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The Truth About Mass Shootings in Australia: The Father Usually Did It

Most mass shootings involve family members.

Friday’s shooting, in which Peter Miles, a farmer, is believed to have killed his wife, daughter and four grandchildren, was the deadliest shooting in the country since 1996, when a gunman killed 35 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania.

Before Friday, the worst shooting since 1996 occurred in 2014, when a farmer shot his wife and three children before killing himself.

The victims of mass shootings are typically the gunman’s family members, said Glynn Greensmith, a lecturer at Curtin University in Sydney.

The Truth About Mass Shootings in Australia: The Father Usually Did It
The Truth About Mass Shootings in Australia: The Father Usually Did It

More often than not, the man (and it is usually a man) behind the gun is the victims’ father, partner or husband, Mr. Greensmith said.

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Such killings, known as familicides, have “never attracted the same attention as the mass random shooting,” Mr. Greensmith said, “but has always been higher in number.”

Mental health is often a factor.

The incidence of suicide in rural Australia has been tied to a collapse of the traditional farming economy and a stigma against receiving help for mental health issues.

Rural suicides are so common that the phenomenon has been given a name: “the good bloke under pressure.”

Aaron Cockman, the former son-in-law of Peter Miles and the father of the slain children, said on Sunday that Mr. Miles “did not snap” but had been “thinking this through for a long time.”

“Peter has been trying to hold it together for a long time,” Mr. Cockman said. “He’s just thought: I can’t live any more, so this is it for me. But I need to take out everyone because that will fix the whole problem.”

Mr. Cockman said Mr. Miles was strained emotionally: One of his sons had killed himself, and another had recently learned he was ill.

If you or someone you know needs help within Australia, call Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36.

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