US citizens 'must intervene quickly after warning signs of mass attacks'

Secret Service report finds misogyny and workplace anger to be drivers behind many attacks

US Vice President Kamala Harris pays her respects to the victims of this week's mass shooting in Monterey Park, California. EPA
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A US government report on mass attacks has called for communities to intervene quickly when they see warning signs of violence, saying workplace grievances and misogyny are the motivation behind many incidents.

The report, released by the US Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Centre, analysed 173 mass attacks carried out between January 2016 and December 2020 in public or semi-public places such as businesses, schools or churches.

It was released as the US experienced a particularly deadly start to the new year, with 39 people killed in six mass shootings.

They included one this week in Monterey Park, California, that killed 11 people in a dance hall as they celebrated the Lunar New Year.

“It’s just happening way too often,” said Lina Alathari, the centre’s director, before the report’s release.

The centre defines a mass attack as one in which three or more people — not including the attacker — were harmed.

Ms Alathari said that while the centre had not specifically studied the shootings that took place this week, there are themes seen “over and over again” when analysing mass attacks.

The report is the latest in a series undertaken by the centre to look at the problem of mass attacks.

Gun ownership and homicide rates in developed countries

Almost all the attacks were carried out by one person, 96 per cent of attackers were men, 57 per cent of them were white and the attackers ranged in age from 14 to 87 — with most falling in the 25 to 34 age group.

The report noted that nearly two thirds of attackers exhibited behaviour or communications “that were so concerning, they should have been met with an immediate response".

It said these concerns were often shared with law enforcement, employers, school staff or parents.

But in one fifth of the cases, the concerning behaviour was not relayed to anyone “in a position to respond, demonstrating a continued need to promote and facilitate bystander reporting”.

The report also called for greater attention towards domestic violence and misogyny, noting that nearly half of the attackers studied had a history of domestic violence, misogynistic behaviour or both.

“Though not all who possess misogynistic views are violent, viewpoints that describe women as the enemy or call for violence against women remain a cause for concern,” the report said.

About half of the attacks in the study involved a business location, and attackers often had a prior relationship with the business, as an employee, a customer or a former employer.

The report also noted the role that grievances such as workplace disputes or feuds with neighbours played in mass attacks.

About half the attacks were motivated “in whole or in part by a perceived grievance”, according to the report.

The US Secret Service’s National Threat Assessment Centre report can be downloaded or read in its entirety online.

AP contributed to this report

Updated: January 26, 2023, 11:13 PM