Domestic Abuse as Warning Sign of Mass Shooters

In the aftermath of the Orlando Pulse tragedy, much investigation and speculation went into the history and motives of the shooter, Omar Mateen. One discovery may be a common trait among mass shooters – he had a history of domestic abuse. Sitora Yusufiy, his ex-wife, has given numerous interviews, describing the abuse. Although there were not charges or restraining orders taken out against him, this can be expected due to the resistance to come forward.

However, the Mateen case is not unique. Many public shootings have their violent start in a home and against family members. To pick one case out of many, Herbert Chalmers killed his girlfriend, raped his ex-wife and then went on to his jobsite to kill his boss and shoot her daughter. Within the context of workplace violence, a specific type (Type IV) focuses on when domestic violence spills over into the workplace. Two of the worst offenses claimed 8 lives each. Robert Stewart killed elderly residents at the Pinelake Health and Rehab nursing home in Carthage, NC and Scott Evans Dekraai shot workers and customers at a hair salon in Seal Beach, CA.

The one prevention factor of this type of workplace violence is that the victims are almost always aware (terrified) of the threat and this fore-knowledge is critical in terms of prevention. The real trick in stopping such a shooting in the workplace is in notifying their employer, but this disclosure can also help stop mass shootings. Mateen’s current wife, Noor Salman, reportedly may have known of his plans to commit a mass shooting (further investigation is not possible at the moment as she is apparently missing), but did not notify authorities. This failure has been condemned and defended across the internet with the psychological abuse identified as the reason that prevented the disclosure.

Lately, gun control has been primary focus of many seeking to prevent mass shootings and there is a factor here as well. People charged with domestic violence and those who have a restraining order against them are prohibited from possessing firearms. While it may only slow the assailant from obtaining a weapon, there is a misconception about “permanent” restraining orders as they are not actually indefinite. In actuality, they may last a couple of years which creates a burden on the law enforcement agencies that must confiscate the weapons and maintain them until they are returned at the end of the restraining order period. In truth, a determined shooter can obtain a firearm by other means.

The clear take-away from the connection between domestic abuse and mass shootings is that they are all rooted in the demented and violent character of the assailant. It is possible to stop them but only if the victims get the support they need to come forward.

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