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The Inexorable Rise in Mass Killings

Why do we have so many mass killings? Some people say the availability of guns is the reason. Guns have been available since America was born, but up until the last sixty years mass killings were few and far between. Since the 1960s there has been a significant rise in gun-related killings. Guns do not kill in and of themselves. People who use them kill. The availability of guns hasn’t changed. Guns have always been there. People have changed.

Others have asserted that mental illness caused by biological and genetic factors is at the root of mass killings. Genetics stay the same from generation to generation. About two-and-one-half percent of the population has schizophrenia, for example, which is said by psychiatrists to be caused by genetics. It always remains two-and-a-half percent. The percentage of schizophrenics does not rise. The percentage of mass killers has risen dramatically.

The rise in mass killings seems inexorable. Mass killings began to accelerate in the 1960s. Mass killings are usually defined as four or more people killed in a single incident. In the decade from 1950 to 1960, there was only one mass killing. Killings have increased each decade since then. In the 1960s there were six. In the 1970s there were 13. In the 1980s there were 34. In the present decade—2011 to 2018—there have already been 50 mass killings.

Upon studying the phenomenon, I have concluded that the breeding ground of mass killing is neither guns nor genetics. The breeding ground is culture. America has the most mass killings in the world—twice as many as any other country—and America has a culture that is full of disharmony. The availability of guns has not changed. Genetic illnesses have not changed. Culture has changed over time, especially in the last 60 years or so.
Over the last 60 years or so various political groups have become more and more violent. Radical liberals rioted against the Vietnam War, calling police “Pigs,” causing bloodshed on college campuses, and their violence was rewarded; the Vietnam War ended and the voluntary draft began. When you reward violence, you perpetuate violence.

Other groups became violent. Martin Luther King advocated nonviolent protests, but his successors in the 1960s included people like Louis Farrakhan, who said “My god will wipe this country (America) from the face of the earth.” Violent rhetoric by Civil Rights proponents was rewarded, and this resulted in new antidiscrimination laws; but it also led to more violence. Blacks began to riot in 1965, beginning with the Watts Riots, also known as the Watts Rebellion. This was a large series of riots that broke out in the predominantly black neighborhood of Watts in Los Angeles. According to Wikipedia, “The Watts Riots lasted for six days, resulting in 34 deaths, 1,032 injuries and 4,000 arrests, involving 34,000 people and ending in the destruction of 1,000 buildings, totaling $40 million in damages.” But Congress responded by passing bills about “hate crimes,” rewarding this violence.

Feminists of the Second Wave were led by people like Linda Miller, who said in her book, The Future, If There Is One, Is Female, “The proportion of men must be reduced to and maintained at approximately 10% of the human race.” The more militant feminism became and the more it attacked men and the family, the more it was rewarded with new laws defining rape and harassment. At the same time the more militant women became, the less they were interested in raising children, or in listening to experts about how to raise children. Today’s militant feminists no longer talk of equality, but of empowerment and bombing the White House.

There is a new double-standard in favor of girls. There are more girls now in college than boys; about a third more, which suggests women are encouraging girls more than boys. White males are the usual perpetrators of mass killings. What is happening to boys behind the closed doors of families that is causing these mass killings? White boys were not mass killers in America’s past. No one wants to know. We want to keep it unconscious.

From being a civil country in the 1950s in which people generally treated one another with respect, the quality of life for most was good, and mass killings were the exception, we have become an uncivil country, where Democrats and Republicans attack each other rather than cooperate, where racial, ethnic, political and religious groups are at odds, where people talk rudely to one another and call one another names and mass killings have become the rule.
While the strife in our culture has become louder and more violent, family life has been dissolving. Almost one-third of families are now one-parent families, and parenting has lost the priority that it formerly had. Whereas once family life and good parenting was emphasized in American society, nowadays it is hardly mentioned.

Mass shootings have multiplied over the last 60 years not because of guns, not because of genetic mental disorders, but because of cultural changes and changes in family life and parenting. To reverse the rising violence in our culture and the dissonance in our families and parenting will be one the hugest tasks we will ever face.

The Inexorable Rise in Mass Killings

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D.

Gerald Schoenewolf, Ph.D. is a licensed psychoanalyst in New York and has been practicing for over 37 years. He works with adults, couples, families, adolescents, and children. He has graduated from three psychotherapy institutes and received a Certificate in Psychoanalysis from the Washington Square Institute in 1981. He has been an Adjunct Assistant Professor of psychology at the Borough of Manhattan Community College since 2002 and has authored thirteen books on psychotherapy and psychoanalysis as well as four novels and a book of poems and drawings. More recently he wrote 20 screenplays (winning four first-place awards at festivals) and produced and directed two feature films.

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APA Reference
Schoenewolf, G. (2018). The Inexorable Rise in Mass Killings. Psych Central. Retrieved on February 28, 2020, from


Last updated: 5 Jun 2018
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