Mass Shootings are Vengeful Suicides

What we can learn from the backstories of these tragedies

Jacky Tang
3 min readMay 26, 2022


There’s no way to spin these kind of stories, so let’s dive straight into the facts and figures of the shooters. These are outlined by the US National Institute of Justice and the LA Times.

  1. They are all male
  2. They have had a history of personal trauma
  3. They had experienced a recent crisis
  4. Most were suicidal. All school shooters were suicidal
  5. They learned from past shootings
  6. They usually leak or post their plans beforehand
  7. They had access to guns

These are listed in this specific order here to highlight a loose timeline of factors that lead up to the terrible ending.

If we look at these points like chapters in a story, it paints a fairly clear path of what unfolds. Boys and men who grew up with a personal history of trauma suddenly encounter a new crisis which they are unable to cope with. This leads to suicidal thoughts leading to suicidal commitment. As they search for ways to end their life, one of the more prominent options is mass shooting. If you’ve seen the news after any of these incidents, it’s pretty hard to miss, like what’s happening right now. Eventually they formulate their own plan based on those that have come before, then seek access to the weapons they need to carry out those plans.

Guns should be banned, or at least heavily guarded against public access. It is clear that with more limited access to guns, it would likely stop the final step in these plans from being realized. It would serve as a roadblock to halt the process. No guns. No shootings.

However, it would likely still end in suicide.

One can argue that this is a much better outcome, yet trading mass shootings for individual suicide feels like the worst kind of marginal improvement. It’s clear that banning access to guns is the best first step. From there it would be possible to work backwards through the steps above, and eventually treat it at its root: fragile mental health and social support.

I want to be clear, however, that doesn’t necessarily mean mental illness. Only a minority of shooters are considered to have had prior mental illness. What that means is that these vengeful public suicides may have the same possible causes…



Jacky Tang

A software-psychology guy breaking down the way we think as individuals and collectives