By David Swanson, Executive Director, World BEYOND War, February 27, 2020
Thursday yet another mass shooting was committed by a military veteran, this one in Milwaukee. Virtually all military veterans are not mass shooters. Many peace activists are veterans. Many everything under the sun are veterans. But mass shooters are very disproportionately military veterans.
Some mass shooters who are not veterans are acting out a pretense of being in the military and/or are using military weapons. Militarism impacts a society in many ways. But one of them is through the violence of veterans, people who have been trained and conditioned to engage in violence but not always guided successfully into nonviolent post-military life.
Among males aged 18-59 in the United States, 15% are veterans.
Among male mass-shooters aged 18-59 in the United States, 36% are veterans.
A mass shooter is well over twice as likely to be a veteran.
Were this statistic discovered with regard to any unrelated demographic feature, such as red hair or Hinduism, it would be huge news and a topic of intense widespread research. Yet, when it’s discovered that people who’ve been trained and conditioned to kill are more likely to kill (as obvious a connection as one might imagine) nobody cares.
Mother Jones magazine maintains a list of mass shootings here. I’ve modified it here. I’ve modified it in the following ways. I’ve added a column for veteran status. I’ve removed shootings by women or by men outside the age range that makes the statistical comparison possible. I’ve removed a shooting by a foreign-born shooter who could not have joined the U.S. military. This has reduced the list from 118 shootings to 103.
I have not counted as veterans shooters who had been security guards or prison guards unless they were in the military. I have not counted 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 not counted as veterans two men who tried to join the U.S. military and were rejected. I have not counted as a veteran one man who worked at a U.S. Navy base as a civilian. I have not counted as a veteran a man who attacked two military locations, despite the obvious role of the military in the crime.
For many of the shooters, I have not been able to determine veteran status one way or another — I have not counted any of those shooters as veterans.
I have included as veterans those trained by ROTC, whether or not they continued in the military beyond that. I have included one man who was a member of the Saudi military being trained by the U.S. military in the United States when he committed his crime.
If people trained and conditioned and given experience burning down buildings were found to be burning down buildings, I think someone would care.
Mother Jones is interested in the gender of the shooters, in their mental health history, and various other factors. None of these factors is a complete explanation of anything, any more or less than veteran status is. Yet they are of interest.
The problem in trying to interest people in the veteran factor, no doubt, is the war culture and the troop propaganda that engulfs the United States. These are reasons for the work of World BEYOND War, including something else that’s now in Milwaukee, namely this billboard: