April 8, 2009
In Binghamton, N.Y., a Vietnamese immigrant upset about losing his job burst into an immigration center and killed 13 people before killing himself. In Pittsburgh, police said a gun enthusiast recently discharged from the Marine Corps opened fire and killed three police officers. And in Graham, Wash., investigators said a man whose wife was leaving him shot and killed five of his children in their mobile home before taking his own life.
The carnage that occurred during less than 48 hours last week capped a recent string of unusually brazen mass killings, which crime experts say have touched more people and occurred in more public settings than in any time in recent memory. Comparative statistics are difficult to come by, but during the past month alone, at least eight mass homicides in this country have claimed the lives of 57 people. Just yesterday, four people were discovered shot to death in a modest wood-frame home in a remote Alabama town.
The factor underlying the violence, some experts think, is the dismal state of the nation’s economy. Criminologists theorize that the epidemic of layoffs, the meltdown of storied American corporations and the uncertainty of recovery have stoked fear, anxiety and desperation across society and unnerved its most vulnerable and dangerous.
“I’ve never seen such a large number [of killings] over such a short period of time involving so many victims,” said Jack Levin, a noted criminologist at Northeastern University who has authored or co-authored eight books on mass murder.
The simple fact, criminologist James Alan Fox said, is that more Americans are struggling.