Female Shooters

In the aftermath of the YouTube headquarters shooting where we had the rare occurrence of a female active shooter, there was a proliferation of articles and posts indicating how rare these incidents are, suggesting “toxic masculinity” as a source of this horrible violence. This approach may be detrimental to real prevention efforts as comparing the different genders of mass shooters has more to do with the political/cultural agendas than saving lives.

Let’s take a tweet by filmmaker Michael Moore.

While anecdotes are not evidence, it is easy to refute the absolute “ever” as we can quickly come up with contrary examples. Dorothy Dutiel was a young woman who killed her girlfriend at Independence High School in Glendale, Ariz., before shooting herself, back in 2016. In a combination of workplace violence and school shootings, Amy Bishop was a professor at the University of Alabama-Huntsville campus when she was denied tenure,causing her to kill three colleagues and wounding three others during a faculty meeting in 2010.

The examples can continue, but, it is certainly true that there are more male shooters than females. However, we need to also consider when the female is the initiator of the violence. In the area of domestic violence in the workplace, again the vast majority involve a male perpetrator assaulting a female victim, but there is a trend in the less common cases involving male victims. This entails when the female in the relationship secretly conspires with a male assailant to kill her unwitting partner. Out of about 850 cases, there is a small representative (37 cases) where the woman hires a hit man or colludes with her boyfriend to kill her partner while he is at work. 

To illustrate with a case, Sherie Lea was convicted in a Australian court in 2011 for conspiring to have her husband killed while at work. Working with a man she met through a motorcycle club, they attempted to hire a hit man ( actually an undercover police officer) for $25,000. This money would come from the $500,000 life insurance policy that she just took out on her husband. She provided photos to the would-be assassin and even took him to her husband’s workplace to point out likely spots for the murder. In order to garner support and sympathy, she even lied about alleged domestic abuse and sexual assaults committed by her husband. While this anecdote simply point out a single example, it does demonstrate that while women may not be as physically violent as men, they are certainly capable of malicious and lethal actions

Again, there is no value in trying to compare the two sexes in determining some blame based on gender. Rather, we need to focus on the individual’s character and values that motivate someone to seek the death of another.