Mass murder shootings are not increasing. Disingenuous media outlets and personalities like Piers Morgan and Mother Jones falsely claim they are. Academic criminologists that study mass murder prove them wrong.At least 13 people are dead and several others were wounded after a gunman opened fire at the Washington Navy Yard in Washington, D.C.. Police have identified the suspect and cleared a possible second one. And while the dead have barely been identified, already the anti-gun talking heads are calling for more gun control. The who’s-who is predictable. Piers Morgan is, once again, claiming that mass shootings are on the rise in the United States. On his twitter feed he cites Mother Jones calling it “incontrovertible proof” that this is so. The Mother Jones page, A Guide to Mass Shootings in America states that the shooting at the Washington Naval Yard is the 5th one in 2013. If accurate (and it’s probably not), then that makes 2013 one of the lowest years for mass shootings since at least 1976 – or 37 years
Regrettably, this false narrative is not new. It’s old and often repeated whenever a sensationalized shooting like the Washington Naval Yard incident occurs. Besides Mother Jones, former President Bill Clinton and others have also falsely claimed mass shootings are increasing.
James Alan Fox, a widely respected criminologist from Northeastern University in Boston who researches mass shootings says that they are not increasing. Dr. Fox’s analysis of the Mother Jones‘ study indicates they left out mass murders which made it seem there was an increase after the Federal assault weapon ban expired (they’ve updated their story since). Some mass murders receive more media attention than others, however the number has been consistently about 20 annually since 1976. Dr Fox states: “What is abundantly clear from the full array of mass shootings, besides the lack of any trend upward or downward, is the largely random variability in the annual counts. There have been several points in time when journalists and others have speculated about a possible epidemic in response to a flurry of high-profile shootings. Yet these speculations have always proven to be incorrect when subsequent years reveal more moderate levels.”
Dr. Fox specifically rebuts Mother Jones findings saying: “So how does the Mother Jones report of a rise in mass shootings stand up when considering the full range of cases? Simply put, not very well.” He uses instead, the academically accepted definition of mass murder set by the FBI, which is defined as: “as a number of murders (four or more) occurring during the same incident, with no distinctive time period between the murders. These events typically involved a single location, where the killer murdered a number of victims in an ongoing incident.
Time Magazine printed a chart of all mass shootings, citing Dr. Fox’s research following the Aurora Colorado, movie theater shooting (see below). The number of mass shootings varies from a low of 7 incidents in 1985, to a high of 30 incidents in 2003 (incidentally, when the federal Assault Weapons Ban was still in effect). The number of dead from these mass murder incidents varies from a low of 29 dead in 1985, coinciding with the lowest shootings – to a high of 135 in 2003, again coinciding with the highest number of shootings. In 2012, it was less than 100.
Mass shootings grab our attention because they are tragic, though in reality more people die every year hitting deer with their cars. Most gun murders are one at a time, with mass shootings representing a fraction of 1% of homicides. Homicides by raw number peaked in 1991 at 24,700. Since then, homicide by raw number, the homicide rate, and gun murders have dropped in half. The homicide rate per 100,000 people today is less than it was even in the year 1900.
So while disingenuous media personalities focus on how horrible these incidents are (while they play dumb with regard to the ratings and advertising revenue these stories generate for themselves), the fact that they are horrible in itself provides nothing in terms of a solution to it. Would making the Washington Naval Yard a “gun free zone” work? Oops! It already is. Perhaps making Washington D.C. gun-free outside of people’s homes? That’s already the case as well. Maybe an assault rifle ban? Oh wait, the worst year for mass shootings happened during the federal Assault Weapons Ban. Perhaps the mantra “no guns” when there is gun violence is as inane as chanting “no cars” would be after a tragic car accident. Academic researchers explain why the “no guns” mantra fails to solve for gun violence – simply put it is because guns are not the cause of violence; socio-cultural & economic factors are. Professors Kates and Mauser explain in the Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy that adopting laws that restrict gun possession from law-abiding citizens is actually counter-productive, because average law-abiding citizens do not murder. The Congressional Research Study released in April reported that because of the rarity of the events, “potential perpetrators cannot be identified accurately, and no systematic means of intervening are known to be effective.” Preventing them from occurring may not be fully possible. Dr. Fox states there are no easy solutions when it comes to mass shootings; they are peak of violence, often meticulously planned by people that plan to die in the event.
By Matt MacBradaigh. Matt is a Christian, Husband, Father, Patriot, and Conservative from the Pacific Northwest. Matt writes about the Second Amendment, Gun Control, Gun Rights, and Gun Policy issues and is published on The Bell Towers, The Brenner Brief, PolicyMic. TavernKeepers, and Vocativ.
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