The recent mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket will be prosecuted as first-degree murder or a hate crime, but regardless of how it is charged, the attack is a clear example something called “stochastic terrorism.”
The accused gunman, an 18-year-old who had posted an online racist “manifesto” before using an assault weapon to take 10 lives, is responsible for his own actions and, if convicted, will be punished for his crimes. But we as a society should be concerned with more than simply punishing wrongdoers after the fact. We should be even more focused on identifying root causes of mass shootings to prevent these horrible tragedies from occurring in the first place.
There are plenty of contributing factors that drive attacks like this one. Our country’s failure to adequately address mental health, the nearly limitless access to assault weapons, and our failure to regulate social media have each played a part in various mass shootings. All of these factors are deserving of our attention to reduce violence. But one other force seems to be at the heart of the Buffalo attack: stochastic terrorism.