Very often when a mass shooting happens, the suspect will often be labeled as a “lone wolf,” meaning that they were secluded, introverted and kept to themselves. Most of the time, this stereotype is given to white men who are mentally ill and are described as “quiet.” This gives a softer image and makes them seem like they were misunderstood.
This week, 59 people were killed and 527 were injured in a Las Vegas attack while at a concert. The shooter was 64-year-old Stephen Paddock, who fired multiple shots from the Mandalay Bay hotel and killed many attendees in the audience. Paddock later died through a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the head. He was described as a gambler and someone who didn’t draw much attention. His brother, Eric, stated: “He was a gambler, that was his job. He was a wealthy guy, playing video poker, who went cruising all the time and lived in a hotel room.”
The problem with the lone wolf stereotype is that it gives a stigma to mental illness and downplays the severity of the massacres taken at hand. As far as it is known, most mass shooters do not have a mental illness. Michael Stone, a forensic psychologist at the Columbia College of Physicians and Surgeons explains, “It would be ridiculous to hope that doing something about the mental health system will stop these mass murders, it’s really folly.” The media almost tiptoes around the word “terrorist” when labeling a white man that has committed a mass shooting. When a person of Middle Eastern or South Asian descent commits a crime like this, they are immediately labeled as a terrorist. While these people should be labeled as such, there is no reason to be hesitant when naming some of the white perpetrators of these shootings as what they are: terrorists. This also makes people want to sympathize with the murderers, portraying them as normal, everyday people and taking away from what they did. These people should not be seen as everyday people, they are dangerous and harmful to society and should be depicted as that.
There is already a strong stigma with those who suffer from mental illness, specifically personality disorders such as schizophrenia and borderline personality disorder. People with these mental illnesses are usually affected by negative stereotypes created by the media, such as being dangerous and “lone wolves,” thus discouraging them from getting the help that they need. The shooting in Las Vegas is being called the biggest mass shooting in U.S. history, only a year after the Pulse shooting in Orlando. While mental illness is a prevailing issue, the real issue that needs to be focused on is gun violence.