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Discussion Point: Is Aaron Alexis part of a larger phenomenon of lone-actor grievance-based violence?


In the wake of the mass shooting at the Washington Navy Yard in September, this editorial piece discusses how the perpetrator, Aaron Alexis, might be similar to lone-actor assassins, lone-actor school attackers, and lone-wolf terrorists.The piece uses work published in Perspectives on Terrorism by Clark McCauley, Sophia Moskalenko and Ben Van Son about lone-wolf terrorists by looking for the common characteristics of two categories of mostly lone-actor violent offenders: assassins and school attackers. The study used existing U.S. government-sponsored reports to examine these two kinds of offenders. The logic of comparing school attackers with assassins is that these two groups of offenders are like lone-actor terrorists in perpetrating planful violence fueled by grievance. To the extent that assassins and school attackers share common characteristics, these characteristics may be risk factors for lone-actor terrorism as well. The obvious demographic differences between the two groups (teenage school attackers vs. adult assassins) are actually a strength of the comparison: any commonalities uncovered are the more striking and unlikely to be a reflection of life status or demographic factors.

Publication Information

Full Citation:

McCauley, Clark. 2013. "Discussion Point: Is Aaron Alexis part of a larger phenomenon of lone-actor grievance-based violence?." September 24. http://start.umd.edu/news/discussion-point-aaron-alexis-part-larger-phenomenon-lone-actor-grievance-based-violence.

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