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The United States Secret Service published a study regarding 37 school shooting incidents in the United States from 1974 through June 2000, which warned against the belief that a certain "type" of student would be a perpetrator.
According to the study, any profile could apply to any student and might not apply to a potential perpetrator. These children take a long, considered, public path toward violence." Princeton's Katherine Newman has found that, far from being "loners", the perpetrators are "joiners" whose attempts at social integration fail, and that they let their thinking and even their plans be known, sometimes frequently over long periods of time.
Bob Herbert addressed this in an October 2006 New York Times editorial. Though the perpetrators of school shootings are often said to be almost exclusively white males, this is misleading.
A study of 48 shooters found that though white males constituted 79% of secondary school shooters, white males were actually a minority among college and other adult perpetrators.
The authors expressed concern that proposals to target gun control laws at people with mental illness do not take into account the complex nature of the relationship between serious mental illness and violence, much of which is due to additional factors such as substance abuse.
However, the link is unclear since research has shown that violence in mentally ill people occur more in interpersonal environments.
These shootings have happened in "suburban and rural school districts" and many seem to be random with random targets.
Most of these shooters tend to come from two-parent households and have been found to appear on the honor roll at their schools.
A typical bullying interaction consist of three parts, the offender/bully, a victim and one or more bystanders.
The study reported that school shooters lived with both parents in "an ideal, All-American family." Some perpetrators were children of divorce, or lived in foster homes. Some experts such as Alan Lipman have warned against the dearth of empirical validity of profiling methods. In addition, psychologist Peter Langman has noted that school shooters typically fall into one (or occasionally two) of three categories: psychopathic, psychotic, or traumatized.
While it may be simplistic to assume a straightforward "profile", the study did find certain similarities among the perpetrators. Perpetrators who "run amok" in schools and other public settings do also share in common a severe lapse or more pervasive deficit in their capacity for empathy coupled with their inability to contain their aggression—this may be due to their psychopathy, psychotic symptoms (i.e.
Despite the fact that the article exposed the readers to both the mental illness of the shooter, and the fact that the shooter used high-capacity magazines, participants advocated more for gun restrictions on people with mental illness rather than bans on high-capacity magazines.
This suggests that people believe mental illness is the culprit for school shootings in lieu of the accessibility of guns or other environmental factors.