I’m no psychic, but like everyone else I have a preferred theory about why Kyle Huff killed.
If you don’t like it, well, there’s a ton of other theories to choose from down in the forums (try here and here and here). And in the comments of this post, there’s a theory about why journalists have theories.
But anyway, the theory I’ve found most persuasive, at this point, is the one that Charles Mudede, among others, has been talking about since shortly after the shootings. This theory imagines Huff as some sort of delayed and inverted high school shooter.
Delayed, because while he was teased and marginalized in high school just like a number of this country’s most famous high school shooters, he didn’t act on his feelings of humiliation and rage until age 28. And inverted, because while most high school shooters kill people who represent bullies, or kill the school authorities who turn a blind eye to bullying, Kyle Huff killed people who were at the social fringe, people who would have been teased at Whitefish High School in Montana just like he was. Instead of acting out a revenge fantasy, in which he killed people like those who tormented him, perhaps Kyle Huff killed out of envy, shooting people at the social fringe who’d found acceptance in a way he never could. (And still couldn’t, given that he was now too old to really enter their scene.)
Why do I find this theory most persuasive? Absent a toxicology report—which, when it comes, could show Huff was under the influence of something other than his sad past—it’s just the theory that feels most correct to me after talking to a number of people who knew Huff when he was young.
I talked to those people for this profile, in which I look at Huff’s life leading up to the shootings. But when I look at my own life, there’s probably another reason I find this theory persuasive. When I was younger there was a shooting in my high school, Seattle’s Garfield High School, and two years ago I tracked down the shooter and wrote about him, here, for The Stranger.
For that story, I also tracked down a young woman who was shot in the knee that day at Garfield. Rachel Thompson went on to become a gun-control activist, lobbying Congress and even Bill Clinton when he was president. In the process, she learned a lot about what makes a troubled kid pick up a gun, and told me:
Now that I’m older and I’ve become more educated about it, it’s bullying, honestly… I heard that [the Garfield shooter] was picked on his whole life and he just snapped. Kids being able to bully and get away with it, in combination with the access to guns, is an extremely deadly mixture. A picked-on kid is going to snap one day, and if he has a gun in his hand he’s going to kill people. That’s a pattern in all the shootings.
By all accounts, Kyle Huff snapped on Saturday morning. Perhaps it just took him longer than most to reach his breaking point.