The terrifying link between misogynists and mass shooters

The fact that the Dayton shooter had a history of alleged physical assault, misogynist threats, fascination with sexual violence and resentment towards a “hit list” of people he wanted to kill or rape is no surprise.

Mass killers and perpetrators of domestic violence share a deeply rooted grievance against people who “wronged” them and need to be taught a lesson. Much too often, this leads to the most horrific violence. 

When in 2014 a University of California, Santa Barbara student killed seven, including himself, he left a video that aired his grievances against women who had rejected him: “I don’t know why you girls aren’t attracted to me but I will punish you all for it …You will finally see that I am, in truth, the superior one, the true alpha male."

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According to an analysis by Everytown for Gun Safety, 57 percent of mass shootings committed between 2009 and 2015 included an intimate partner, former spouse or other family member among the victims. What’s more, domestic violence charges had been brought against 16 percent of the attackers.

Experts in domestic violence describe a pattern known as “intimate terrorism” that demands total control over every aspect of a partner’s life, and uses violence to instill fear and reinforce control.

Mass shooters, like domestic abusers, use their power to demonstrate their authority. The Internet is crawling with groups, chat rooms and secret websites that reinforce the grievances of a new generation of dangerous misogynists. They’re coming of age in a culture that winks at racism and violence against women —and is quick to let serious offenders off the hook.

The Dayton shooter was allowed to return to school, where, as a fellow student told CNN, "He loved to look at you and pretend to shoot with guns, guns with his hands."

We need to fix what’s wrong with our culture that gives people permission for the most vile speech and hateful behavior. We can start by taking two steps that are long overdue.

First, senators are demanding that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellTurkey sanctions face possible wall in GOP Senate Fox's Wallace says 'well-connected' Republican told him there's a 20 percent chance GOP will vote for impeachment White House staggers after tumultuous 48 hours MORE (R-Ky.) call a halt to the August recess and bring the Senate back into session to vote on meaningful gun violence legislation. It’s essential that he do so as soon as possible. But McConnell can also put reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) on the floor of the U.S. Senate. It’s been one of those things he promises he’ll get around to one day. Why not now?

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Is he afraid of what the debate on the bill will reveal about Senate Republicans?

Is McConnell worried that Senators might actually feel compassion when they hear how around the country — according to Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — one in five women are rape survivors? Or that one in three women experience domestic violence and that every day more than three women are murdered by domestic partners?

Probably not, but voters do need to know the facts about VAWA before Sen. McConnell does something to undermine or weaken the law.

The Senate needs to vote on the bipartisan reauthorization, which is substantially similar to the VAWA reauthorization passed by the House by a vote of 263-158.

The Senate bill must maintain current protections for survivors and invest in prevention of domestic violence, sexual assault, dating violence and stalking. These are just the kinds of programs that can end up on McConnell’s cutting room floor.

Just imagine: The Senate could come together and vote on two bills that would pass by overwhelming margins and have an immediate impact on millions of lives. Sounds easy, but why does it take a massacre to remind us of how hard it can be?

Toni Van Pelt is president of the National Organization for Women (NOW).