Veterans Commit Mass Shootings At An Alarming Rate. Why?

Analysis
A memorial for the victims of the shooting at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church includes 26 white chairs, each painted with a cross and and rose, placed in the sanctuary, Sunday, Nov. 12, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
AP Photo/Eric Gay

On Nov. 5, a former airman with a criminal background killed 26 people at a church in the Texas town of Sutherland Springs. The shooter, Devin P. Kelley, was armed with a Ruger AR-15 variant. The Air Force’s failure to alert the FBI to Kelley’s domestic assault convictions had allowed him to legally purchase the weapon and several others after he was booted out of the service in 2014 with a bad-conduct discharge. In 2012, a court-martial sentenced Kelley to 12 months in confinement for brutally beating his wife and toddler step-son. His shooting rampage was the deadliest mass public shooting in Texas history. Kelley died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound after wrecking his car while being chased by two samaritans, one of whom was also armed with a gun.  


Kelley is one of numerous veterans who have carried out massacres on American soil since Charles Whitman, a Marine Corps veteran, shot 17 people to death from atop the University of Texas Tower on Aug. 1, 1966, an event generally viewed as the first in a scourge of mass public shootings — defined as “the killing of four or more people in a public place without a connection to drug deals, gang disputes or other underlying criminal motive,” according to The Washington Post — that have rocked the country with increasing frequency and bigger death tolls over the years. As anthropologist Hugh Gusterson noted in The New York Times last year, more than a third of the 43 worst mass killings in the United States between 19842016 were perpetrated by veterans, though vets never exceeded 13% of the population during that period.

How do we explain this statistic? And can more be done to mitigate gun violence in America? Adam Linehan, Patrick Baker, Jack Mandaville, and Adam Weinstein enter The Warzone to hash it out.

Download episode 20 of The Warzone, “Gun Control" on iTunes. Also, subscribe so you never miss an episode.

You can also listen to the podcast on Soundcloud.

If you have questions or feedback for Task & Purpose Radio: The Warzone, send it over to editor@taskandpurpose.com.

A UH-60 Black Hawk departs from The Rock while conducting Medevac 101 training with members of the 386th Expeditionary Medical Group, Feb. 16, 2019. (U.S. Air Force Photo/Tech. Sgt. Robert Cloys)

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An internal investigation spurred by a nude photo scandal shows just how deep sexism runs in the Marine Corps

"I will still have to work harder to get the perception away from peers and seniors that women can't do the job."

news
(U.S. Marine Corps photo)

Some years ago, a 20-year-old female Marine, a military police officer, was working at a guard shack screening service members and civilians before they entered the base. As a lance corporal, she was new to the job and the duty station, her first in the Marine Corps.

At some point during her shift, a male sergeant on duty drove up. Get in the car, he said, the platoon sergeant needs to see you. She opened the door and got in, believing she was headed to see the enlisted supervisor of her platoon.

Instead, the sergeant drove her to a dark, wooded area on base. It was deserted, no other Marines were around. "Hey, I want a blowjob," the sergeant told her.

"What am I supposed, what do you do as a lance corporal?" she would later recall. "I'm 20 years old ... I'm new at this. You're the only leadership I've ever known, and this is what happens."

She looked at him, then got out of the car and walked away. The sergeant drove up next to her and tried to play it off as a prank. "I'm just fucking with you," he said. "It's not a big deal."

It was one story among hundreds of others shared by Marines for a study initiated in July 2017 by the Marine Corps Center for Advanced Operational Culture Learning (CAOCL). Finalized in March 2018, the center's report was quietly published to its website in September 2019 with little fanfare.

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