The Connection Between Mass Shootings and Domestic Violence
Holly Jasinski, MS, RYT
Resilient Spaces Program Facilitator & Public Policy Liaison

While there isn’t one commonly held definition, Everytown for Gun Safety defines mass shootings as “any incident in which four or more people are shot and killed, excluding the shooter.” Everytown Research indicates that there was an average of 19 mass shootings in the U.S. each year from 2009 to 2020, with 947 wounded by gunfire and 1,363 fatally shot. The same report indicated, “In nearly all mass shootings over this period, the shooter was an adult man who acted alone.” 

In more than 68% of mass shootings between 2014- 2019, the shooter had a history of domestic violence. Due to the widespread underreporting of domestic violence, it is likely that this number is much greater. Fear on the part of the victim/survivor is the main reason for not reporting domestic violence. Seeking help tends to escalate the violence, as the perpetrator senses their power and control in the relationship is threatened.  

While we tend to think of schools when it comes to mass shootings in the U.S., most incidents begin or take place in private, and they’re usually domestic. In these situations, the perpetrator kills or attempts to kill their partner or ex-partner(s), along with children or other family members. This is known as familicide and often ends in the perpetrator taking their own life. In the period of 2000–2009, familicide involving an intimate partner and child(ren) occurred approximately 23 times per year. Most of the perpetrators were male and committed the offense with a firearm. In fact, the presence of a firearm in an intimate partner violence situation increases the risk of homicide by 500%.  

Since there is typically minimal danger to the public, familicide often does not gain as much national media attention as other mass shootings. However, domestic shootings can progress into public gun rampages. Locally, we experienced this in the case of Roderick Dantzler in Grand Rapids in 2011.  

Domestic violence-related mass shootings are the deadliest. On average, only one in six people survive a domestic violence-related mass shooting compared to one in three people in other types of mass shootings. However, examining the psychology of mass shooters who also kill family members because so many end in suicide. Abusive partners often threaten suicide as a power and control tactic: (e.g., “If you leave me, I will kill myself”). Suicidality is a common thread in domestic violence-related mass shootings. Therefore, when someone with a history of domestic violence indicates suicidality, it should be viewed as a predictor of intimate partner homicide.  

In 2014, the Federal Bureau of Investigation found that 45.6% of active shooter incidents took place in a business or commercial setting. While many companies have trained employees and established active shooter protocols, the link between mass shootings and domestic violence is often overlooked. Unlike policies and training on sexual harassment, domestic violence in the workplace training is not required by law. Domestic violence education should be a part of any business’s safety measures.

The Resilient Spaces program offers comprehensive and customizable workplace training on domestic violence. We can help employers recognize red flags, respond safely, and provide resources to employees in need of assistance. Scheduling is flexible and training fees are based on a sliding scale. In-person and virtual training options are available. Don’t wait until it’s too late.

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