When Lyndon McLeod shot dead two men and three women in a rampage that included two tattoo parlors, a hotel and a private home in Denver last month, it didn’t come out of nowhere.
In one of the novels in his self-published trilogy, he described the murder of people – and two of the characters who end up dying share names with his actual victims. McLeod was also active in online forums where he touted male supremacy and contempt for the “weak.”
Denver Police ultimately shot and killed McLeod after he shot an officer. The police department had received a warning about McLeod about a year before the shooting, from a German who was concerned after reading McLeod’s books and online chats. But in a statement released after the shooting, Denver police said they determined “there was not enough evidence to lay criminal charges or a legal basis to monitor McLeod at the time.
The ministry also told HuffPost that there were two previous police investigations into McLeod, but none resulted in criminal charges.
McLeod’s case is an example of the links between misogyny and easy access to guns that Everytown for Gun Safety highlights in a new report this week, which was shared with HuffPost prior to publication. The group documents at least six mass shootings carried out by misogyny in the United States since 2014, and the ways guns and hatred of women have served as a unifying link for many far-right groups online.
It is not a coincidence. Members of the far right generally reject liberalism in all its forms, including protections for women and other marginalized groups. Extremism experts call this trend “accelerationism” – affecting people whose beliefs are “hypermasculine, hypermisogynous and hyperracist,” said Matthew Kriner, CEO of the Accelerationism Research Consortium, a collaborative initiative that conducts extensive research about this question. .
“These anti-democratic spaces reject the premises of Western society that we have come to accept as a basis,” Kriner said. “Misogyny is emblematic of this anti-modern notion. “
Everytown’s research, compiled last year, details how male supremacist ideologies pose an increased threat to public safety, as some online communities often encourage the purchase of guns and encourage acts of violence. .
“For groups of radicalized men who see violence as a way to make their rage visible, guns are easily accessible and powerful tools. Guns can and have transformed years of hatred into deadly acts of mass violence, ”the report notes.
The report also states that supporters of far-right movements “have both adopted misogynistic attitudes and used hatred of women to recruit new supporters,” and that it is no coincidence that so many public attacks perpetrated by misogynists involve firearms.
The report also notes that a “sense of empowerment” associated with gun ownership resonates particularly in men and “can provide or reinculcate a sense of power, and is even explicitly marketed as doing so.”
Greta Jasser, a doctoral student at the UK-based Radical Right Analysis Center, said guns are closely linked to male ideals for some men.
“Owning and shooting guns is a performance of hegemonic masculinity – that is, the ‘most honored way of being a man’, which is contextual and dependent on time and place – to United States, ”she said.
Sarah Burd-Sharps, research director at Everytown for Gun Safety, said the trend was concerning.
“As long as guns continue to be readily available to people with these views and extremism is tolerated in our country, we will continue to see similar acts of armed violence,” she said.
A investigation conducted by Northeastern University for the Annals of Internal Medicine, one of the most cited specialist medical journals, fSince then, arms purchases in the United States have jumped from 2020 to 2021, with 7.5 million new purchases. Of these, 5.4 million were the first purchases of firearms.
This means more homes now have guns, which the survey authors flagged as another concern as it means “Putting an additional 11.7 million people, including more than 5 million children, at risk of living in a household with firearms.”
As gun sales have increased since 1999, experts say the coronavirus pandemic, a nationwide race calculation after the George Floyd murder and insurgency on the United States Capitol on January 6, 2021, are likely contributing factors to the recent increase in firearms. Sales.
“You put that together and you have a lot of instability, insecurity and a lot of reasons for people to be motivated to find an individual sense of security in the context of a lot of things that they can’t control,” he said. said Dabney Evans, director of the Center for Humanitarian Emergencies at the Rollins School of Public Health at Emory University.
Evans, whose research focuses on gender-based violence, told HuffPost that the American culture towards individual safety and empowerment fuels division in discussions about guns.
“What worries me right now in this country is how we have a very great tension between individual liberty and liberty and community responsibility and citizenship,” said Evans.
The US government does not track the sales of firearms to civilians. Instead, the only official gun acquisition data belongs to the FBI, but it only counts the background checks performed, which do not take into account total gun sales.
“Ghost guns”, for example, are legal firearms that are sold 80% complete, often with a kit of materials needed to complete the manufacture of the firearm. The guns, which do not have a serial number, do not require owners to get background checks or record their purchases.
A December HuffPost survey found that far-right groups were using non-traditional online forums to promote 3D printed guns and share details on how to print gun parts.
These communities, both online and at in-person events, are teeming with accelerationist rhetoric and imagery. A major phantom weapons conference, Bear Arms N ‘Bitcoin, is teeming with images of the far right and white supremacists, according to extremism experts who reviewed the images provided by HuffPost. The symbols, iconography, and language of the speakers and attendees fall short of illegal hate speech, but incorporate niche far-right views.
Ragnar Lifthrasir, the conference organizer, enthusiastically promotes the narrative that American society is in decline, as well as the concept of secession from government. Although he told HuffPost he does not associate with the far right, the language and images of his events suggest otherwise, as do his own social media feeds touting history and art. Europeans who, according to extremism experts, reflect an anti-modernity and anti-liberal point of view. see. The name “Ragnar Lifthrasir” is itself an allusion to the Vikings, a standard reference for the far right.
Dr. Nathalie Van Deusen, a donkeyassociate professor of Nordic history, literature and culture at the University of Alberta, notes that Viking references are another manifestation of white supremacy and misogyny. “Traditional family values and conservative gender roles play a major role in white supremacist and far-right movements, which also tend to be masculinist and male supremacist.” said Van Deusen.
Exposure to hateful and exclusionary images plays a major role in online radicalization, according to the Everytown report. The organization has identified an overlap between misogyny and white supremacy in what is known as the “manosphere,” an online community of men who reject modern notions of feminism and bond with shared misogynistic values.
“In addition to the fact that these attitudes are common in online spaces, they are also observable among many abusers whose violence was motivated by hate,” the report says.
Everytown also noted that many shooters who identified with these ideologies were inspired by a 2014 shootout in Isla Vista, Calif., In which Elliot Rodger stabbed his two roommates and a third man in his apartment before taking himself out. go to a sorority house at the University of California, Santa Barbara. There he shot three women, killing two, before continuing his rampage in a delicatessen. A total of six people were killed and 14 others were injured. After exchanging gunshots with law enforcement, Rodger committed suicide and died.
In an online manifesto published before the shooting, Rodger said he chose the sorority because the girls there were the “hottest”. Rodger has been revered as a hero in online “incel” communities – a self-assigned misogynistic term meaning “unintentionally celibate.”
Rodger’s manifesto also reflected the confluence of guns and hatred for women detailed in the Everytown report: “My first act of preparation was the purchase. [of] my first handgun… After picking up the handgun, I brought it back to my room and felt a new sense of power. I was now armed, ”the manifesto reads.
Everytown also cited an aunt of Veronika Weiss, a 19-year-old freshman Rodger, who was shot and killed (the report did not include the aunt’s full name).
“Anytime I read or hear about a murderer or an incel plot, I know the crime was inspired by the person who murdered my niece,” she told Everytown. “The more I’ve learned over the years from cases in the news, the more I think it’s so important to get the guns out of the hands of these young men.”