Are Mass Shooters a Social Kind?
Philosophy & Religious Studies
On April 20, 1999, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed fifteen people at their high school in Columbine, Colorado. National media dubbed the event a “school shooting.” The term grimly expanded over the next several years to include similar events at army bases, movie theaters, churches, and nightclubs. Today, we commonly use the categories “mass shooter” and “mass shooting” to organize and classify information about gun violence. I will argue that neither category is an effective tool for reducing gun violence and use empirical data to show how these categories perpetuate a moral panic that harms already vulnerable demographics. I conclude that we should instead favor a narrower description of individuals and events, (e.g., “X shot Y people at Z”) because we can talk about all the relevant cases without contributing the undue harms.
Blankschaen, K. (2022). “Are Mass Shooters a Social Kind?” Res Philosophica, 99(4), 427–451. doi.org/10.11612/resphil.2231