6th-Grade Girl Shoots 3 In Idaho Middle School ― Why Female Shooters Are So Rare

Photo: YouTube
Rigby Middle School

A 6th-grade student is being held in custody after a shooting in an Idaho middle school in which two students and one adult sustained non-life-threatening injuries.

The Rigby Middle School shooting is one of few cases where the perpetrator of a school shooting was a female.

The girl is believed to have taken a handgun out of her backpack and opened fire in the hallway of the school, shooting two students inside before exiting and shooting an adult.

Jefferson County Sheriff Steve Anderson said the shooting ended when a female teacher took the handgun from the girl and "held her until law enforcement apprehended her."

Police are still investigating how the girl came to be in possession of the firearm and what motivated the attack. But the case also raises other questions about the rarity of female school shooters and why these crimes are typically carried out by men.

A former deputy chief described the event as “unique and unusual” due to the gender of the perpetrator.

Why are most shooters male and why are mass shootings by females so rare?

There’s no one accepted definition of what constitutes a mass shooting other than a shooting involving multiple victims, so statistics and gender breakdowns specific to larger incidents may vary. Most definitions refer to a shooting that involves three or four fatally or nonfatally injured people, sometimes including and sometimes exclusing the shooter in that number.

Definitions aside, an FBI list of active shooters from 2000 to 2018 identifies just nine of the 250 shooters (3.6%) as female. And the Violence Project, which maintains a database of mass shootings in the U.S., states an even more staggering 98% of all recorded mass shootings were carried out by men.

As for why, there are multple reasons, motivations and psychological factors at play.

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Men are more likely than women to blame others for their problems and become violent as a result.

Researchers say men are more likely than women to externalize their problems and look for others to blame.

Men tend not to have the same depth and wealth of emotional connections with family and friends women have, and hence, also often fail to find healthy outlets for their anger or frustration.

Other theories suggest that men are more likely than woman to engage in risk-taking behaviors and socially unacceptable conduct.

Male shooters often copy other male shooters.

Part of the gender imbalance in mass shootings can be explained by a vicious cycle of copycat shooters.

Male mass shooters become a model for future shooters who see themselves in their actions and frustrations.

Research shows that mass shootings often happen in clusters, with shooters becoming inspired by one another.

Media coverage exacerbates this as shooters begin to seek out the notoriety other mass murderers received.

It stands to reason that, given that most of the shooters we see in the media are male, other men with dangerous impulses will be encouraged to carry out crimes.

It’s possible, and frankly terrifying, that a high-profile case of a female school shooter, like the Idaho one, could push other women and girls to recreate this crime.

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Guns are not typically women’s weapon of choice.

When women do kill, they aren’t as inclined to use a firearm as are men.

Female shooters make up just 8% of all firearm-related homicides — but are seven times more likely than men to use poison to kill.

What do female mass shooters have in common — and what motivates them to kill?

Fortunately, there have not been enough of female mass shooters for there to be any clear data related to who they are and what motivates them to carry out these crimes.

According to Statistica, "between 1982 and April 2021, 66 out of the 123 mass shootings in the United States were carried out by white shooters [53%]. By comparison, the perpetrator was African American in 21 mass shootings [17%], and Latino in 10 [8%] ... Broadly speaking, the racial distribution of mass shootings mirrors the racial distribution of the U.S. population as a whole."

So while we know that most male mass shooters are white, no such profile has been established in regard to female shooters.

Interestingly, the first modern day mass shooting was carried out by a female shooter.

The case considered to be the first modern mass school shooting, the 1979 Grover Cleveland Elementary School shooting, was carried out by Brenda Spencer, a 16-year-old girl who reportedly and infamously said of her reason for committing the horrific: "I just don’t like Mondays. I did this because it’s a way to cheer up the day. Nobody likes Mondays.”

She had previously told classmates she wanted to do something “to get on TV.” And she later added, "“I just started shooting. That’s it. I just did it for the fun of it."

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her on Twitter for more.