The Christian Science Monitor looks at the recent prominent shootings involving public figures or places in Atlanta, Chicago, and Milwaukee, and says some criminologists have found a common theme: They were at least partially aimed at institutions and carried out by frustrated, alienated individuals. “There’s a tremendous amount of alienation in America – people feeling that big government and business, even the justice system, are not responsive to the needs of the ordinary guy,” says criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University.
In Atlanta, Brian Nichols had been in court to be retried for a rape that he insists he did not commit. In Chicago, the man believed to have shot Judge Joan Lefkow’s mother and husband had a history of venting his rage against the government and the justice system. Police in suburban Milwaukee are focusing on anger and alienation as a motive for Terry Ratzmann’s alleged rampage during a church service. Another common thread is “the presence and the availability of guns to people who are prepared to do utterly irresponsible things with them,” says criminologist Alfred Blumstein of Carnegie Mellon University. Even though crime overall is down, with these cases, says Joseph McNamara, a former police chief now at Stanford’s Hoover Institution, “Human emotions are real, and when it’s apparently a random crime, people say, ‘Gee, that could be me.’ That has an impact.”