David Brooks: A Brief History of Spree Killings

Roundup: Media's Take

Early in the morning of Sept. 4, 1913, Ernst Wagner murdered his wife and four children in the town of Degerloch, Germany. Then he went to Mühlhausen, where he feared the townsmen were mocking him for having sex with an animal. He opened fire and hit 20 people, killing at least nine.

This is believed to be one of the first spectacular rampage murders of the 20th century. Over the next 60 years, there was about one or two of these spree killings per decade. Then the frequency of such killings began to shoot upward. There were at least nine of these rampages during the 1980s, according to history Web sites that track such things, including the 1982 case of a police officer in South Korea who massacred 57 people.

In the 1990s, there were at least 11 spectacular spree killings. Over the past decade, by my count, there have been at least 26 rampages. These include Robert Steinhäuser’s murder of 16 people in Germany, Seung-Hui Cho’s murder of 32 at Virginia Tech, Anders Breivik’s shooting spree at a summer camp in Norway in which 69 died, and the killing of 12 moviegoers in Aurora, Colo., last week....

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