April 6th, 2009
01:15 PM ET

Shootings, murder-suicide raise broader question: Is violence linked to recession?

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i2.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2009/CRIME/04/05/pittsburgh.officers.shot.dog/art.pittsburgh.03.gi.jpg]
Patrik Jonsson
The Christian Science Monitor

Four Oakland, Calif., police officers shot down. An Alabama man strolling a small town with a rifle, looking for victims. Seven elderly people shot dead at a North Carolina nursing home. And on Sunday, six people, including four kids, died in an apparent murder-suicide in an upscale neighborhood in Santa Clara, Calif.

The details in all these cases are still emerging. In most, the exact motive has yet to be determined – or may never be fully understood.

On a broader level, however, such incidents may be happening more often because an increasing number of Americans feel desperate pressure from job losses and other economic hardship, criminologists say.

"Most of these mass killings are precipitated by some catastrophic loss, and when the economy goes south, there are simply more of these losses," says Jack Levin, a noted criminologist at Northeastern University in Boston.


Filed under: 360° Radar • Economy • Gun Violence
soundoff (25 Responses)
  1. lampe

    I live in Pa. On Saturday we had 3 Police Officers killed and 2 other hurt. A man thought he needed to stand up for what he thought was right,by using a Gun and killing people. This makes no sense to me. But, by the same token a Gun, did not just pull it's own trigger. You can not say for a fact, that Banning Guns, is going to stop the illegal selling of guns, nor can you say that it will stop all gun killings. There are alot of young people who can get their hands on a Gun, just as easily as buying a pack of gum. And, if you do Ban guns, what will we do with all the people who buy, or sell them illegally? We barely have enough room in our prisons now. What should we do build more?

    April 6, 2009 at 10:23 pm |
  2. anita

    recession is just a peripherical problem. The real issue is that basically anyone is the U.S. can have a gun.

    I have been living in the U.S. for thirteen years now, and since I arrived I've been hearing about high school shootings, mall shootings, Universities shootings and so forth. More bizarre, as an instructor of foreign languages in a couple of American universities, I also learned that some of college students' favorite hobby is "hunting". I could never ever imagine "college students" with such a primitive attittude. It's shocking.

    The reason I mention this is to call attention again to the everlasting "hunting culture," as well as "gun possession" in America. In times when there's recession, of course there will be desperate people. Now imagine desperate people, jobless, and armed? Chaos!Second ammendment is an ilusion. People should not have a "right" to possess a weapon, simply because they can misuse it. It's been proved.


    P.S. I was born the same day you were, just two years later.

    April 6, 2009 at 9:42 pm |
  3. Teresa, OH

    Desperate times call for desperate measures... and many are so very very desperate and floundering. It doesnt take but a little bit of name calling or belittling to send one over the edge.

    How do people afford depression/ anti-psychotic meds if they lose their jobs and insurance?

    @mark: are you ok?

    April 6, 2009 at 9:31 pm |
  4. Marilou

    Obviously alot of these shootings are linked to the recession because we have heard of so many despondant people shooting their families yet the increase in random acts of violence on innocent victims has continued to escalate.A recent survey online showed that more people did not favor stricter gun laws. I cannot understand any of this.There has got to be

    1. More help for the mentally ill in this country begginning in childhood
    2. strict regulations on guns and gun safety laws

    April 6, 2009 at 7:07 pm |
  5. Pitso Mafata

    Dear Sir,
    If you would like to save this country from slipping into depression,
    talk to me.Thank you

    April 6, 2009 at 6:40 pm |
  6. Karen

    Everyone commenting has touched on the contributing factors. Most of the time, there are multiple issues/concerns someone is facing and perhaps one particular event (job loss, divorce, health issues or hate) causes them to go over the edge.

    We must find ways to proactively address and help the increasing number of people dealing with mental health issues. Not that it would stop every harmful action, but it would help aleviate many such events.

    We, in Pittsburgh, are reeling from the senseless deaths of 3 police officers and we mourn with those in other regions who have lost loved ones in this recent rash of violence.

    Helping people to learn how to build strong support networks may be one of the first steps.

    April 6, 2009 at 6:09 pm |
  7. mark

    Over the past 20 years the majority of these mass killing have been commited by antisocial, depressed individuals on Prozac. Psychiatrists and the pharmaceutical industry know 100% that suicidality and homicidality are associated with the use onf this class of antidepressants. Yet the liberal statists place psychology and science above common sense, faith, and truth (which is absolute by the way). Thousands of suicides and homicides have been docummented as associated with these drugs and yet the lobbyist influenced politicos have never suggested banning these substances despite myriad scientific studies outlining the violent risks of these medications. They salivate when these mass killings occur however, because it grants them the moral imperitive to pursue their fascist one world order the preamble of which will be to disarm true patriots, and honest hard working citizens. Every fascist dicatorial movement in history was preceeded by suspension and siezure of gun rights. That is no mistake. Whether the liberal statists are directly behind the killings or simply refusing to address the causes of violence in our society matters not...their goal is easy to discern. Dark days lay ahead for AmeriKa

    April 6, 2009 at 5:32 pm |
  8. Annie Kate

    What can we do? We can stop the selling of automatic and semi-automatic weapons to the public and we can close up the loopholes in our gun laws – especially in the part about background checks. There will still be shootings but hopefully there will be fewer of them.

    April 6, 2009 at 4:55 pm |
  9. Joe G. (Illinois)

    I’m not a profiler.. But speaking entirely on speculations along the lines of all those who are apparently shocked, frozen and mesmerized about such news.. I offer my own two cents on the subject which is: Maybe these people were your All American Garden Variety Good People! All American “Generally speaking good people” whom nobody would have ever suspected capable of such acts? I hope my clues somehow help to identify and prevent such atrocities.. In a country were abortion is legal and a celebrated Equal Right Achievement, I know it must be hard to identify such violent capable people.. But if there is a will there is a way.. Thanks..

    April 6, 2009 at 4:48 pm |
  10. Miss J

    I don't understand why these shooters couldn't just watch more television or drink more. Picking up a gun and taking other people's lives – I just can't understand it. Many people are going through hard times. I don't understand the mass shootings. What is it that makes them think this is ok or that this is the way to go out? It has to be more than them just being crazy.

    Maybe there should be more outreach in these times – but the truth is – social service agencies are swamped already and facing significant cuts in their funding.

    Maybe there needs to be a national campaign or something on learning how to cope without resorting to violence.

    April 6, 2009 at 4:28 pm |
  11. Mari

    There was a shooting in Orting, WA, this past Saturday. A father, unemployed shot his five children and himself.

    Yes, desperate times, however, there are people who are clearly mentally ill, who will go "over the edge" when under pressure.

    I say, angels to heaven. Peace everyone.

    April 6, 2009 at 4:17 pm |
  12. Justin Continuum Q5

    America has the most violence from guns in the WORLD?
    When will we learn?
    Nothing good can come from owning a gun?
    Ever unless your to protect us.
    Time is waiting.

    April 6, 2009 at 4:00 pm |
  13. Brian

    I think that just seems obvious. In desperate times, people act deseprately and this could be the worst economic hardship we have faced in over 70 years. What can we do?

    April 6, 2009 at 3:59 pm |
  14. Glo

    Unfortunately desperate times cause some people to resort to desperate measures.

    April 6, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  15. bobbo

    Three Pgh police officers murdered, too.

    Our region is shocked and saddened by the incident. Pittsburgh needs a hug.

    April 6, 2009 at 3:55 pm |
  16. Isabel

    In times of crisis, where people lose their direction, if there is effective control of arms sales, bad things can happen – and this will increase the massacres of the violence.

    This is also a problem (psychic) health service.

    April 6, 2009 at 3:34 pm |
  17. Lisa in CA

    People lose everything they've worked hard for; they follow the rules and get screwed while those who break the rules or stretch the rules get rewarded. Degreed, older engineers are seeking jobs at minium wage just to put food on the table and attempt to keep a roof over their heads. And we don't see a problem continuing to give money to Wall Street while Main Street still waits.

    There is drastic change/paradigm shift that needs to happen in Washington. We need to see an influx of money to the counties and states for mental health treatment. We need to stop giving the money to Wall Street and start giving it directly to Main Street. Main Street has an ability to fix Wall Street that the feds will never be able to match. Give us the opportunity ... and we'll show you the results. But it is incredibly difficult to watch your house fall into foreclosure and your debts mount while hearing that bonuses – using tax payer dollars – are being handed out to retain the same individuals who helped create this disaster.

    April 6, 2009 at 3:29 pm |
  18. Joseph Kowalski, North Huntingdon, PA

    When times get bad, I suppose there is an increase in violence as people become more desperate.

    Bur combine that desperation with the hate speech spewing across the right wing airwaves and you create a volatile mixture ready to explode.

    The man who shot the three policemen in Pittsburgh was a frequent visitor to white supremacy websites like Stormfront where he left messages of hate and his belief in many of the conspiracy theories floating around on right wing radio.

    April 6, 2009 at 2:58 pm |
  19. Claire

    One striking similarity in all of the mass shootings within the last years – the gender of the shooters – male.

    April 6, 2009 at 2:41 pm |
  20. Anne

    I think that violence is absolutely linked to recession. When things go bad, people become angry, depressed, fearful, distrustful, among other things. The imbalance of wealth, power becomes more evident in some cases, greed and fraud are exposed. Everyone is looking for someone to blame for the mess we're in- some lash out randomly, others blame ethnic groups, immigrants, social classes, or different generations, as if the unfairness of it all can be pinned on individuals.

    April 6, 2009 at 2:40 pm |
  21. Stacy

    It has been reported that the man who killed the three Pittsburgh cops feared that Obama was going to take away the right to bear arms. This is a meme that has constantly been driven by the far right and even a certain cable news network. It is incitement and it needs to stop now before more people die.

    April 6, 2009 at 2:25 pm |
  22. Roger

    I understand we are in an economic slowdown, but I truly believe that corporate America has to start opening their eyes and see what some of their decisions to outsource American jobs whil laying off the workforce at home has done to America,
    Each individual is responsible for ones self, but Corporate America shares a lot of the blame for these tragedies.
    Greed has lead to a lot of the decisions to layoff hard working Americans and what we are seeing with these mass murders is a direct result of corporate greed run amok.

    April 6, 2009 at 2:22 pm |
  23. Arachnae

    Don't overlook the recent resurgence in hate groups, spurred by both economic difficulties and the election of a black Democrat to the Presidency and fueled by hatemongers on both radio and TV.

    April 6, 2009 at 2:14 pm |
  24. Shivering SUSAN

    Crooked people that HAVE been FOUND out ... something more EVIDENT when markets SUBSIDE a little.

    Just a guess.

    April 6, 2009 at 1:47 pm |
  25. Jacob

    Of course the violence is linked to recession. Without a stable job people will snap and how do humans snap? By violence.

    April 6, 2009 at 1:45 pm |