The April 30 shooting at the University of North Carolina at Charlotte follows a familiar pattern of mass shootings at college campuses in the United States.
If authorities better understood these patterns, they may be able to prevent future shootings.
We’re a psychologist and sociologist who have been studying mass shooters in order to develop new prevention strategies. Our research is part of a grant from the National Institute of Justice.
Part of our work involves looking at the psycho-social life histories of mass shooters from 1966 through the present, as well as the kinds of places where mass shootings occur.
Mass shootings are defined by the FBI as incidents in which four or more people are killed. When mass shootings occur on college campuses, it tends to be at larger, public universities like UNC Charlotte.
Strikingly, more than 70% of campus shootings took place at the end of the school year – in April, May or June – a time that students report as being the most stressed. The shooting at UNC Charlotte took place on the last day of classes of the semester.
Indeed, April stands out as a particularly deadly time of the year when it comes to campus mass shootings – the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre that claimed 32 lives, and the 2012 Oikos University shooting in Oakland, California, that killed seven and wounded three, both happened in April.
Characteristics of campus shooters
So far, little is publicly available about the UNC Charlotte shooter, but the details emerging show he shares some of the same characteristics as the campus shooters in our data. The UNC Charlotte shooter is a 22-year-old former student of the school who recently dropped out.
All of the college mass shooters in our study were male, and the majority – 83% – were in their 20s. Unlike mass shooters at middle at high schools who are mostly white, the majority of mass shooters at college campuses – 83% – were non-white. More specifically, 50% were Asian and 33% were mixed-race. All but one was a current or former student at the university.