This Is The Conversation Around Mass Shootings We Desperately Need To Have

Why are men overwhelmingly the perpetrators of mass murder?

While details around his identity are still emerging, the Umpqua Community College shooter has a profile that seems familiar: that of a 26-year-old man.

This profile is familiar because we've seen it before. The two killers of 13 people at Columbine High School in 1999? Eighteen and 17-years-old. Male. The murderer of 20 children and six adults in Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012? Twenty years-old. Male. The shooter who killed six people in near the University of California, Santa Barbara campus in 2014? Twenty-two years old. Male.

The perpetrators of the Charleston, South Carolina church shooting in June 2015, the Aurora, Colorado shooting in 2012 and the Tuscon, Arizona shooting in 2011? All men under the age of 30. The list goes on.

While, right now, we cannot ascribe any specific motivation to the UCC shooter, we can look at history to better understand what underlies much mass violence in this country in general. And that history shows us that the majority of such violence is committed by men.

"Since 1982," Mother Jones reports, "there have been at least 71 public mass shootings across the country [as of July 2015] ... Forty four of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman."

Why are men overwhelmingly the perpetrators of mass murder? Some experts assert it's due to toxic societal ideas about masculinity.

The connection between masculinity and violence is complex, according to William Pollack, the director of the Centers for Men and Young Men at McLean Hospital in Boston and a psychology professor at Harvard Medical School. "There's a proclivity to aggression [in men] that's biological, but it takes a social trigger to engage it," he told The Daily Beast after the 2012 massacre at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado.

"We socialize healthy, normal boys to 'stand on their own two feet' for fear that otherwise they won't be real boys ... They're taught not to tell anyone when they feel pain, because they should be stoic, and they certainly shouldn't cry."

Vice report from June of this year addressed the issue as relates to white men in particular, who are the primary perpetrators of mass violence (the UCC shooter was allegedly mixed-race): "A 2013 study at the University of Washington looked at the disproportionately high numbers of mass killings ... committed by young white men in America, and found a correlation between feelings of entitlement among white males and homicidal revenge against a specific demographic."

Cliff Leek, a program director at the Center for the Study of Men and Masculinities, echoed that our culture's narrow concept of masculinity, combined with societal male privilege, may ultimately contribute to violence. "We have men and boys growing up into a world where the privileges associated with being a man are gradually eroding," he told MTV News. "That is to say, that the playing field is being leveled. That we're living in a more and more equal and egalitarian world every day."

Leek said that some men interpret this increasingly "egalitarian world" as a threat to their privilege, and it can cause them to turn online forums often rife with misogynist and racist rhetoric -- similar to those used by man behind the murder of six people in Isla Vista, California in 2014, and, possibly, by the alleged UCC shooter, who may have posted about his plans in a 4chan thread.

Leek continued, "Some people are going to these Men's Rights movements and things like that, but others are going to white supremacist movements. These are both places where folks with identities that have historically experienced privilege are going to hide and find solace in a community of people that believe the same things they do."

While the postings by the alleged UCC shooter have yet to be verified, the misogynistic rhetoric employed by the Isla Vista shooter is now infamous; before the murders, he swore revenge against women who had rejected him. "I don't know why you girls aren't attracted to me but I will punish you all for it," he said in a video manifesto.

Such disturbing sentiments were also echoed by the perpetrators of 1999's massacre at Columbine High School. A journal of one of the shooters, found after the tragedy, was rife with misogyny. "[He] did not handle rejection well, and sometimes became threatening in response to refusals to go out with him," Dr. Peter Langman, author of the book "School Shooters: Understanding High School, College, and Adult Perpetrators" wrote of the shooter in Psychology Today. "He once made a list of students from the class of 1998 who 'should have died,' and this list included girls who had refused to go out with him."

His accomplice also wrote about his struggles with women. Newsweek reports he "wrote extensively about his romantic loneliness and a girl he had a crush on in his private diary." The Sandy Hook shooter's misogyny was more explicit: After the tragedy, a Word document entitled “why females are inherently selfish" was found on his computer.

The online diary of the 48-year-old who shot and killed three women in a Pittsburg-area gym in 2009 also revealed he also felt rage because women had "rejected" him. He refers to women as "b-tches" and "hoes," and like the Isla Vista killer, laments his lack of sexual intimacy.

Congress' inability to pass lasting reforms in the wake of mass shootings has left many, including the President, disappointed. While it's understandable to feel this way, in order to truly move forward, we have to be willing to do the work that government can't enforce. We have to be willing to unpack our culture's often uncomfortable relationship to masculinity.

It's not the only conversation we should be having right now, but it's one we can't afford to stay quiet about.

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