Mass murder

Mass murder

Mass murder (in military contexts, sometimes interchangeable with "mass destruction") is the act of murdering a large number of people (four or more), typically at the same time or over a relatively short period of time.[1] According to the FBI, mass murder is defined as four or more murders occurring during a particular event with no cooling-off period between the murders. A mass murder typically occurs in a single location in which a number of victims are killed by an individual or more.[2]

Mass murder may be committed by individuals or organizations. Mass murder may also be defined as the intentional and indiscriminate murder of a large number of people by government agents. Examples are the shooting of unarmed protestors, the carpet bombing of cities, the lobbing of grenades into prison cells and the random execution of civilians.[3] Mass murderers are different than spree killers, who kill at two or more locations with almost no time break between murders, and serial killers, who may kill large numbers of people over long periods of time. The largest mass killings in history have been attempts to exterminate entire groups or communities of people, often on the basis of ethnicity or religion. Some of these mass murders have been found to be genocides and others to be crimes against humanity, but often such crimes have led to few or no convictions of any type.


Mass murder by a state

The concept of state-sponsored mass murder covers a range of potential killings. It is defined as the intentional and indiscriminate murder of a large number of people by government agents. Examples are shooting of unarmed protestors, carpet bombing of cities, lobbing of grenades into prison cells and random execution of civilians. Other examples of state-sponsored mass murder include:

For further historical examples of mass murder, both state-committed and in wartime, see here.

Mass murder by individuals

Mass murderers may fall into any of a number of categories, including killers of family, of coworkers, of students, and of random strangers. Their motives for murder vary.[6] Many other motivations are possible, including the need for attention or fame.[7][8][9] Examples of American mass murderers include Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Ronald DeFeo, Jr., George Hassell, Andrew Kehoe, Howard Unruh, Richard Hickock and Perry Smith, Richard Speck and Charles Whitman.

Workers who assault fellow employees are sometimes called "disgruntled workers," but this is often a misnomer, as many perpetrators are ex-workers. They are dismissed from their jobs and subsequently turn up heavily armed and kill their former colleagues. In the 1980s, when two fired postal workers carried out such massacres in separate incidents in the US, the term "going postal" became synonymous with employees snapping and setting out on murderous rampages. One of the 1980s most famous "disgruntled worker" cases involved computer programmer Richard Farley who, after being fired for stalking one of his co-workers, Laura Black, returned to his former workplace and shot to death seven of his colleagues, although he failed in his attempt to kill Black herself.

In some rare cases mass murders have been committed during prison riots and uprisings. During the February 1980 New Mexico State Penitentiary riot, 33 inmates were killed. Most of the dead, 23, lived in the Protective Custody Unit, and were killed by other inmates using knives, axes and being burnt alive over a 48-hour period.

Unlike serial killers, there is rarely a sexual motive to individual mass-murderers, with the possible exception of Sylvestre Matuschka, an Austrian man who apparently derived sexual pleasure from blowing up trains with dynamite, ideally with people in them. His lethal sexual fetish claimed 22 lives before he was caught in 1931.

Vasili Blokhin's count of 7,000 Polish prisoners shot in 28 days remains one of the most organized and protracted mass murders by a single individual on record.[10]

On July 22, 2011, Norwegian terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, killed 77 people in two separate attacks in Oslo, Norway. The first attack was a car bomb attack on the national government quarters in Oslo, killing 8 people. Behring Breivik then drove some 40 km to the island of Utoya where a political youth camp was in progress. Dressed as a policeman, he gathered the attendants and then opened fire, leading to the massacre of 69 people over the span of roughly 90 minutes.

Incidences of mass murder that are committed by more than one individual, mostly duos, happen less often than by a single individual but are not uncommon. Examples include Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold, Mitchell Johnson and Andrew Golden, Hu Wenhai and Liu Haiwang, Lavrynovitch and Obrapalski, and Kumatarō Kido and Yagorō Tani.

Mass murder by terrorists

In recent years, terrorists have performed acts of mass murder to intimidate a society and draw attention to their causes. Examples of major terrorist incidents involving mass murder include:

See also


  1. ^ Aggrawal A. (2005) Mass Murder. In: Payne-James JJ, Byard RW, Corey TS, Henderson C (Eds.) Encyclopedia of Forensic and Legal Medicine, Vol. 3, Pp. 216-223. Elsevier Academic Press, London
  2. ^ Serial Murder - Federal Bureau of Investigation
  3. ^ a b R. J. Rummel, Irving Louis Horowitz, Death by Government, Page 35, ISBN 1-56000-927-6
  4. ^ R.J. Rummel. Chapter 1: 61,911,000 Victims: Utopianism Empowered
  5. ^ R.J. Rummel. Reevaluating China's Democide to be 73,000,000. November 20, 2005.
  6. ^ Kluger, Jeffrey (April 19, 2007). "Inside a Mass Murderer's Mind". Time.,8599,1612368,00.html. Retrieved May 12, 2010. 
  7. ^ ABC News: What Pushes Shooters to Mass Murder?
  8. ^ Notoriety Drives Mass Shooters - Newser
  9. ^ ABC News: Psychiatrist: Showing Video Is 'Social Catastrophe'
  10. ^ Sebag Montefiore, Simon (2004). Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar. Knopf. pp. 334. ISBN 1400042305. 

External links

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