Saturday, August 11, 2012

Mass murder not increasing in spite of summer of massacres

Professor James Alan Fox wrote in the Boston Globe that the summer of 2012 has seemed especially horrific in terms of gun violence. First, five people shot dead in a Seattle cafe, then the massacre of 12 moviegoers in Colorado and six innocent people shot to dead at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin.

Many Americans are alarmed at the "rise" in mass murder and many are scrambling to find an answer. However, Fox points out "There is one not-so-tiny flaw in all of these theories for the increase in mass shootings. And that is that mass shootings have not increased in number or in overall body count, at least not over the past several decades."

Fox continued:

Based on data extracted from official police reports to the FBI, the figure below shows annual incident, offender and victim tallies for gun homicides in which at least four people were murdered. Over the thirty-year time frame, an average of about 20 mass murders have occurred annually in the United States with an average death toll of about 100 per year.

Without minimizing the pain and suffering of the hundreds of who have been victimized in seneless attacks, the facts say clearly that there has been no increase in mass killings, and certainly no epidemic. Occasionally, we have witnessed short-term spikes with several shootings clustering close together in time.

In the 1980s, we had a flurry of postal shootings, and the 1990s included a half dozen schoolyard massacres. Other than the copycatting reflected in these cases, the clustering of mass murders is nothing more than random timing and sheer coincidence.

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