Columbine. Oklahoma City. Waco. All are sites of infamous mass murders — and all of the killers who wreaked havoc in these locations chose the month of April to strike. Some experts believe that this is no coincidence, which has led many researchers to label April the beginning of what’s called “the killing season.”
The list of mass murders that have taken place in April is long: Timothy McVeigh blew up a federal building in Oklahoma City in April 1995, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold shot and killed 13 people at Columbine High School in April 1999, and Seung Hui Cho killed 32 students and teachers at Virginia Tech in April 2007.
Assassinations also occurred in April, including Martin Luther King, Jr., and Abraham Lincoln — as well as many of the worst school shootings in the U.S. and also Germany, Brazil, and Australia.
The fear of April anniversaries is so prevalent that warnings about the month are regularly issued. The Southern Poverty Law Center has sent out alerts about April 19, warning about the potential for “feverish activity” because “it is the most significant date on the anti-government ‘Patriot’ movement’s calendar,” according to The Washington Post.
Last year, the Anti-Defamation League issued a similar security bulletin for April due to the symbolism of dates in April including Hitler’s birthday and the 2013 bomb blasts at the Boston Marathon.
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Many studies have shown that violent crime spikes in summer, when more people are outdoors, and tends to decline in winter. But experts are divided about why April seems so significant.
Some believe that the beginning of the warm weather may bring more criminals outdoors, while other professionals speculate that killers chose dates in April to pay some type of twisted homage to previous killers. Timothy McVeigh, for example, was a Patriot movement supporter who despised the FBI’s actions in Waco, as did other extremists who revere the 19th. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the Columbine killers, chose Hitler’s birthday, April 20.
Some researchers are skeptical of seasonal trends, and point out that April is certainly not the only month for carnage. After all, many mass shootings, including Sandy Hook and the Washington Navy Yard, have taken place at various times throughout the year.
There has been surprisingly little empirical study on the issue, and experts say that determining patterns from dates is a difficult task. But ironically, it seems that the more killings that happen in April, the more anniversaries future violent criminals will have to chose from.
Two years ago, Alex Hribal, a student at Franklin Regional High School near Pittsburgh, wanted to honor the Columbine killers, and chose to strike on Harris’s birthday — April 9. He stabbed 20 people.
Main photo: Handgun [Wikimedia Commons]