This is just a casual observation, but whenever the subject of mass shooters comes up, people want to talk about damaged masculinity. And I have no doubt that in some cases young men get frustrated by their social and sexual inadequacies and this results in a simmering violent and often misogynistic rage. Maybe, more broadly, there’s some truth that a certain subset of men feel disempowered by changing gender roles and female autonomy, and this makes an even smaller subset capable of going off and deciding to kill a bunch of strangers.

But I always apply a simple test to these theories. Is there anything unique about American men when it comes to social awkwardness or inability to attract women? Aren’t gender roles in much of Europe just as evolved as they are here?

Any theory that does not account for the fact that mass shootings are much more common in America than they are elsewhere just isn’t convincing to me. The omnipresence of guns seems to me to be what distinguishes us most from other advanced countries. I don’t discount other cultural factors as possible explanations, but they have to be unique, or nearly so. It’s possible that the copycat effect plays some role, so that once you have a few mass shootings, you’re more likely to have more of them. But that can’t explain all of the difference.

I come back to the availability of guns. Guns, and a violent culture.

Tell me why I’m wrong.

Our ideas can save democracy... But we need your help! Donate Now!

Martin Longman is the web editor for the Washington Monthly. See all his writing at