Updated Data: Mass Shooters Still Disproportionately Veterans

Mother Jones magazine has updated its database of U.S. mass shootings. I’ve downloaded it and made a few changes, before posting it here.

The main change I’ve made has been to add a column indicating whether the shooter was a U.S. military veteran. I’ve also deleted some of the shooting incidents, reducing the list from 111 to 97 shootings. I’ve done this, just as I had done previously, in order to be able to make an accurate comparison to the general population. Relatively few women are veterans or shooters, and the incidents of shootings by women seem too few to draw comparisons from. Looking at men only, the percentage who are veterans in the U.S. population varies dramatically by age group. So, I’ve removed shootings by women or by men under 18 or over 59. I’ve also deleted one shooting that was an attack on the U.S. military by a foreign-born shooter, as it seems irrelevant to ask if that shooter had been in the U.S. military. As blowback, however, that shooting involved the U.S. military as much as any other.

Looking at the 97 shootings in the remaining database, I’ve marked 34 of them as being committed by U.S. military veterans. In two cases, this indicates a veteran of JROTC, one of whom may or may not have had further participation in the military. These two were trained in shooting at public expense by the U.S. military, although at least one of them was not yet a member of or veteran of the military. I have not included as veterans shooters who had been security guards or prison guards. I have not included as veterans shooters who were on record describing their future crime in explicitly military terms as if participating in and referencing by name the U.S. military, unless I could determine that they had actually been in the U.S. military. I have left on the list of 97 a small number of foreign-born shooters, who may or may not have been trained by foreign militaries, and some of whom could not have legally joined the U.S. military; none of these are among the 34 marked as veterans. Also among the 97 are at least two men who tried to join the U.S. military and were rejected; they are not counted among the 34 veterans. At least one among the 97 worked at a U.S. Navy base but not as a member of the U.S. military; he is not counted as a veteran. Most significantly, I have not been able to determine military status one way or the other for the majority of the shooters on the list; it is entirely possible that more than 34 were military veterans. The 34 marked as veterans are simply those I could determine were veterans by reading news reports.

The result of all this is that, with this updated database, 35% of U.S. mass shooters (lone, male, 18-59) are veterans, whereas 14.76% of the general population (male, 18-59) are veterans. A mass shooter is 2.37 times more likely to be a veteran than a random person is.

Needless to say, or rather, I wish it were needless to say, but I have to say it in every interview, veterans vastly outnumber mass shooters. Most veterans — virtually all veterans — are NOT mass shooters. Similarly, those with mental health issues vastly outnumber mass shooters. Virtually all people with mental health problems, or all men who’ve abused women, or all males, or all gun owners, are NOT mass shooters. The facts that ought to dissuade people from bigotry or profiling are painfully obvious, even if only selectively required.

Needless to say, or rather, I wish it were needless to say, more than one contributing factor to mass shootings can be worth addressing.

Needless to say, or rather, I wish it were needless to say, people inclined toward mass shootings could simply also be inclined to join the military, making the relationship a correlation and not a cause. In fact, I would be shocked if there weren’t some truth to that. But it’s also possible that being trained and conditioned and given a familiarity with mass shootings — and in some cases an experience of engaging in mass shooting and having it deemed acceptable or praiseworthy — makes one more likely to mass shoot. I cannot imagine there isn’t truth in that.

10 thoughts on “Updated Data: Mass Shooters Still Disproportionately Veterans”

  1. FYI: Another perspective although military veterans are also disproportionately likely to be on psychiatric (brain-altering) drugs as well. GGK

    Dramatic Increase of Mass Shootings in America: The Role of Prescription Psychiatric Drugs?
    “While the data about the ever-increasing random shootings is important, it doesn’t mean spit unless someone in a position of power is willing to seriously question what is causing the violent behavior. A beginning point might be to ask if there is a common denominator among the shooters.”

    By Kelly Patricia O’Meara – November 2013


    The U.S. Attorney General, Eric Holder, recently announced that the rate of mass shootings in the U.S. is increasing. Although the information could hardly come as a surprise to most Americans, what is interesting is that the nation’s top cop provided no clues as to what may be causing this severe increase in deadly violent acts.

    As Holder reported, the annual number of mass-shooting incidents in the U.S. has tripled since 2009 and, remarkably, the average number of shootings has increased from 5 per year before 2009 to 15 per year since.

    While the data about the ever-increasing random shootings is important, it doesn’t mean spit unless someone in a position of power is willing to seriously question what is causing the violent behavior. A beginning point might be to ask if there is a common denominator among the shooters.

    For instance, at the same time that mass-shootings have increased in the U.S., so has the use of prescription psychiatric drugs. If one considers this list of well-publicized shootings between 1999 and 2013, it is clearly evident that the majority of these shooters were either taking, or strongly suspected of taking, mind-altering psychiatric drugs.

    The data that reinforce the psychiatric drugs and violence connection is overwhelming.

     Between 2004 -2012 there have been 14,773 reports to the US FDA’s MedWatch system on psychiatric drugs causing violent side effects including, 1,531 cases of homicidal ideation/homicide, 3,287 cases of mania and 8,219 cases of aggression. The FDA estimates that less than 1% of all serious adverse events are reported.

     A PLOS One study, based on FDA adverse event drug data, authored by Thomas J. Moore, Joseph Glenmullen and Curt D. Furberg, found that “acts of violence towards others are a genuine and serious adverse drug event associated with a relatively small group of drugs.” Verenicline (Chantix) and antidepressants with serotonergic effects were the most strongly and consistently implicated drugs.

     There are 22 international drug regulatory warnings on psychiatric drugs citing effects of mania, hostility, aggression, violence and even homicidal ideation.

     Psychiatrists prescribe antipsychotic drugs to children in one third of all visits, which is three times higher than during the 1990′s, and nearly 90 percent of those prescriptions written between 2005 and 2009 were prescribed for something other than what the Food and Drug Administration approved them for. Antipsychotics have been described as a chemical lobotomy because of their ability to disable normal brain function.

     Emergency Room visits involving nonmedical use of Central Nervous System Stimulants (CNS) among adults aged 18-34 increased from 5,605 in 2005 to 22,949 in 2011. CNS drugs include prescription ADHD drugs.

     According to IMS Health, there has been a 22% increase in the number of Americans on psychiatric drugs since 2002, with over 77 million people currently taking them—that’s one in four Americans.

     A total of 8.2 million children under 18 are taking psychiatric drugs in the U.S.

     There are over 40 million Americans taking antidepressants – a 15% increase since 2002. Of these, 2 million are children under 18.

     Since 2002, the number of Americans on ADHD drugs has gone up by 94% with over 10 million currently taking them.

     According to the CDC, 11 percent of school-age children have been diagnosed with ADHD and there are now 4.7 million children under 18 in the U.S. taking ADHD drugs, per IMS Health.

     The total number of Americans on antipsychotics has increased by 40% since 2002.

     All antidepressants carry the FDA’s “Black Box” warning, alerting the public that antidepressants may increase the risk of suicidal thinking and behavior in children and young adults. A “Black Box” warning is the FDA’s most serious prescription drug warning.

     Finally, the US military has seen an increase in the number of suicides, with a record 349 in 2012, far exceeding the number of American combat deaths. According to the Military Times, at least one in six service members (17%) is on some form of psychiatric drug.

     According to the Defense Logistics Agency, between 2001 and 2009, the overall use of psychiatric drugs increased by 76%. During the same time, antidepressant use increased 40%.

    Of course, these data are just a small sample of the publicly available information that law enforcement, and lawmakers, could utilize in an effort to understand what may be causing the increased number of shootings.
    But despite these overwhelming data, to date, there still has been no investigation by state or federal lawmakers, or law enforcement agencies, into the possibility that the increased use of mind-altering psychiatric drugs may be the common thread in the increased violent behavior.
    Until this issue is addressed the mass shootings will continue to increase, the carnage will continue and the hypocritical and hollow words of sympathy and condolence will fall from the mouths of those who had the power to make a difference but not the courage to simply ask a question.
    Kelly Patricia O’Meara is an award winning former investigative reporter for the Washington Times, Insight Magazine, penning dozens of articles exposing the fraud of psychiatric diagnosis and the dangers of the psychiatric drugs She is also the author of the highly acclaimed book, Psyched Out: How Psychiatry Sells Mental Illness and Pushes Pills that Kill. Prior to working as an investigative journalist, O’Meara spent sixteen years on Capitol Hill as a congressional staffer to four Members of Congress.

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  8. Sandra Pelletier

    There is also a high (and rising) rate of suicide in veterans (as well as young men generally) did the data base or you look at suicide rate in this age group veterans vs non-veterans ? I believe this is another factor. As is easy access to weapons. Also, anti-psychotic drug use was mentioned in 2013 comment, but not the opioid crisis that has exploded nationwide since then. I wonder about rates of opioid addiction/abuse in this age group and veterans vs non-veterans. Your analysis and ideas about training provided by military make me wonder about other violent exposures (news/propaganda videos, shooter games, …) as other potentially PTSD inducing exposures to mass shootings, murders … . To me all of this points to mental health issues that desperately need to be addressed in our nation – in our veterans and others. Its time we make mental health care (and health care generally) a priority in our country or we will pay the price in more and more horrible ways

  9. Thank you for reiterating that the vast majority of veterans are not psycho killers. I am a female veteran and, while this article is painful to read, I find the points you make to be fair. An apathetic public, censorship from social media/government, and fear of government retribution for violating non- disclosure agreements makes it difficult for us to speak out on the atrocities of war. Veterans have few outlets to process the immense pressure, guilt, and feelings of betrayal that we deal with on a daily basis. Be the change you wish to see. Reach out to your local veterans. Show them you care. Listen to them. Help them tell their stories without glorifying war so that this endless cycle of wars can be stopped and our soldiers can come home.

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