What motivates school shootings

Rampage - killing as if in a frenzy

Rampage: cry for help from a wounded soul

In a rampage, the perpetrator finds himself in an extreme psychological situation, which is characterized by insanity and an absolute willingness to use violence. As if in a trance, the gunman looks for one victim after the other.

The offense is often triggered by problems in the perpetrator's private environment. This can be social isolation, failure, or bullying at work or at school. The perpetrator feels that he is constantly being treated unfairly. As a result, a subliminal aggression builds up in him over a long period of time, which in the end actually discharges.

A location that the perpetrator associates with the violation of his psyche is usually chosen as the crime scene. Typical examples of this are the rampages in court or school buildings. In most cases, the perpetrator meticulously prepares his rampage. Spontaneous acts are rather rare. The actual trigger for the act itself is a kind of initial spark.

In many cases in recent years, the rampage has been announced on the Internet, combined with attempts to explain and justify. Many people running amok stage their deed and follow ritual rules, including the final suicide.

Historical search for traces

The term amok is derived from the Malay word meng-âmok. It means "to attack and kill in a blind rage". A search for traces of the first historically documented rampages leads accordingly to Southeast Asia.

In Malaysia one can find first records from the 15th century of rampages that were carried out for military purposes. Highly motivated and death-defying tribal fighters are said to have attacked far superior opposing armies and thus terrified the enemy and inflicted heavy losses on them.

Travel reports from seafarers from the western world confirm that in the 17th, 18th and 19th centuries, especially in the Southeast Asian culture, there were also rampages of individual perpetrators who did not kill for military reasons, but their motivation for the blood crimes in a purely personal environment was to look for.

Private problems such as over-indebtedness or unjust treatment by authorities or high-ranking personalities were in many cases the trigger for these rampages.

Ethnologists at the time assumed that the rampage was an ethnological phenomenon that could only be found in Southeast Asia. "Those afflicted by this anger pull the kris (dagger), which every Malay always carries to the side, jump up and ruthlessly knock down anyone they can reach. All gunmen are considered extremely dangerous, outlawed and it is permissible to kill them on the spot, "reported the Brockhaus Conversations Lexicon in 1882.

School massacre (1927)

May 18, 1927 went down in US criminal history as the day the worst massacre of a school ever took place. 45 people died and 58 were injured, some seriously, in the rampage in Bath, Michigan. Most of the victims were first to sixth grade students. The perpetrator, 55-year-old Andrew Kehoe, was particularly insidious.

As a member of the school committee, he had free access to the school building. There he deposited bombs with enormous explosive power and equipped with time fuses.

On the morning of May 18, Kehoe first killed his wife and then set his farm on fire. He had chained the cattle in the stables beforehand. It shouldn't survive that day either. A little later one of the bombs hidden there exploded in the school. Another 230 kilogram explosive charge did not detonate.

At this point, Kehoe himself drove his car near the school and detonated another explosive charge that he had installed in the vehicle. The explosion killed other people besides Kehoe himself.

The reason for his act was presumably financial difficulties. His farm was about to be foreclosed. He blamed the tax authorities for his financial misery. They would have ruined him by collecting property taxes. Tax money used to build the Bath school building.

"I don't like Mondays" (1979)

Brenda Ann Spencer was 16 years old when she shot children at Cleveland Elementary School in San Diego, California, from a window in her parents' home on January 29, 1979, a Monday. Her father gave her the murder weapon, a rifle. She fought a shootout with the police that had been summoned until she was overpowered by special forces. Spencer killed two adults and injured eight children and one policeman.

While Spencer was barricaded in her home, a journalist interviewed her over the phone and asked her why she was doing it. "I don't like Mondays. This livens up the day" was the succinct answer.

During a police interrogation, she later said: "There were no particular reasons for the act - I just enjoyed it." Spencer was sentenced to life imprisonment, which she must serve until her death under US law. Various requests for clemency were rejected.

"Even after all these years I still don't understand what this girl did. You have to imagine it. Back then, she simply shot at anything that moved," recalled Irish musician Bob Geldof. As the singer of the rock band "Boomtown Rats" he processed the events in 1989 in the song "I don’t like Mondays".

"I found this statement by Spencer absolutely terrifying. The police, the school administration and the parents tried to comprehend, to comprehend, to understand the motive for this terrible act. But in this case it is impossible. It was a irrational act. Killing without motive, simply for the sake of killing, "said Geldof.

Research field rampage

In July 2011, an apparently mentally confused man in Norway wreaked havoc among young people and killed 77 people. In December 2011, a 33-year-old gun fanatic killed five people and injured 125 people in the street in Liège, Belgium. In March 2012, a US soldier shot and killed 16 Afghan civilians. The question of why arose in all cases. The rampage has long been the subject of scientific research.

Psychologists and criminologists try to track down the phenomenon. They analyze the crime, the course of the crime, examine possible motives, search for clues in the perpetrator's social environment.

A hot lead leads the scientists into the area of ​​violent videos and brutal computer games, in which murder and killing are in the foreground. In fact, the US Army uses such games to train its soldiers. The realistic scenery on the screen is intended to prepare the GIs for use in crisis areas.

However, German scientists do not consider this dubious pastime with relevant video games and violent films to be the trigger for a rampage. It is true that the investigations often reveal that the gunmen were interested in violent films and games. But here the question of causality arises.

A person with aggressive tendencies may be attracted to violent games. Violent content does not necessarily make a person aggressive.

According to the researchers, several factors must come together in a rampage. It is clear, however, that it is mostly male perpetrators who fall into such a blood frenzy.