He was also African Amer­ican, and this appar­ently mat­ters, says emi­nent crim­i­nol­o­gist James Alan Fox. “It’s not nice to say it, but white America tends to be more intrigued about the minds and motives of white mur­derers,” said Fox, who is a pro­fessor at North­eastern Uni­ver­sity. “There have been black [mass shooters], but it’s hard to remember who they are. The D.C. sniper is an exception.”

Fox, who has been studying mass murder since the early 1980s, sees a dis­maying jad­ed­ness in our national response to such spec­tac­ular acts of inhu­manity. Even as overall gun vio­lence has fallen pre­cip­i­tously, what shakes the national scales has grad­u­ated, higher and higher, he says. “When four people were killed [in a shooting], it was always cov­ered” nation­ally, he said. “Of course now, four people doesn’t get cov­ered. It doesn’t rate.”

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