Don't Get Mad, Get Even!: Overcontrol and Multiple Victim Violence

Don't Get Mad, Get Even!: Overcontrol and Multiple Victim Violence

Lee Bacon (Rampton Hospital, UK), Emma Longfellow (Rampton Hospital, UK) and Laura J. Hamilton (Nottingham Trent University, UK)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-7998-0113-9.ch011


This chapter begins to explore the relationship between maladaptive overcontrol and Multiple Victim Violence. It plays particular attention to the application of Lynch's model of overcontrol to understand this behavior and its implications for intervention specifically referencing the use of Radically Open Dialectical Behaviour Therapy. Although the concept of overcontrolled offending remains in the early stages of development, this chapter considers a useful way of conceptualizing and understanding single and multiple victim violence.
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The prevalence of single perpetrator multiple victim violence within the United Kingdom is notably low with the commission of mass shooting even lower. Current archives note eight mass shootings in the UK in the past 75 years with the UK having one of the lowest rates of gun homicide in the world (NaBIS, 2018). In comparison, the United States of America had twenty-eight reported mass shootings in January 2019 alone. Comparatively the American population is significantly larger than the UK population; however, taking this into consideration there is a clear difference in the frequency of mass shooting. This chapter looks to provide an international perspective on mass shooting and considers both the similarities and differences across cultures as well as exploring the application of Lynch’s (2018) model of overcontrol to this type of offending.

Cultural Differences

One notable cultural variation is the legislative and political response to multiple victim violent incidents within the UK. In 1987, the Hungerford Massacre took place where Michael Robert Ryan fatally shot sixteen people, including a police officer, and wounded fifteen others before shooting himself. A commissioned report into the incident prompted the introduction of the Fire Arms (amendment) Act of 1988 which banned the ownership of semi-automatic centre fire rifles and restricted the use of shotguns. Legislation was further tightened in 1996 in response to a public outcry after the Dunblane Massacre. This incident involved Thomas Hamilton using legally owned hand guns to kill sixteen young school children and a teacher before taking his own life. A public enquiry was held with recommendations for improved licensing processes and a tightening of gun control. The serving and subsequent governments responded by ultimately banning all handguns. A gun amnesty was also called resulting in the surrendering of over 160 thousand hand guns. In 2017 an independent review considered the success of the Fire Arms (Amendment) act, commenting that although there was a continued presence of guns in the hands of criminals this was approximated by the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (NaBIS) as 322 guns. Comparatively to America, this was less than the number of mass shootings for 2017 and pales into insignificance compared with the number of legally owned guns for that same year in America. This legislation has removed the immediate access to guns for most individuals in the UK, therefore removing the primary weapon in regard to multiple victim violence. In doing this the likelihood of impulsive reactionary gun crime will have been restricted. However, the legislation change did not answer why these violent incidents, although rare, still occur.

Hamilton, Bacon, Longfellow & Tennant (2017) noted that the Congressional Research service (CRs; Bjelopera, Bagalman, Caldwell, Finklea, & McCallion, 2013) revealed that most perpetrators of mass shootings act alone and are carefully planned in advance. They also reported pervasive feelings of social persecution and ostracism and were described by others as a loner. Rumination about real or imagined rejections, envy, bitterness, resentment, and revenge were common (CRs; Bjelopera et al., 2013). Although significantly fewer incidences have occurred in the UK, the CRS identified characteristics that appear comparable, and suggest means, as well as psychological processes, as critical factors (Hamilton et al, 2017). What is apparent is that those who have engaged in such behaviors and in spite of such restrictions display commonality in characteristics.

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