Theories of Crime in American Church Shooting

Theoriesof Crime in American Church Shooting

Thereare different motives as to why individuals commit crimes. The ideato go against the law does not necessarily emanate from a spontaneousthought. Most of the times is a result of a well calculated movewhereby the perpetrator of a particular crime commits the actionafter considering the possible threats to his behavior. The factorsthat lead to crime may be apparent to an individual while others areunconsciously present fin the society (Cornish and Clark 12).Criminologists use different theories to explain the criminalbehavior of different people in the society.

InJuly 2015, one of the worst church shootings in the United Stateshistory happened. The perpetrator was a 21-year-old high schooldropout named Dylann Roof. The worshippers had gathered in EmanuelMethodist Church in South Carolina when the rifle-wielding youthstormed into the building and opened fire killing nine people on thespot. Among the people dead were a state senator and a senior pastor.Shortly after the shooting, a manhunt began for the suspect (Costa&ampBever).

Accordingto officers who arrested the criminal, he openly declared his hatredfor black people, and this was the capital reason he opened fire onthe worshipers (Costa&amp Bever). The gravity of crime may resurrectthe dreaded confrontations between the blacks and the whites thatalways lead to street fights and many casualties. Thirteen hoursafter committing the crime, detectives arrested Roof in a trafficstop. To prove that he had accomplished his mission, he was verycooperative with the arresting officers and they extradited him toNorth Carolina to face murder charges.

Froma criminologist’s perspective, several theories may be applicable,in this case, to explain why the youth killed nine people andappeared unapologetic about it. Two major theories, that is thestrain and social control theory explain Roof’s behavior.

Thestrain theory explains the actions of individuals who due to theprevailing circumstances in their environment cannot achieve theirdesires. The controls put by the power that is beyond the influenceof persons instigate them to seek other means of giving themselves aself-gratification. Most of the times, it involves inflicting pain onthe party they consider as the foe. In any society, people cannothold the same social status or economic positions. People always trytheir best to beat the competition through hard work (Cornish andClark 17). When it fails, they result in crime. There are severalsources of strain in the society. They include difference values,aspirations and reality, and deficiency o coping. In this case, thetension between the blacks and the whites has a tainted history withthe whites holding on to the position that the blacks should not havethe same right as the whites. History paints a picture of the blacksbeing exploited by the whites until then they started fighting fortheir rights. The agitation by the blacks led to the nationalinstitution to establish a platform of equality.

Inthe difference of values in the American society, the whites and theblacks have varying social practices though they may not be verypronounced. It is evident in the distinct places of residence andseparate churches. Many citizens who felt that liberty should notembrace people from both backgrounds pass the hatred to theirchildren and the battle continues silently. After seeing that thereis no other way to make the blacks bow down to the yoke of thewhites, crime results. Roof declared his open hatred for the blacksduring his arrest. The condition that led him to kill the blacks isthe social strain that could not find favor in the institutions thatgovern the American Society.

Underthe reality and inspiration premise, there is no window under theAmerican law that would support the intentions of Roof without himcontravening the set rules. His primary aim was to pass a messagethat he did not welcome the idea of equality or that of the blackscongregating together to a church that is predominantly black (Costaand Bever). The aspirations of the youth were to have a black freesociety, but that could not be a reality. He, therefore, forced hisway to disprove the law that controls the society and consequentlyfound himself on the wrong side.

Thesecond explanation of Roof’s behavior is in social control. Thetheory asserts that people commit a crime due to the structures inthe society that permit them to do so. The cultural beliefs and thesocial norms that a society adheres to may encourage them to breakthe law. It also involves the availability of structures andprocesses that make it possible for people to contravene the law withease. According to the theory, people’s relationships,commitments, values, and norms may allow or curtail them fromcommitting a crime. The social construction of behavior in individualobliges them to follow the social dictations, and these may regulatecrime in the society. The principal claim of this theory is that allthe choices that individuals make concerning their behavior in thesociety are under the implicit control of social contracts andagreements. These create social order (Cornish and Clark 23).

Inthis case, one might consider looking at the crime from theperspective of Roof accessing a rifle. Well, in the American society,the institutions that maintain law and order allow individuals tolegally own guns (Costa&amp Bever). It is common for people to applythem in self-defense. On the same note, the availability of legalguns increases the chances of the weapons being used to commitcrimes. Therefore, the theory of social control applies in the sensethat the society facilities the availability of instruments toimplement a crime. Roof may have taken the advantage of theavailability of firearms to achieve his mission.

Secondly,under the values that govern society, it is common for blacks to facea considerable level of discrimination though it is not legallyacceptable. Roof’s action was not the first given the fact that inthe month of June, cases of arson against black churches were on therise (Costa and Bever). His action only attracted national attentionbecause several people died. The lack of strict measures againstthose perpetrating arson is evidence that the society was lax on theissue. It forms part of the social construct that people adopt. Roofis an example of those people observed the process that facilitatedattacks on black churches.

Inconclusion, criminologists explain crime using different theories.The theories of social control and strain explain Roof’s attackingworshippers in predominant black church. The factors in the societylike the silent racial discrimination as well as the availability ofinstruments to facilitate crime instigated him to break the law.


Cornish,Derek and Clarke, Ronald eds. Thereasoning criminal: Rational choice perspectives on offending.Piscataway: Transaction Publishers, 2014. Print.

Costa,Rindsey and Bever,Lindsey. Churchshooting suspect Dylann Roof captured amid hate crime investigation.TheWashington Post.June 18, 2015. Web.