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Mass murder

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A mass murder (massacre) involves the murder of large numbers of people either by a state or an individual. This should not be confused with serial killers, who usually to kill one person (or perhaps two) at a time.

The largest mass killings in history have been attempts to exterminate ethnic and other groups; for more about this subject see genocide. This article refers to non-genocidal mass killings.

Although "genocide" does not necessarily require actual killing, only acting on a plan to exterminate an ethnic group, mass murder by definition involves killing a large number of people.


Mass murder by the state

R. J. Rummel, a political scientist, coined the word democide to cover mass murder by a state. Some killings commonly viewed as genocide are actually democide or mass murder because they involve killing for political or cultural reasons.

Examples include:

  • Killings in Cambodia of the intellectual and cultural elite.
  • Killings in Stalinist Russia of Kulaks, alleged Trotskyists and other alleged enemies of the regime, most of whom were ethnic Russians.
  • Civilians massacred by the Japanese army during the Rape of Nanjing in China. However, this example is less an example of state-sponsored democide as it is of rogue military forces as was the case with the slaughter of unarmed villagers by the US Army's Tiger Force in Vietnam or the slaughter of over 500 civilians by US forces in the My Lai Massacre.
  • Intentionally targeting civilian populations in Japan with weapons of mass destruction by the United States. This example falls under the true definition of democide since it was a state-sanctioned mass murder of a civilian target without military value, as defined by R.J. rummel .
  • The massacre of Huguenots in the St. Bartholomew's Day Massacre.
  • The slaughter of the civilian population of Avaricum by the Roman army under Julius Caesar.
  • Bombings of civilians by the United States in the Vietnam War, killing over 2 million
  • The Nazi Internment and mass-murder of Social Democrats During the Holocaust

Some people also regard the bombing of urban areas during wartime to constitute mass murder by the state.

Mass murder by terrorists

In recent years, terrorists have performed acts of mass murder as acts of intimidation, and to draw attention to their causes. Examples of major terrorist incidents involving mass murder include:

Mass murder by individuals

Outside of a political context, the term "mass murder" refers to the killing of several people at the same time. Examples would include shooting several people in the course of a robbery, or setting a crowded nightclub on fire. This is an ambiguous term, similar to serial killing and spree killing.

The USA Bureau of Justice Statistics defines a mass murder as: "[involving] the murder of four or more victims at one location, within one event."

One pattern of individual mass murders is that many are committed by individuals who took prescription psychiatric drugs prior to committing the murders. The worst mass murderers have used explosions (a bomb or an act of sabotage), fire, and poisoning. The largest mass murders by individuals do not involve firearms. Most mass murderers who misuse firearms are not firearms enthusiasts, as demonstrated by their lack of knowledge and choice of less effective firearms that lack power and accuracy and often lack reliability.

Another pattern of individual mass murders is that many could have been prevented if "gun control" laws did not create helpless victim zones around schools and other public places. Some mass murders have lasted from many minutes to twenty minutes or longer while victims and bystanders were disarmed and helpless due to these dangerous laws.

One famous example is the mass murder at Luby's cafeteria in Killeen, Texas in October, 1991. George Hennard, an unemployed merchant seaman, drove his pickup truck into Luby's cafeteria, leaped out, and opened fire on the diners, killing 23 and wounding more than 20 before it was over. Suzanna Gratia Hupp had been carrying her .38-caliber Smith & Wesson that day. She and her parents were having lunch in the restaurant when the shooting started. Hupp instinctively reached into her purse for her handgun, but it was not there because Texas law had required her to leave it in the car. Even though she had excellent marksmanship skills and sufficient opportunity to shoot and stop the attacker while he was shooting and while he was taking time to reload his firearm. Hupp's father tried to rush the attacker but was shot in the chest. Hupp escaped through a broken window, but her mother was unable to escape and was also murdered. Hupp led the successful campaign to reform Texas gun laws to allow self-defense. She later became a member of the Texas House of Representatives. Republican George W. Bush campaigned against and defeated Democratic Governor Ann Richards, stating that he would sign the self defense law that she had vetoed.

Another famous example is the mass murder at Cleveland Elementary School in Stockton, California on January 17, 1989. Patrick Purdy had committed multiple crimes, including felonies, and should have been in prison for many years, well beyond the day he committed mass murder. His long criminal history included firearm law violations, assault and battery on a police officer, and kicking out a police car window. Purdy was placed on a 72 hour law enforcement hold for psychiatric evaluation. His evaluation report stated that he was both homicidal and suicidal, and that he was likely to murder multiple other people and then commit suicide. However, California's catch and release criminal justice system repeatedly plea bargained his felonies down to misdemeanors and released him back onto the streets. He served a total of 30 days for his crimes. This mass murder would have been prevented California had adequate prison space and if prosecutors and judges were more responsible. This mass murder also could have been prevented or greatly reduced had California law allowed even a few teachers or administrators to carry a firearm for self-defense. Israel stopped Arab terrorist attacks at its schools by arming teachers, and many Arab terrorists in Israel have been stopped by armed civilians.

Mass murders that are prevented or reduced by armed civilians do not receive the massive publicity of those that are completed due to laws that disarm victims and bystanders. For example, a mass murder in progress was stopped at Pearl High School in Pearl, Mississippi in 1997. Luke Woodham slit his mother's throat, grabbed a .30-30 lever action deer rifle, packed the pockets of his trench coat with ammunition, and headed off to Pearl High School to commit a mass murder. When Vice Principal Joel Myrick heard the shots, he ran to get his Colt .45 handgun, but was delayed due to his compliance with existing "gun control" laws. He ran a considerable distance to his truck, unlocked the door, removed his gun from its case, removed the ammunition from another case, loaded his gun, and ran back to the school to stop any additional murders. "I've always kept a gun in the truck just in case something like this ever happened," said Myrick. Woodham kept shooting and reloading, shooting and reloading, until he heard sirens. He then ran to his car to drive to nearby Pearl Junior High School to shoot more kids before police could show up. But Myrick, armed with his handgun, prevented those additional murders. He pointed his gun at Woodham's head, causing Woodham to crash the car. Myrick approached Woodham and used his gun to detain Woodham until the police arrived. Myrick has since become Principal of Corinth High School, Corinth, Mississippi.

Some mass murderers communicate their plans to others by word of mouth or over the internet. Such warnings should be taken seriously and reported to all proper authorities.

Most mass murderers fall into one of three categories: family annihilators, individuals with mental illness, or disgruntled workers.

Family Annihilators, as the term suggests, slaughter their immediate family. In a typical instance, a husband kills his wife and children and then takes his own life, quite often when they are under mounting financial or other pressures. An example is Robert Mochrie, a Welsh businessman who was suffering from depression and financial problems when, in July 2000, he battered to death his two sons, two daughters and wife before finally hanging himself.

It can also, in rare cases, be a child (usually a male adolescent) who kills his parents and siblings. One example is Sean Stevenson, a 16-year-old from Washington State who, on New Years Day 1987, shot to death his parents and raped and killed his 18-year-old sister. He was caught after talking of the murders to his girlfriend and inviting her to flee with him to Mexico.

Disgruntled Workers is often a misnomer, as most perpetrators are ex-workers. They are dismissed from their jobs and subsequently return to murder their former colleagues who are unarmed and defenseless due to "gun control" laws and company policies. In the 1980s, when two fired postal workers carried out such massacres in separate incidents in the US, the term "going postal" become adopted as slang for someone who snaps and goes on the rampage. In some cases, unemployment may result from mental illness and inappropriate behavior, or an existing case of mental illness may be worsened by the stress of unemployment.

These definitions are evidently outdated and do not take into account the phenomenon of school massacres by students, such as the Columbine High School Massacre, where alienated youths rampage through their schools killing fellow students and teachers alike.

There are also mass murders that involve minimal planning and minimal technology or equipment. In 1990, Julio Gonzalez used gasoline to set fire to a New York nightclub after having an argument there with his girlfriend. 87 people died in the blaze (Gonzalez's girlfriend survived.)

Some mass-killers may have financial motives, whereby the killings are either unintended as a result of a robbery going wrong, or are incidental to the primary crime of theft. One of the most bizarre cases was that of Sadamichi Hirasawa, who poisoned to death 12 bank workers by cyanide during a robbery.

Unlike serial killers, there is rarely a sexual motive to individual mass-murderers, with the possible exception of Silvestre Matuschka, an Austrian man who apparently derived sexual pleasure from blowing up trains with dynamite, ideally with people in them. His lethal sexual fetish claimed 22 lives before he was caught in 1932.

Mass Murderers

In addition, Brenda Ann Spencer attempted a mass murder at an elementary school in San Diego, California, 1979. She only killed two people guarding the students that she targeted. Eight students and a police officer were injured. This event was the basis for the song I don't like Mondays by the Boomtown Rats

Mass murder in warfare

The wrongful killing of large numbers of civilians or prisoners during war is called a war crime, although it may also be genocide if the proper ethnic motivation is present, as in the killings which occurred in the breakaway republics of the former Yugoslavia (e.g. Srebrenica Massacre) or in the killing of the Pequot in colonial America.

See also

atrocity - genocide - going postal - list of massacres - murder - serial killer - spree killer - state terrorism - war crime - Mass deaths and atrocities of the twentieth century
Last updated: 08-17-2005 02:29:58