Faltering Fathers

Absence of dads may be at the root of mass shootings

By Barbara Pierce

Twenty-two killed at a Walmart in El Paso. Nine killed in Dayton. Three in Gilroy. Two at a Walmart in Mississippi. Many, many more injured and critically injured.

And that’s just the first week in August. One week — an alarming tally.

There have been 251 mass shootings in the United States since the beginning of this year. A mass shooting is defined as incidents in which four or more people were killed.

So many killed — people of all ages, sexes and backgrounds. These are people who woke up that morning, drank their coffee and thought their day would be just like any other day — but it was the day their life ended.

More than 2,000 were wounded in random gunfire that ripped through public places.

Yes, gun violence is a national health epidemic.

Yes, limited access to mental health services is to blame.

Yes, social media and the news media carry responsibility for this crisis.

Those are all huge issues with no easy solutions.

But there is something we can all do. Something you probably haven’t heard in all the hours of news coverage.

These deadly mass shooters have one thing in common — one thing that is a big clue to how we can begin to solve this horrendous crisis.

The vast majority of the shooters did not have a consistent father throughout their childhood. Very few had good, stable, present dads.

Some examples: Parkland school shooter Nikolas Cruz was adopted at birth; his adoptive father died when he was 6. When Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock was 7, his father was arrested for bank robbery and imprisoned. A single mother raised Dylann Roof, who slaughtered African Americans in a church. His dad died before he was born.

Adam Lanza, who killed his mother and school children at Sandy Hook: Parents were divorced and he had no contact with his father.

There is direct correlation between boys who grow up without a father and boys who kill.

“There’s a hole in their lives,” said Warren Farrell, author of “The Boy Crisis.” It’s something that has been brewing for years and is changing America.

They are “dad deprived.” Farrell states online and in USA Today that 90% of mass shooters, prisoners and ISIS terrorism recruits were deprived of a dad while growing up.

Boys who do not have a strong relationship with their fathers lack a role model, a model of healthy masculinity. Fathers help boys develop self-control, self-discipline, and empathy toward others. Also, fathers tend to be tougher on boundary enforcement.

Tupac speaks truth

The late rapper Tupac Shakur said online, “I know for a fact that if I had a father, I’d have some discipline. I’d have more confidence. Your mother can’t calm you down the way a man can. You need a man to teach you how to be a man.”

Shakur, who was murdered in 1996, started hanging out with gangs because he wanted to belong to a family.

It’s not that single mothers can’t be great mothers. They can. But they can’t be fathers.

Dad-deprived boys. Yes, I believe that is a crisis. And I’m seriously concerned.

I experienced this when I worked as a counselor in a moderately secure juvenile detention facility a few years ago. It was a locked facility for teenage boys who violated the law by assault, battery, stealing, fighting, etc.

The regime there was tough. Strong males provided leadership and set clear boundaries, and most boys responded well.

I noticed that when I met with families, there weren’t many dads involved. So I did my own research on the 35 boys in the facility.

I was stunned by what I found. Of the 35 boys locked up, only two lived with a mother and father. Only two of the 35 boys had a stable family!

Thirty-three were dad-deprived. Many had no male influence at all in their life: no stepdad, no granddad, no uncle and no one to teach them how to be a man.

Boys need a dad to teach them how to be a man. They are in serious trouble without this.

We are all in serious trouble when more and more mass murders emerge each week.

If you are a parent, grandparent, aunt or uncle of a boy, there is something you can do. If you are not, there are still things you can do to help turn this around.

Boys need a dad. Help that boy in your life keep his dad in his life. Do all you can to support the relationship between son and father. Don’t be too quick to dismiss the father as one who can make a valuable contribution to his child.

If that’s not possible, be a surrogate dad for him, or find him one.

The good news is that some communities are devising creative ways to help make up for the absences of dads. Let’s do that in our community.

Related story, Page 5.