In the past 15 years, the FBI estimates there have been nearly 200 mass shootings that have claimed the lives of some 500 people and injured another 600. (The figure is way higher by another metric.) Writing for the London Review of Books, Scottish novelist Andrew O’Hagan draws up a profile of these killers based largely on their written manifestos. "Someone, perhaps not a million miles from you, whose name we don’t yet know but whose face is camera-ready, whose conscience is clearing before the fact, is preparing a biography of his mentality in advance of a shooting massacre," O’Hagan writes. "He is almost certainly a he, and he is unhappy, and he is already fully armed. He is probably on Zoloft. He is likely to be a virgin with a history of isolation. ... He believes he has a system of thought, his own, that education or company philosophy can’t get close to, and his feelings of inferiority quickly turn bombastic."
As lonely as these mostly young men are, they are certainly not alone, and they have evolved dangerously from generations past, O'Hagan adds. "Boys like that used to wear anoraks and read Tolkien and swap sci-fi comics, or get into heavy metal, overcoming shyness or adolescent angst with dark otherworldliness that lightened with age. But for some the darkness can prove engulfing." O'Hagan pulls from a long list of 21st-century killers, one that largely overlaps with a list of the deadliest US mass shootings since 1984 reported on by the Los Angeles Times. O'Hagan's conclusion is not a hopeful one. "There have always been killers and they have often left pieces of writing behind," he writes, but now it's easier than ever—all it takes is "a smartphone and a set of grievances." He ends with an excerpt by killer Elliot Rodger: "I didn’t start this war. I wasn’t the one who struck first. But I will finish it by striking back. I will punish everyone. And it will be beautiful." Click for O'Hagan's full piece.