I’m beyond fed up that the gender of the murderers is still mostly under the radar in confronting America’s mass shootings crisis. In Uvalde, Texas, just as in Buffalo, N.Y., the shooters were both 18 year-old males. As of this writing, the motive in the Uvalde rampage hasn’t been determined; in Buffalo, the racism and white supremacy were explicit. In either case, we ignore the shooters’ gender at our peril.
Yes, let’s tighten restrictions on poisonous hate speech on social media, and it’s imperative we conduct threat assessment evaluations. It’s also urgent that we enact gun control regulations. We must also deconstruct racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, misogynist, white supremacist manifestos. But if we do all that—and continue to minimize or ignore how these killers were socialized as boys and men—mass shootings will continue to plague us.
We have to start in preschool, carefully attending to how boys are socialized. We must cultivate their emotional intelligence. Who would deny the value of educating boys to examine their inner lives; to talk about their feelings?
Who in Congress is going to introduce legislation calling on the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to conduct a nationwide study on how we socialize boys? Who is going to push for a comprehensive, multiyear pilot program with preschool boys in Head Start? The data amassed will help not only reshape our understanding of boys and men, but also could ultimately transform masculinity.
The shooters’ gender has been woefully underrepresented in the national conversation about mass shootings. But it’s not for lack of effort. Consider this small sampling:
– August 9, 2019: [In] the killing sprees in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio… the media, politicians and pundits rarely cite the most significant common denominator of virtually every mass murder in the US—the shooter’s gender… a message I’ve been repeating since Columbine and before Tree of Life, Thousand Oaks, Parkland, Sutherland Springs and Las Vegas; even before Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Aurora. “Gender Belongs at Center of the Gun Debate”, Ms. magazine.
– May 23, 2018: Heart contracts; numbness and tears collide. Ten dead, 13 wounded; this time Santa Fe, Texas… If we’re ever to end the blood baths… highlighting the shooters’ gender is essential to gain insights to prevent future tragedies. Virtually every murderer is male, usually white. “Let’s Talk About the Obvious: Most Mass Shooter are Male” Dallas Morning News.
– October 5, 2017: Again. Worse than ever. A horrifying mass murder by a lone killer. This time in Las Vegas… A clue stares us right in the face to prevent this madness and mayhem: The race and gender of the shooter. White and male. Again… let’s organize… challenge men to chart a new course in the gun violence debate… [A]ccelerate the transformation of our ideas about masculinity and manhood—including, especially, how we raise boys. “Needed: A ‘Men Against Gun Violence’ Campaign”, Women’s eNews.
– June 16, 2016: The massacre at the Pulse nightclub was carried out as an act of rage..by a man. Until or unless we make the murderer’s gender central… to not just this story, but of the larger effort to prevent mass shootings…we won’t succeed in preventing such horrors in the future. “Why is the Orlando Murderer’s Gender Not Central to the Story?” – CounterPunch.
– October 9, 2015: Again. This time a community college in Roseburg, Oregon…this time, nine people murdered! How many more lonely, alienated, disconnected, (usually) white males perpetrating murder and then suicide need we witness before admitting the irrefutable fact that the shooters are all male? “After the Oregon Shootings: A Campaign to Raise Healthy Sons,” Ms. magazine.
– December 16, 2013: As we arrive at the gut-wrenching first anniversary of Newtown, I teeter back and forth between sadness and anger… was it a man or a woman who killed innocent people at the Washington Navy Shipyard, the Boston Marathon, Santa Monica College, homes in Hialeah, Fla., Manchester, Ill., and Fernley, Nevada; a barbershop in New York’s Mohawk Valley; and Los Angeles International Airport? Get it? “Masculinity Question Still Missing Post Newtown”, Truthout.
The day after Adam Lanza murdered his mother, six staff and 20 six and seven year-olds at Sandy Hook in 2012, women launched “Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense.” Just one day after! How many more “days after” another mass shooting must we wait to launch “Dads Demand Action to Raise Healthy Boys?”
The young men who slaughtered children in Uvalde, and African Americans in Buffalo, were raised in a society ill-equipped to prevent them from being infected with a virulent strain of TGV, tough guy virus. Any vaccine being developed to treat it must include healthy male antibodies if we’re ever to reach herd immunity and prevent mass shootings. And, in order to create those antibodies, the CDC must be authorized to lead a national campaign to reinvent manhood, beginning with boys.