Skip to main content

Verified by Psychology Today

Mass Murder in the Entertainment Capital of the World

Threat assessment of entertainment venues.

The mass murder on October 1, 2017, further verified a disturbing trend in the target selection of such perpetrators: the killing of civilians who are gathered for entertainment. We have witnessed such acts since 2012, first in a theater in Aurora, Colorado, then the stadium in Manchester, England, the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida, the Bataclan nightclub in Paris, and now Las Vegas.

What is the tactical advantage for choosing an entertainment venue? Those gathered are often in a state of reverie: the pleasures of life are paramount, the consumption of alcohol or other drugs is common; situational awareness is often absent, and attention and motivation are focused upon the experience of joy. There is no reason to be on guard, to scan for potential threats, to be concerned about the folks next to you who are also enjoying the evening. Often people are contained, there are limited entrances and therefore exits, especially if tickets have been purchased, and a death trap has been created. Would magnetometers make a difference? Only if the attack is mounted by someone in the audience. Visual clarity is usually limited, since lights are focused on the stage or the screen, especially if the attack is mounted at night; and often the lights are turned on to facilitate escape when the attack begins, but also enhancing the "predatory acuity" (Meloy, 2012) of the attacker. It is also more difficult to locate the source of the threat, especially in the Las Vegas case if it is elevated and across the street. SWAT response is at least 10 to 15 minutes away, more than enough time to massacre dozens of people who are likely unarmed. And if you have converted an easily purchased, high powered assault weapon to fully automatic, lethality risk is multiplied.

The incredibly sad reality of this trend is that joy is eradicated, not just from this event, but from future entertainment venues. Vigilance will increase. Situational awareness will increase. Suspicions will rise. People will ponder the location and number of exits and how close they are to them. Entertainment will be clouded by the nagging question of safety. It can no longer be assumed to exist, and therefore will diminish the experience of joy. We now sleep with one eye open.


Meloy, J.R. (2012). Predatory violence and the psychopath. In H. Hakkanen-Nyholm & R. Nyholm, eds., Psychopathy and Law for Practitioners. New York: Wiley, pp. 159-175. Available at in pdf.