Shootings and Fatherlessness: A Clarification on the Data

Earlier this week I published a piece at Crisis for which I owe readers an apology and explanation. In 30 years of commentary writing, I’ve never had to do this, which surely has been God’s grace, given my many bouts of arrogant stupidity, but maybe the good Lord gave me this one for some badly needed humbling. A prideful man of big mouth and big opinions needs humbling. Sin has so disfigured everything that we all need divine mercy.

And so, I feel awful about the mistake, and thus must clarify what happened while also revisiting the original thesis.

My article mistakenly reported that of a list of 27 deadliest mass shooters in U.S. history (compiled by CNN), 26 came from fatherless families. That is not accurate. As I write, the two sources where I originally read this inaccuracy are still posted with the same headline, stating flatly that “26 of 27 shooters came from fatherless families.” I’m leaving them nameless. Both are good writers. If I link to them, some readers will say I’m blaming them. Further aggravating the error, I believe these two writers (like me) might have mis-read the original piece from which we got the data. For the record, I think that original piece I referenced might have been updated or clarified. I read it very carefully, cutting and pasting from it. I swear it looks different. But this could be entirely my misinterpretation.

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Some readers will say that this “mea culpa” isn’t really a mea culpa because it seemingly looks to pass the blame elsewhere. Maybe it does. But I wouldn’t be giving an honest explanation of an honest mistake if I didn’t honestly explain how I reported faulty data.

As soon as I learned of the inaccuracy I emailed the editor at Crisis and jumped on the situation. I worked on it feverishly (in fear and trembling) with a researcher from about 5:30 p.m. on March 5 until after midnight, not only combing the sources but also researching (to the best of our abilities) the family backgrounds of the 27 shooters on the CNN list. That information, too, is sloppy.

At most, and this is probably being generous, we found maybe four or five of the 27 shooters that we could definitively conclude (without doubt) had been raised in an intact family, or a family that included the biological dad at home, or a biological father who was consistently at home. For instance, one of the cases involved a frequently absent father who might not have been biological. One of the only seemingly clear cases where the dad appeared to be largely at home (perhaps) was the father of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan. In that case, what influenced the shooter was reportedly Islamist ideology.

Overall, coming up with a single workable category for all 27 (i.e., “fatherless,” “without biological father,” “absent father,” “frequently absent father,” “intact family”) is very difficult and would take much more time.

I can already picture certain critical comments this time around. (I always read the comments at Crisis because they’re often excellent.) Some will say they’ve googled for merely 10 minutes and found more than four or five shooters with dads at home. I caution that. I’ve continued to research this question throughout the week. In many cases, I’ve found one questionable source reporting one thing on one shooter and then another questionable source reporting something contradictory on the same shooter. Frankly, this is a dissertation project for an aspiring sociologist.

At this point, however, what is clear is the vast majority of shooters came from broken families without a consistent biological father throughout their rearing and development. Very few had good, stable, present dads. Yes, pick apart those previous two sentences if you would like, but most readers will get the point.

And was it the point? Here, too, the story of the crisis of my initial article for Crisis is telling:

Around midnight the day the article first appeared, I told the editor at Crisis that we should probably pull the article. We decided instead on an updated note at the end of the article, given that the overall thesis holds true, despite conflicting data among media sources over the exact number of fatherless shooters (most readers would understand and expect varying information on an issue where attaining exactness is a major challenge). The overall thesis holds: the correlation between certain bad (even criminal) behavior among boys in fatherless homes is undeniable and terrible. In this case, the number of fatherless boys might not be 96 percent, but it’s certainly a highly disproportionate number. First and foremost, our culture (and especially liberals) should not be pushing for new forms of “marriage” and parenting that are by definition fatherless merely to accommodate their ideological support for same-sex “marriage.” They have reversed their onetime concerns over the serious problem of fatherless families.

So, indulge me as I reiterate the essential passages from the original article.

Why Liberals Have Abandoned Fatherhood
Of the 27 deadliest mass shooters, the vast majority came from broken families with no biological dad at home. Obviously, this doesn’t mean that boys raised in fatherless families are likely to become mass shooters. But it’s yet further affirmation of what we already know: boys need dads. Just as daughters need dads. Children need fathers. They also need mothers.

No surprise. We all know this. Liberals once knew it, until they started pushing for fatherless families.

Actually, they’re also fanatically pushing for motherless families. Think about it: Liberals are on fire for same-sex “marriage” and same-sex parenting, and what is same-sex “marriage” and same-sex parenting than—by very definition—a form of “marriage” and parenting that’s either fatherless or motherless?

Take a depressing gander at any liberal website (the Huffington Post on any given day, especially the “Queer Voices” section) and you’ll encounter pompous progressives prattling about how the best parental relationship they’ve ever invented is two lesbians as moms. They’re asserting this in their newspapers and “studies.” They’re claiming it with a sense of authority. And yet, this fatuousness flies in the face of what all human beings know in their hearts, and what even liberals conceded until the dawning of Obergefell, namely: the optimal situation for a child is a mom and dad.

Normal people uncorrupted by poisonous ideology inherently understand this. Common sense and rudimentary observation tell us. Studies have long affirmed that kids who grow up with a mother and father are less likely to be poor, to end up in prison, to get addicted to drugs, and are generally healthier and stronger and more successful. The most common denominator among men in prisons is not income or class distinction, not a high school or college diploma, not ethnic or racial background, but whether they grew up with a father.

Well, now we can add yet another dubious correlation, a downright frightening one: The most common denominator among males who commit mass shootings is the absence of a biological father in the home. Wow.

But again, we’ve all understood this scourge, including liberals.

In a speech for Father’s Day 2008, Senator Barack Obama was emphatic: “We need fathers.” He explained: “We know the statistics—that children who grow up without a father are five times more likely to live in poverty and commit crime; nine times more likely to drop out of schools and 20 times more likely to end up in prison. They are more likely to have behavioral problems, or run away from home, or become teenage parents themselves. And the foundations of our community are weaker because of it.” Obama added: “Of all the rocks upon which we build our lives … family is the most important. And we are called to recognize and honor how critical every father is to that foundation.” If “we are honest with ourselves,” said Obama, “we’ll admit that … too many fathers” are missing—they are “missing from too many lives and too many homes.”

Yes, if we’re honest with ourselves we’ll admit this. But that’s the problem.

The modern secular-progressive project cannot be honest with itself. In seeking to fundamentally transform human nature, it must deny human nature. In seeking to fundamentally transform reality, it must deny reality. These denials, for the liberal/progressive, are applied to marriage, family, gender, sexuality, and on and on. It’s fundamental to the “fundamental transformation.” And ironically, our President of Fundamental Transformation, one Barack Hussein Obama, spearheaded the insanity, illuminating the new White House in rainbow colors and aggressively looking to renovate everything from school bathrooms to the definition of gender and marriage and family.

In that process, the progressive project must reject the notion that the best model for a child is a home with a mom and dad.

And that’s a recent shift. Go back further from Barack Obama. Go back to Daniel Patrick Moynihan many decades ago. Go back to Bill Clinton in the 1990s, when he and other Democrats championed the National Fatherhood Initiative. For a while, this was a rare, precious consensus among liberals and conservatives. There are few things that liberals and conservatives have agreed upon, but this was one. Kids need dads.

That law of reality remains unchanged, of course. Call it the natural law. But what has changed is the putrid politics, courtesy of the rotten madness of liberal-progressive ideology. In their militant advancement and forced acceptance of “gay marriage,” liberals are jettisoning this national consensus on fathers, explicitly demanding a category of parenting that excludes fathers. As for those who disagree with this new paradigm, they are reflexively derided as cruel, thoughtless, backward bigots, with no possible legitimate reason for their unenlightened position. Suggest a mere pause before this grand push forward! by the left and you’re smeared as nothing but a vile hater.

And again, what today’s liberals are advocating is actually far worse than fatherless families, as they are agitating for motherless ones as well. Thanks to the nature-redefining left, there will be a new generation of children deliberately raised without dads and moms and with the sanction and celebration and coercion of the state and culture and the leftist forces of “tolerance” and “diversity.”

And for what? What has prompted this mass shift? It’s so that liberals can accommodate their ideological marriage to same-sex “marriage.” Such is the depths of the secular-progressive descent from common sense to the pit of political depravity. Reject natural law and biblical law, and this is where it ultimately goes. The social-moral consequences of this fundamental transformation will careen in directions we cannot yet begin to fathom.

In conclusion, I want to be clear: My main objective is certainly not to blame mass shooters or gun violence on liberalism or even fatherless families. Not at all. My principle point, in this article and the original post, is that we should not be deliberately trying to create fatherless families (and motherless ones) merely as an ideological accommodation of same-sex “marriage”—as if fatherless families are no longer a problem. “All’s well nowadays, thanks to the cultural revolution of “gay marriage,” which makes all things new and good.” No, all’s not well.

Again, my apologies to the good readers at Crisis for the incorrect data in my original piece. Pray for me. I need it. But most of all, pray for the boys (and girls) who suffer from being raised in fatherless families—especially those in coming generations deliberately raised without dads in a culture that suddenly increasingly claims that dads don’t matter.

(Photo credit: Wikicommons)


  • Paul Kengor

    Paul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of the Center for Vision and Values. He is the author, most recently, of The Devil and Karl Marx (TAN Books, 2020).

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