In the wake of the assassination attempt on Gabrielle Giffords, my wife and I had one of those conversations where one thing leads to another. She was looking up the most recent mugshots of Jared Loughner, 22, who was the individual that has been charged in the attempted assassination. Somehow, she began looking up information on John Wilkes Booth, and then the "ball started rolling," so to speak. We thought of the different individuals that have either attempted or succeeded in assassinating a U.S. President/political leader and one thing jumped out at us. Each man, with the exception of one (Charles Guiteau was 40 when he assassinated James Garfield), was in their 20's when they committed their crime.
-John Wilkes Booth, 26, assassinated Abraham Lincoln in 1865.
-Leon Czolgosz, 28, assassinated William McKinley in 1901.
-Lee Harvey Oswald, 24, assassinated John F. Kennedy in 1963.
-John Hinckley, Jr., 25, attempted to assassinate Ronald Reagan in 1981.
-Gavrilo Princip, about to turn 20, assassinated Archduke Francis Ferdinand in 1914.
I have highlighted the names with their ages to show commonality. Another commonality is the association/influence by radical politics and secret societies.
-John Wilkes Booth was a member of the Knights of the Golden Circle (secret society).
-Leon Czolgosz was a noted anarchist.
-Lee Harvey Oswald was a reader of Karl Marx and was a member of the Young People's Socialist League.
-John Hinckley, Jr. admired L.H.O. and saw him as a role model.
-Gavrilo Princip was a member of the Black Hand Secret Society.
As I was pondering these mens' ages and their worldviews, certain principles came to mind. There is something that I learned in college. "Training is for your 20's." In physical development, the decison-making part of the brain (frontal lobe) does not fully develop until about age 25. The combination of a not fully developed frontal lobe mixed with certain ideas about politics and life can be unwise. I think about how malleable the minds of kids are in school, but I don't really think about how malleable college-age minds are. Kids tend to begin their search for identity and the answer to the question, "Who am I?" in middle school and on into high school. Reaching the college age, individuals now search for the answer to the question, "Why am I?" During this time, a person ends up choosing a particular philosophy or worldview, whether they know it or not. Once this philosophy/worldview has been chosen, it is less likely to change over the course of a lifetime.
Now I must add that I do not believe that every anarchist or member of a secret society will resort to assassinating a high ranking official. However, I do believe that living out extreme beliefs breed extreme actions. Attitude reflects behavior.