THEY SHOOT TO KILL: A Psycho-Survey of Criminal Sniping by Ronald Tobias

THEY SHOOT TO KILL: A Psycho-Survey of Criminal Sniping

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Just what the title says, a book about snipers. Tobias tries hard to be scholarly about a tabloid topic--his research was underwritten in part, unlikely as it seems, by the National Endowment for the Humanities--and he establishes various general categories of snipers and their victims: hit-and-run snipers and barricaded snipers; single-shot assassins and heavy fire ambush specialists; those who choose victims indiscriminately, the ""discriminate-type"" killers (e.g., shoot any policeman), and the ""discriminate-token"" killers (e.g., shoot one well-known victim as a symbol of others). What all snipers share, says Tobias, is an attitude of ""protective distance"" (sometimes literal as well as figurative), a sense of emotional remoteness. Unlike many other murderers, the sniper does not act spontaneously, and his motive can rarely be traced from the victim. Though some of Tobias' classifications may be suspect (was Son of Sam really a sniper?), and much of his psycho-socio-speculation borders on the inane (a potential sniper may sometimes display ""a sudden, dramatic interest in guns"") or is old, old hat (""for some individuals, firing a gun effects the releasing of explosive aggression. It acts as a literal metaphor""), he does crank up steam in several long chapters devoted to particular snipers. His studies of three barricaded snipers-Charles Whitman in the Texas Tower, Ira Attebury in his house trailer, Mark Essex in a New Orleans hotel--have a morbid fascination, though the bizarre award must go to Howard Unruh, who awoke one morning in 1949, put on his suit and bow tie, picked up his gun and wandered around his Camden neighborhood, killing 13 people, most of whom he thought had been ""making remarks"" about him. ""I'm no psycho,"" said Unruh, ""I have a good mind."" But aside from these few profiles, tedious.

Pub Date: Aug. 1st, 1981
Publisher: Paladin Press