Multiple-victim shootings rise in crisis-stressed US

April 11th, 2009 - 10:08 am ICT by IANS  

By Andy Goldberg
San Francisco, April 11 (DPA) The newspaper and Internet headlines in the US had a chilling familiarity: more economic gloom about the mortgage crisis and another spate of horrific killings.

Though not all the shootings have been directly linked to economic distress, pundits have ascribed the wave of terrible mass murders at least in part to the growth of “recession rage” as millions of people lose their jobs, their prospects, their homes, their investments and their marriages.

According to a Washington Post report, the last month alone has seen eight mass homicides that have claimed the lives of 57 people.

The latest examples seemed seemed plucked from a particularly gruesome horror movie. This time the grizzly events occurred in Alabama and California. In the first case an Alabama man shot to death his estranged wife and their 16-year-old daughter as well as her sister and 11-year old nephew. Then he set their house and car on fire before killing himself.

In California on Tuesday a 69-year-old resident at a homeless retreat run by a Korean Christian group ran amok killing one and wounding three before he was overpowered. Over the weekend, a man in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania killed three policemen who responded to a domestic disturbance call. Local reports said he was upset about being unemployed.

A day earlier in Binghamton, New York, an unemployed immigrant from Vietnam fired almost 100 shots inside an immigrant aid centre, killing 13 people. The motive was unclear, but reports said he was frustrated at losing his job with a vacuum cleaner company last year and his inability to find a new job.

Also last week a man shot and killed his five children and then took his own life in Washington state, while in California an immigrant from India killed his two children and three members of his wife’s family.

The most notorious killing associated with the recession occurred on Christmas Eve when a man despondent about his recent firing and divorce dressed up as Santa Claus and killed nine people at his wife’s family’s holiday party. In January, a Los Angeles couple who had both lost their jobs as medical technicians killed their five children and themselves - reasoning “Why leave our children in somebody else’s hands?”

Mental health hotlines around the country are being flooded with calls. In Los Angeles, the local hotline reported that the amount of calls they receive has doubled in the last six months compared to a year ago.

Many experts say the connection between the killings and the economy is more than coincidental.

“I’ve never seen such a large number (of killings) over such a short period of time involving so many victims,” criminologist Jack Levin told the Washington Post.

“There’s a combination of feeling despair and hopelessness at the same time as a certain degree of anger and blame,” criminologist James Alan Fox told the Washington Post.

Sociologist Sampson Blair predicts that there will be more mass murders as the recession continues.

“From the individual’s point of view, the loss of a job is certainly bad, but it can become much, much worse when it coincides with a loss of savings and investments, the loss of the family home (through foreclosure, for instance), and dismal prospects for finding another job soon,” Blair said recently on the website

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