Last night a gunman shot and killed 12 people in a California tavern. The gunman was also killed. Interviews with law enforcement have stressed that they will work very hard to understand the gunman's motives.

As the gunman is dead (hence unable to be prosecuted), what is the value in understanding his motives?

It is reasonable the LE would want to determine that the gunman "acted alone", but why is it important to understand a dead gunman's motives.

( not your typical Law/se board question, but it surely doesn't belong in Politics/se)

  • 1
    I don't agree that the question is inappropriate for Politics, but the focus of any answers, and probably of the question itself, would be somewhat different there. – phoog Nov 8 at 15:21

As the gunman is dead (hence unable to be prosecuted), what is the value in understanding his motives?

It is reasonable the LE would want to determine that the gunman "acted alone", but why is it important to understand a dead gunman's motives.

Your point on ascertaining whether he acted alone is one good reason. Other reasons are to identify:

  • whether the crime involved enticement or undue influence by others who ought to be prosecuted;
  • patterns of action or of context, upon which intelligence agencies and Law Enforcement can be more effective in preventing similar tragedies;
  • if gunman was mentally ill, whether an entity acted negligently or wantonly in allowing the release of this person;
  • further statistical evidence for the legislator to improve the relevant statutes (or enact new ones if necessary) pursuant to the punishment and prevention of similar conduct.

There might be other law-related reasons, but these are the ones I can think of right now.

  • enticement is not a motive, mental illness is not a motive. – BobE Nov 8 at 18:26
  • Strictly speaking, no, they are not. To be more specific, mental illness and enticement influence or shape a criminal's motives. Being important causes or factors, the authority is interested to ascertain them. In fact, mental illness and enticement are located in the same "place" where motives do: the criminal's mind. – Iñaki Viggers Nov 8 at 18:49

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