in the field of medical science. Experts are putting in a tireless amount of effort in studying the phenomena and come up with possible explanations.
For many, mass shooters suffer from mental illness that propels them towards carrying out the act. Others believe there are an underlying hatred and prejudice against a certain group of people. Take the example of the Christchurch shooting for example targeted specifically against the Muslims living in New Zealand.
But given all that, there is an interesting update on the very nature of mass shootings. A research team from Arizona State University have gone to claim (backed with evidence) that mass shooting in itself is classified as contagious. Which really means it has the ability to spread and induce people towards the activity.
Is Mass Shooting Contagious?
Before dwelling in the discussion in any further, let us consider the technicalities behind mass shootings. The official definition of a mass shooting is an event (carried through ammunition) that results in the death of three or more individuals.
By those premises, a case of homicide or murder would not necessarily qualify as a mass shooting.
Having said that, the research team wanted to investigate whether incidences such as El Paso is contagious? Is there any scientific data available to support one event of shooting can spark another?
For their purposes, scientists looked into the data of past mass shooting and the subsequent time frames. Additionally, thorough psychoanalysis of the shooter was also carried out to document any explanation for the phenomena.
The findings showed that mass shootings with more than five people killed were likely contagion. This held true mostly for instances of school shootings, the recent case of eight deaths in a graduation party is a prime example.
A Social Contagion
Possibly the best way to understand the nature of mass shooting is to consider it as a social contagion. One shooting is likely to induce another if there are existing social factors that influence it. For example, the study found excessive media coverage of any such incidence as a likely driving factor.
The suicide death of Chester Bennington provides some extra explanation for social contagion. One study found that the death of celebrities such as Chester Bennington or Robin Williams had created a wave of aura for an increased number of suicide cases.
For many experts, if the individual is already suffering from a mental disorder, these events act as immediate reasons. Unfortunate as it may seem, social media coverage is also a viable perpetrator in this regard.
Interestingly enough, the Arizona State University study also revealed that a majority of the portion suffered from a mental illness. Most shooters exhibited signs of social exclusion, frustration as well as paranoia.