It has been well established that mass shootings are an American epidemic primarily perpetrated by white males, but what hasn’t been established is why.
Some argue that guns are too easily accessible; after the recent Sutherland Springs shooting Trump attributed them to mental illness; but there is another trend that some believe suggests that mass shootings are linked to domestic abuse.
Of the ten deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history, nine of them were committed by men with a history of domestic abuse, and 54% of the mass shootings that occurred between 2009-2016 involved domestic violence, according to analysis by gun-control advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety.
Sutherland Springs shooter Devin Kelley had a history of domestic violence that got him dishonorably discharged from the Air Force. He beat, choked, and threatened his former wife with a firearm, abused his current wife, and struck his infant son hard enough to crack his skull. The shooting was called a “domestic situation” because Kelley had sent threatening texts to his mother-in-law, and it is believed that he targeted the church to kill her.
Many other shooters in recent shooting incidents also have a record of domestic violence. Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the the Pulse nightclub massacre in Orlando, was abusive toward his ex-wife who reported that he repeatedly beat her and called her the Afghan word for “slut.”
The man who opened fire at a GOP charity baseball practice, James Hodgkinson, and injured Rep. Steve Scalise of Louisiana and several others had a previous arrest in 2006 for choking and hitting his daughter.
Robert Dear, who fired shots at a Colorado Planned Parenthood clinic in 2015, was accused of domestic violence by two ex-wives and was arrested for rape in 1992.
However, the Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock does not follow the trend. Because of this case and other exceptions, many believe that domestic violence is not a direct causation of a mass shooting, rather a mere coincidence.
“Right now we don’t have enough data to have a pattern,” said director of the Ortner Center on Family Violence and professor at the University of Pennsylvania, Susan B. Sorensen, in an interview with Time. “[Domestic violence] might just be one of a series of bad behaviors. The issue might be something else entirely, and we just don’t know.”
“The one thing that we know that they all have in common is that they have access to massive firepower,” she continued. “That’s the single unifying force at this point in time”
Though some experts are convinced of it, many others think that there isn’t enough data to tell whether domestic violence and mass shootings are linked.
All that experts currently know for sure is that some elements of domestic abuse, including violent rage, feelings of masculine grievance, and a desire to be feared, are also found in mass shootings. Hopefully, the data set of mass shootings never expands enough for them to find a definitive connection between the two.