There’s an ugly open secret about mass shooters and mass killers: most of them have women problems. Not women problems like “I can’t get laid.” These men – and aren’t they always men? – have serious problems with women.

They don’t like women. They belittle and degrade them. They abuse them. They BEAT them. And when they get caught? Society doesn’t do much to them. Domestic violence laws are changing, but in many places, it’s still considered “a private matter.”

I was told, just a few years ago, that in my home state, my home county, many law enforcement officers would call a husband and let him know “that the little woman is down here making trouble for you” rather than do anything to the husband. It’s no wonder then that domestic abuse and violence against women aren’t looked at as closely when investigating or identifying mass shooters, as the FBI looks at childhood animal abuse when profiling serial killers.

The “domestic” part of domestic violence keeps it in the realm of “a private matter” or “a misunderstanding,” rather than the crime that it actually is. When you think about that, it’s truly mind-blowingly stupid. No one who abuses his wife or intimate partner and children on a regular basis can possibly keep the attitudes that drive that abuse from seeping into his “other life.”

Just four days before the most recent mass shooting in a country that can’t seem to get enough of them, Samantha Bee called abusive attitudes toward women “the canary in the coal mine” when it comes to mass shootings. Devin Kelly. Omar Mateen. Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel. Robert Lewis Dear. Elliot Rodger. Dylan Roof. Cedric Ford. Adam Lanza.

The Daily Beast reports that James Hodgkinson, the shooter who fired at the Congressional baseball practice last June, punched a 19-year-old friend of his foster daughter in the face, then aimed a shotgun at her boyfriend and fired a round. How he was ever approved to be a foster parent is a rant for a later time.

They ALL had problems with women. Sometimes that problem was being rejected by women and hating them for it; more often it was actually abusing and beating women. They don’t like women who confront or challenge them, women who don’t abide by patriarchal bullshit what they see as the rightful order of things. Sometimes, a woman filing for a restraining order or divorce precipitated the killing spree.

The truly shocking mass shootings, like the Las Vegas shooting, the Pulse Orlando shooting and Sunday’s massacre in Texas, with dozens of victims, justifiably occupy several news cycles and the national dialogue. But “mass shootings” are defined as shootings with four or more victims, not counting the shooter.

A lot of those mass shootings? Families.

According to Everytown for Gun Safety, 54 percent of mass shootings were related to domestic or family violence. In almost half the cases, 42%, the shooter exhibited red flags, including violations of protective orders. In Pennsylvania, Megan Short and her children died in a murder-suicide at her husband’s hand, just three weeks after reporting to local police that she was afraid of him. The NEXT DAY, her husband Mark bought a handgun and bullets, which he used to kill his family and then himself. Short alleged to friends that Mark was abusive.

Obviously, not all domestic abusers become mass killers. Thank whoever for that, because mass shootings would truly be nonstop. Nearly 20 people are abused by an intimate partner every minute in the United States, more than 10 million people a year, according to the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence. Those people are overwhelmingly women. The NCADV also reports that the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation increases the risk of homicide by a whopping 500 percent.

The United States Code prohibits individuals convicted of misdemeanor domestic violence from owning a gun, but Texas shooter Devin Kelly, who was convicted of and served a year in confinement for domestic violence in 2012, was able to legally buy an assault rifle in April, 2016.

How? We’re still figuring that out. His conviction for domestic violence came while serving in the U.S. Air Force and maybe that information wasn’t in the national database. Maybe he got away with lying on the background check form, which means it really isn’t much of a background check after all.

Our system is broken. We need to listen to women when they say they are being abused. We need to support them and stop expecting them to “just leave.” Good men need to stop protecting the bad ones. We need to pay close attention to the abusers and treat or imprison them, warranted, from the first accusation on. We need stop acting like women are lying about how men treat them, whether that’s about abuser or sexual harrassment.

Treat abusers like the criminals they are and punish them accordingly. It won’t prevent every mass shooting or murder, but it’s a start.  

About Author

Annette Gallagher is a professional writer who somehow escaped the bonds of a Moral Majority upbringing to become a liberal feminist. She also loves to cook and is the anti-snob food writer.

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