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Research shows nearly 70% of mass shootings involve domestic violence

Often after mass shootings, mental health is questioned as to what role it may have played. However, research shows domestic violence may be a bigger risk factor.

ARIZONA, USA — When we see mass shootings happen we look to see what could have caused them in the first place.

Often, mental health is questioned, and what role, if any, it could have played in a mass shooting.

But researchers say a potentially bigger risk factor in these situations might actually be domestic violence.

Research: Nearly 70% of mass shootings involve domestic violence

Looking back at mass shootings, Lisa Geller, a State Affairs Advisor with the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions found that almost 7 out of 10 mass shootings involved a suspect shooting one of their own family members or an intimate partner or had a history of domestic violence.

“It’s a startling number, and I think it’s still shocking,” Geller said. “But the more that you look into these cases, and the more that you look at individuals who have a history of domestic violence and what they do, it's not actually that surprising.”

It’s not surprising to Maricopa County Attorney Rachel Mitchell either. Mitchell related it to what she’s seen prosecuting sex offenders.

“People have no idea how damaging domestic violence can be,” Mitchell said.

Prosecuting domestic violence in Maricopa County

While most misdemeanor domestic violence cases are processed through city courts, when it comes to domestic violence case submittals to the fifth largest prosecutorial agency in the country, MCAO said 2020 saw the largest spike.

That year, the office said 378 aggravated domestic violence cases were submitted to them. In 2019, 280 cases were submitted by local law enforcement agencies, and in 2021, 269 DV cases were submitted.

“I think that the COVID lockdown has led to the exacerbation of a lot of problems that people had,” Mitchell said.

Mitchell said a few years ago the office worked with the Arizona State Legislature to increase domestic violence strangulation cases to a felony.

That came after Mitchell said statistics showed when strangulation occurs, the risk of a future murder increases sixfold.

Mitchell said now the office is looking into cases of victims getting a concussion from their abuser.

“I think it’s very important for us to be involved in that, to really appropriately classify the level of seriousness, what these acts involve," Mitchell said.

Mitchell, who’s running to be elected Maricopa County Attorney this fall, said the office needs to be holding people accountable to keep society safe.

“Domestic violence has a profound effect on society,” Mitchell said. “So that's why we need to take these cases very seriously.”

A complex issue 

The bottom line though with mass shootings is there isn’t one way to solve them, and not one reason they happen.

For example, the shooter in Buffalo, who's believed to have killed 10 people at a supermarket last week, appears to have been motivated by racism. 

RELATED: 'Pure evil:' 10 killed in Buffalo, NY shooting labeled as hate crime

"We have to operate in this realistic world where we know that people, some people are still going to be able to buy a gun, because we know there's some people who actually don't exhibit any warning signs before they carry out an act of violence, be it mass violence or other forms of violence," Geller said. 

Geller said, while her research shows that reducing domestic violence cases could help reduce mass shootings, it’s not the end-all-be-all answer.

“It’s very difficult to say that passing one policy or preventing one type of individual risk of violence will stop all these acts,” Geller said.

Domestic violence resources 

If you or anyone you know is in a domestic violence situation help is available. The National Domestic Violence Hotline is 800-799-7233 (SAFE). 

The Arizona Sexual and Domestic Violence Hotline is: 602-279-2980 or text 520-720-3383. 

For help at New Life Domestic Violence in Arizona, call 623-932-4404  

Go here for more local resources and shelters. 

RELATED: Never Alone: A list of resources for domestic violence victims in Arizona 

VERSIÓN EN ESPAÑOL: La investigación muestra que casi el 70% de los tiroteos masivos involucran violencia doméstica

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