‘They didn’t listen’

Most perpetrators of mass shootings share common trait: A history of domestic violence

ATF Agents and members of local law enforcement outside the home of James Hodgkinson in Belleville, Illinois. Hodgkinson was identified as shooter in the attack of a Congressional Baseball Field. (Photo by Michael B. Thomas/Getty Images)

There’s a way of preventing mass shootings that has nothing to do with gun control, according to Nancy Leong, an associate professor at the University of Denver Sturm College of Law. The answer, Leong posits, is simple — crack down on perpetrators of domestic violence.

On Wednesday morning, a man named James T. Hodgkinson shot Republican House Majority Whip Steve Scalise and four others in an apparently politically motivated shooting aimed at injuring Republican politicians. In the wake of such shootings, much effort is made at understanding the motivation of the attackers. But on the whole, the ideologies and circumstances of mass shooters vary widely — except, perhaps, in one respect: In recent years, a large number of mass shooters have a history of violence toward women.

Writing for The Washington Post, Leong noted that analysis from mass shootings from 2009 through 2016 showed that 54 percent of mass shootings involved a current or former intimate partner or family member as a victim. Seung-Hui Cho, the student who murdered 32 people at Virginia Tech, had previously been investigated for stalking his female classmates. Omar Mateen, the perpetrator of the Pulse nightclub massacre, had been physically beating his wife for years. And Elliot Rodger, the man who killed six people in the small California town of Isla Vista, posted videos online in which he raged against women for rejecting him and threw coffee on two women at a bus stop for not smiling at him shortly before he began his killing spree.

While Hodgkinson’s ideologies and motivations differ from many other mass shooters, his issues with violent behavior toward women was, sadly, typical. According to police records, Hodgkinson had allegedly damaged his neighbor’s door and forced his way into her home in 2006 while looking for his teenage foster daughter, according to a report by The Daily Beast.

In a 2006 photo provided by authorities, James Hodgkinson, the suspect in the June 14, 2017 mass shooting at a baseball practice for congressional Republicans. Hodgkinson, a southern Illinois home inspector who was reportedly distraught over the election of President Donald Trump, died after a shootout with police; he wounded four, including Rep. Steve Scalise, the House majority whip. (St. Clair County Sheriff’s Dept. via The New York Times)

According to witnesses, Hodgkinson then grabbed his daughter by the hair. When she escaped and tried to hide in the neighbor’s car, he brought out a knife and cut off a seatbelt from the car while trying to pull her out. When the neighbor told him she was calling 911, police records said, he punched the 19-year-old woman in the face in an attempt to prevent her from doing so.

When the case came to trial, however, the judge abruptly dismissed it because a witness had failed to appear at a hearing.

“I tried to tell the court that this guy’s crazy, that this a big deal, but they didn’t listen to me,” the neighbor said at the time.

In Hodgkinson’s case, and that of many others, violence toward the women in their lives was the first warning sign of what was to come. It’s too bad no one in power was listening.

Read the full story at The Washington Post.


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