Racist gun massacres in US becoming deadlier, experts warn
US experts warn that the trend of mostly young white men being inspired by previous racist gun massacres is on the rise, citing recent mass shootings.
An 18-year-old white man suspected of fatally shooting 10 people in a Black neighborhood in Buffalo, New York, appears to be the latest in a line of "copycat" gunmen carrying out deadlier mass shootings inspired by previous attackers, Reuters reported Sunday, citing experts and organizations that study crime and racism.
Others racially-motivated shootings include the 2015 attack at a Black church in Charleston, South Carolina, a 2018 shooting at a synagogue in Pittsburgh and a 2019 attack at a Walmart in a Hispanic neighborhood of El Paso, Texas.
Adam Lankford, a criminology professor at the University of Alabama, has studied trends in mass shootings over time. His 2020 study analyzing victim data showed that the "deadliest" shootings - where more than eight people are killed - had doubled in number since 2010, compared to the previous 40 years.
"It's clearly not just random. They are not people dreaming this up on their own. They are learning it from each other," Lankford told Reuters.
He added: "They want to be like the previous attacker, who is a role model."
Lankford's study found that the "deadliest" shootings comprised 25% of mass public shootings from 1966 to 2009, but from 2010 to 2019 had increased to 50% of mass public shootings, in which there was "direct evidence that perpetrator was influenced by another specific attacker or attackers."
Lankford said the rise in these copycat mass killings have a specific trend: the gunmen find their inspiration from the personal life details of previous mass shooters. "It's not repeating the incident that inspires them. It's the intimate details of their lives that promotes the influence," he said.
Lankford said one way to try and combat the rise in such hate crimes is for the media to avoid publishing details of the shooters personal lives.
Hate-motivated mass shootings and fame-seeking perpetrators have rapidly increased since 2015, according to an analysis by The Violence Project, which tracks mass shootings in the United States.
The Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), which tracks hate and extremist groups, told Reuters on Sunday the Buffalo gunman "had a substantial online history in niche, toxic online communities."
"From what he wrote online, by his own account he was radicalized through participation in these forums," Susan Corke, director of SPLC’s Intelligence Project, said in an emailed statement.