Small towns and suburbs. Those were some of the first thoughts that came to mind in searching for answers to the incredibly terrifying Whitehaven, England shootings Wednesday where 12 were killed and 25 injured in a rampage lasting many hours. (Here are stories in the NY Times and Vancouver Sun.)
In America, school shootings tend to occur in suburbs and small towns where school is the only game in town and outcast shooters or those who feel they have been wronged have few, if any, places outside school to finds friends and self-esteem. So the fact that the Whitehaven shootings occurred in a rural area at first glance made sense.
The Whitehaven perpetrator, apparently a 52-year-old father of two and recent grandfather, is far different from teen shooters, such as those at Columbine. But a sense of rural isolation may have allowed his anger to fester. And social services in such locales may be fewer than in big cities. Although the night before the shootings, according to the Sun, "[Suspect Derrick] Bird is then believed to have sought medical help at a local hospital for his fragile mental state, only to be turned away."
These shooters don't just snap, although a recent catalyst in Whitehaven may have been a fight over a family will.
Another takeaway from this shooting is the New York Times' stress on gun control: "Britain claims to have the strongest gun control laws of any country in Europe, adopted after two other mass killings in the past 25 years.
"But the Home Office, which maintains a registry of licensed weapons, said Wednesday that there were about 1.8 million legal weapons in private hands, including about 1.4 million shotguns and about 400,000 rifles and air guns. Most of the shotguns are owned by farmers and other rural people, and used for hunting."
The NYT seems to leave an open question as to whether gun control is strong enough, and whether stricter gun control may have helped. That's an interesting contrast with a recent NYT story on school killings in China, where gun control seems quite restrictive (and knives become the weapon of choice).
A sense of rural isolation and generalized blame against society might, as more information emerges, still play into this. And wanting to quell your own anger or pain with suicide (another similarity with U.S. teens) may also be a factor.