Suspect’s age stands out among mass shooters
By JIN YU YOUNG
The gunman in Saturday night’s shooting in Monterey Park, California, was identified by local authorities as a 72-year-old man, making him a rarity among the country’s lengthening list of mass killers, who tend to be much younger.
The median age of gunmen in mass shootings in the United States over the past six decades is 32, according to the Violence Project, a nonprofit research center funded by the National Institute of Justice. As of 2020, there has only been one other mass shooter older than 70.
Mass shooters tend to “target locations that are representative of the grievances that they have,” said James Densley, co-founder of the Violence Project and a professor of the School of Law Enforcement and Criminal Justice at Metro State University in Minnesota.
He added that mass shooters in school settings are often students. The shootings at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, last year and Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, in 2012 were carried out by former students of the respective schools.
Monterey Park is a predominantly Asian and Asian American community. Several of the victims in Saturday’s shootings were in their 50s and 60s.
While the average age of a mass shooter is in the early 30s, there are clusters who carry out shooting sprees while in their 20s and 40s, a reflection of how these attackers may be in “transitional times” in which “you feel like you don’t fit in, and violence follows,” Densley said. He called the gunman in Monterey Park an “outlier” in terms of his age.
The overwhelming majority of mass shooters in the Violence Project report were men. This likely reflects the social pressure on males to “be stronger, tougher and have the final word, with that final word sometimes being violence,” said Vickie Jensen, a professor in the department of criminology and justice studies at California State University, Northridge.
Social media has been cited as a factor in recent shootings by young men, including the attacks in Uvalde and Buffalo, New York, reflecting “a problem that intersects with the distribution and the reinforcement of the rigid and hegemonic idea of toxic masculinity,” Jensen said. This was not an issue several decades ago.
There have been a few mass shootings in the United States in which the shooter was older than 60.
In one of the largest, the 2017 shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead, the shooter, Stephen Paddock, was 64. Paddock was a former postal worker and tax auditor, and his mental and physical health had been deteriorating in the months leading up to the shooting.