I was reading about the Virginia Tech mass murderer and noticed a comment to the effect that the availability of weapons is not the issue, it is the lunatic who wants to kill people who is the issue.
This seems abundantly clear to me, given the complete lack of gun crime in Europe's most heavily-armed country, Switzerland. So I thought about how one could look at violent crime generally and see what there is that causes some killers to just go ape**** and start a murder spree. So I looked at serial killers.
Serial killers are usually sad losers like Seung-Hui Cho.
[quote=Wikipedia]Many noted serial killers have had dysfunctional backgrounds. Frequently they were physically, sexually, or psychologically abused as children and there is often a correlation between their childhood abuse and their crimes.
Serial killers are specifically motivated by a variety of psychological urges, primarily power and sexual compulsion. They often have feelings of inadequacy and worthlessness, sometimes owing to humiliation and abuse in childhood and/or the pressures of poverty and low socioeconomic status in adulthood, and their crimes compensate for this and provide a sense of potency and often revenge, by giving them a feeling of power, both at the time of the actual killing and afterwards. The knowledge that their actions terrify entire communities and often baffle police adds to this sense of power. This motivational aspect separates them from contract killers and other multiple murderers who are motivated by profit. For example, in Scotland during the 1820s, William Burke and William Hare murdered people in what became known as the "Case of the Body Snatchers." They would not count as serial killers by most criminologists' definitions, however, because their motive was primarily economic.[/quote]
So I would say that these guys are a pretty good indicator of the mental health of a country. If you are breeding lots of serial killers you have a country that is abusing many of it's children in one way or another. You can point to kids like the young Jeffrey Dahmer and say that the had a normal upbringing, and I would agree, that guy just seems to have been born bad, but the majority of serial killers seem to be pushed that way.
So. We all know that America leads the world in, like so many things, serial killers. I did a little superficial research and I found that America has had a plethora of serial killers, but it's a big country, it will have. Breaking down the list of serial killers by country taking only the bigger numbers and mapping to population gives a league table.
Unsurprisingly the US tops the world with a fabulous 93 either convicted or at liberty, Britain comes second with a still impressive 31 and Australia is third with 16.
But it's when you look at the ratio of killers per head of population that it gets interesting.
Here's the table sorted by number of serial killers per head:
No. of killers___Popn_______People/Killer
So the Aussies take the lead, Britain is second and America is third.
I cannot speak for Australia, I have never been there and the numbers are inflated by a gang of 6 that perpetrated the Snowtown Murders, but the gang was really led by only one traditional serial killer so we could realistically drop Australia's count to 11, which still leaves them in the lead, but not far above Britain.
However, I have to say that Britain's serial killer success story doesn't surprise me. It is a dreadful place and there is a grimness about it that makes it unsurprising that so many of it's denizens want to kill people.
I realise that the numbers alone leave little to discuss. So Britain is a more serial killer-rich country than the USA, big deal.
I am interested, though, by who is surprised. I am not, but I'll bet a lot of you thought that the good ol' US of A would win.
Secondly, I think it is a significant indicator of a nation's collective mental health. This seems to make a sort of sense, in that a country that breeds a lot of serial killers would, one feels, have to have something wrong in it's national pyche, but it's nothing I could prove or even argue. I just don't have any evidence.
You can dispute the details, some of these murders go back 500 years (Gilles de Rais, France), but the overall picture doesn't change much. Britain is a sicker society than the USA.
Does anyone think I am wrong?
[i]Edited because It's people per killer, not killers per person. That would be really bad.[.i]
As introductory information, I would like to say that in USA there is a weapon every 5 persons, whereas in Spain (where I live), there is a weapon every 15.000 persons.
This provokes, that unwanted situations, as massive assassinations in universities (for example) they are possible. This demonstrates that in this society something fails on having allowed this situation
Who can say? Unless you're just looking for random opinons, of course. As it stands, despite what you imply, the "overall picture" is just a big, blurry smudge that shows nothing.
i could spend a lot of time critiquing your methodology (for starters, taking statistics from over a period of hundreds of years for the serial killers but using current population figures, comparing statistics over a period where some of the countries didn't even exist, comparing the statistics only of solved murders (countries with better police do worse), judging the countries where the killer did their killing not where they were raised (for example, Micheal Lupo was raised in Italy, but killed in England, but you have him counted as a strike against England), and much, much more).
i could also point out that the sample sizes you are dealing with are so vanishingly small with respect to the population that you are attempting to deduce facts about - in more than half of the countries on your list, a difference of one more or less serial killers can change the results for that country by 10% or more! - that the level of uncertainty is probably bigger than the results.
i could also point out that population size really has no relationship to the occurence of any of the abuse that you imply is the cause of serial killers. Instead, there are socio-economic factors that may have relevance that could be wildly different on those scales. Maybe Australia has more criminals - not because they're a "sicker" society - but because they are a healthier society. Maybe if Australia wasn't such a healthy and supportive society a sicko who might become a serial killer won't live long enough to reach an age where such an act is possible, and countries with poor mental health care systems appear to do better because people are simply locked away from society at the first sign of maladjustment. Maybe it's Australia's healthy characteristics that allow serial killers to be functional members of society for as long as they are despite their early abuse, because in truly sick societies all abused kids are dead, in jail or in mental asylums before they're old enough to be functional serial killers.
i could also point out that you have made no attempt to show that the distribution of serial killers is uniform in any given country. Maybe of those 31 murderers, 20 of them hailed from London - which might imply that London is "sick", but Britian in general is just fine.
But i'm not going to bother to do any of that, because these would just be details that don't affect your overall picture, right?
Instead, i am going to add one more column to your table: the inverse of the population per serial killer - the serial killer percentage of the population.
From that, i am going to point out that you have taken it upon yourself to judge the nature of >60 million Britons by the characteristics of 31... a sample size of around 0.00005%. That's just around half of one percent of one percent of one percent of the population. Does that... seem right? As in... do you think that information in anyway supports... any theories about the greater populations?
And finally, i direct you to these reference links:
i would suggest that you have gone about constructing your case improperly. Perhaps it would be better to start smaller - in fact, it's almost always better to start really small. Someone - i can't remember who - said that philosophy is really just about starting with simple, commonly known things that everyone can agree upon, and then putting them together to find something profound. Perhaps that might work here.
You might begin by precisely definition what the "issue" you mention in your first paragraph is. Is it that gun availability is not related to violent crime? If so, you might have started by considering gun statistics, not serial killer statistics (most of those serial killers didn't even use guns).
Or is it that "sick" countries generate more serial killers than healthy countries? If so, you might want to start by definition exactly what social, cultural, economic, or otherwise factors it is that makes a country "sick", and then relate them to the prevalence of serial killers. And don't forget that correlation does not imply causation.
Perhaps you want to argue that the number of serial killers is a metric of the country's mental health. If so, you will have to explain how the social aberrations can be used to measure the mental health of the main group.
Whatever your thesis is, you should be clear about it, and shore it up carefully, step-by-step. Don't just jump to a conclusion - in your haste you will more likely than not miss many important gotchas, some of which may change everything.
Keep in mind also that some countries underreport their stats. Russia, for example, refused to even acknowledge that it even had serial killers. Also, keep in mind that there is a big difference between serial killers, those that massacre, and those that kill as part of their "occupations" (such as gangsters).