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Female shooters are rare — and trans men even more so

Active shootings — those in large public spaces, with substantial risk of casualties — have become common in the U.S.

But the circumstances of Thursday’s mass shooting in Aberdeen are comparatively rare.

Police say Snochia Moseley, 26, of White Marsh shot seven people Thursday, killing four — including herself — and injuring three at a Rite Aid warehouse where Moseley had been a temporary employee.

Police identified Moseley as female. According to FBI crime data and experts, it’s rare for a woman to be the perpetrator of an active shooting. Women accounted for nine of 251 active shootings in the United States — or roughly 3.6 percent — between 2000 and 2017, according to the FBI.

Moseley was transitioning to become male, according to a friend and screenshots of her exchanges on social media. It’s not clear whether Moseley preferred to be addressed using masculine or feminine pronouns.

The FBI’s published data doesn’t quantify crimes committed by trans people. But according to experts, it’s exceedingly uncommon for a transgender person to be the perpetrator of an active shooting.

"Given how few women commit mass murder, it is even more rare for a woman planning to transition to be a man to commit mass murder. This might be the first,” Laura Dugan, professor and associate chair of criminology and criminal justice at the University of Maryland, stated in an email to The Baltimore Sun. While testosterone taken as a part of a hormone treatment plan could lead to violent urges, Dugan stated that it was important to “keep in mind that thousands of transgender males take testosterone and do not mass murder anyone.”

Virginia Beard, associate professor of criminal justice at Longwood University in Virginia, agreed, stating in an email to The Baltimore Sun that transgender people are “more likely to be victims than offenders,” and cited the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando as an example.

“It is more likely that there was some sort of triggering situation that led to this impulse,” Dugan added, noting that the theories behind mass shootings and multiple homicides committed by the same person vary.

“They’re all over the place — hate-motivated, emotionally motivated, or if somebody has … mental illness,” she said. The “general strain theory” suggests that a situation can cause strain or increased “negative emotionality,” leaving the perpetrator to feel that they have little control or no way out.

Authorities and court records identified Moseley as female, as did a Facebook profile in her name. But in Facebook messages Moseley’s friend Troi Coley shared with The Baltimore Sun, Moseley described herself as transgender.

In messages that the friend said were sent in December 2016, Moseley described identifying as a trans man and discussed beginning hormone treatment soon.

“I just started talking about [being transgender],” Moseley wrote in another message. “My sister is totally supportive, my brothers already had an idea, my mom I haven’t gotten around to admitting it to yet. but she’s heard about it somehow.”

In the weeks before the shooting, police said Moseley was suffering from a mental illness and had become increasingly agitated, according to Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler.

And while there is no specific profile for mass shooters, there seems to be a trend.

Gun violence disproportionately affects urban African-American communities, but mass shootings are often committed by white men, Dugan said. It seems to be, although not exclusively, a crime of the privileged, “where there’s some sort of gripe or mental illness or access to weapons,” she added.

bbritto@baltsun.com

twitter.com/brittanybritto

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