EL PASO, Texas -- The Texas House of Representatives committee on Mass Violence Prevention and Community Safety heard public testimony Thursday at UTEP from people directly impacted by the mass shooting that occurred in El Paso on Aug. 3 as they looked to try to prevent future incidents.
At the hearing, doctors also spoke to state legislators, telling them if we want to understand why mass violence attacks like the one that killed 22 people at Walmart happen they need better access and funding.
The attack on El Paso’s Cielo Vista Walmart has been just one of many incidents of mass violence seen in the U.S., and while many jump to mental illness as a reason behind these attacks experts say that’s not the root cause.
“That’s not correct. Only about 20 percent of incidents of mass violence is due to mental illness,” said Dr. Jennifer Eno Louden, a psychology professor at UTEP.
The group of medical professionals shared with state representatives what they’ve learned. Hate and domestic violence, they said, are stronger indicators than mental health.
“What we’ve seen in terms of public knowledge is that (the El Paso attacker) was driven by hate. He came here to kill people he didn’t like or because their skin colors were different from his,” said David Schayer, executive director at the Center on Sexual and Family Violence.
“The shooter in Dayton, Ohio had a list of women that he wanted to rape and killed his own sister in the shooting,” Shayer said.
Mass violence is hard to study, every attacker has a different background and motivation.
So the doctors and researchers are asking for better ways to access and study the violent attacks, doing their best to work with what limited information they do have.
“Most of the perpetrators end up killing themselves or they’re killed by law enforcement over the course of the events so we can’t go and talk to them to find out what their motivations were,” Dr. Eno Louden said.
Researchers say the more we understand past attacks like the one that happened right here the better chance we have of identifying and stopping future attacks.
You can watch four-hours worth of testimony that took place at Thursday's hearing in the video player below.