As of today, according to msnbc.com, 43 people have died in the last 30 days in mass-shooting incidents across the U.S. There are several sociological theories that could potentially explain this. Messner and Rosenfeld’s “American Dream” structural strain theory posits that when there is a gap between what one wants to achieve and what seems possible, violence increases. For the immigrant who shot 13 people and himself in Binghamton, NY last week, there is evidence that points to an American Dream that could not be realized. His letter to the media contained complaints about people mocking him for his poor English skills, and being unable to find employment. Other shooters have also been said to have “snapped” after the stress of job loss.
Does this fully explain the situation? Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (D-NY), who ran for office after family members were shot during a mass murder on the Long Island Railroad 15 years ago, points to the need for stricter gun laws. Additionally, we have to consider the effect of media coverage – does its extensive coverage of violent incidents encourage so-called “copycat” killings? The question of the media is further complicated when one looks at violent incidents as social performance (Eyerman, 2008).