New study lays groundwork for comparing types of violent lone-actors
Despite varying demographics, both school attackers and assassins share several characteristics that may lead to their violent acts, including grievance against their targets, personal crises and a history of weapons use, according to researchers from the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism. Those characteristics may be useful in distinguishing lone-actor terrorists from group-based terrorists, according to the researchers.
In the article, "Characteristics of Lone-Wolf Violent Offenders: a Comparison of Assassins and School Attackers," the START researchers explore how lone-actor terrorists may have similar characteristics to two other types of lone-actor violent offenders: assassins and school attackers. The authors set out to examine if the three groups are best understood as part of a single phenomenon of lone-actor, grievance-fueled violence.
The report's findings showed that the vast majority of lone-actor school attackers and assassins are Caucasian males, but their demographic similarities stop there, mainly because the age-range for school attackers is much younger than the range for assassins. The common characteristics -- depression, grievance, personal crises and weapons experience -- should be further studied in regard to terrorists, according to the authors. The report was authored by Clark McCauley, Sophia Moskalenko and Benjamin Van Son and is part of the START project "Radicalization of al-Qa'ida Inspired Terrorists in the United States."
It is funded through START by the Department of Homeland Security Science and Technology Directorate's Office of University Programs. McCauley is a Rachel C. Hale Professor of Sciences and Mathematics and co-director of the Solomon Asch Center for Study of Ethnopolitical Conflict at Bryn Mawr College, where Moskalenko also works as a research associate. Moskalenko is also a post-doctoral research fellow with START. Van Son is a senior psychology major at Haverford College and is a START Undergraduate Research Program participant currently studying the relationship between mass opinion shifts and the frequency of terrorist attacks.
Click here to read the full report, published under the Perspectives on Terrorism journal.