Congressional Research Service Releases Study of Mass Shootings

The Congressional Research Service (CRS) has just released a report on mass shootings, drawing on two large chunks of data. The first is the FBI’s series of supplemental homicide reports from 1999 to 2013, as buttressed by various scholars who have done their best to fill the gaps and fix the errors in the police statistics. The second is a dataset assembled by Grant Duwe, a criminologist at the Minnesota Department of Corrections and the author of Mass Murder in the United States: A History. Duwe—who tells me he thinks the CRS “did a really good job"—looks specifically at public mass shootings, and his data go all the way back to 1970. (We’ll get to the distinction between "mass shootings” and “public mass shootings” in a moment.)

Just as most shootings are not mass shootings, most mass shootings are not public shootings. There have been an average of 4.4 public shootings per year since 1999. The figure for familicides is 8.5 and the other-felony count is 8.3.

If mass public shootings are less common than other mass shootings, why do they inspire so much more fear?

Public shootings tend to attract more press coverage than familicides. (The same day a gunman killed two strangers in a Louisiana movie theater last month, two teens in Oklahoma were arrested for stabbing five family members to death. The Louisiana story got much more attention.) Family murders also tend to spark a different set of emotions. After an apparently random public massacre, the CRS report notes, people frequently think “It could be me.” With familicides, “there appears to be a counterrationalization, ‘It would never happen to me.’”

Is there a larger lesson here?

The report shies away from finding a broad message in the data, but Fox—who praises the study as “very thorough"—sees a moral here. "No matter how you cut it, there’s no epidemic,” he says. “This report should calm the fears that many people have that these numbers are out of control.”

Ik heb een mentale muur die mij tegenhoudt om me naakt te geven. En daardoor verpest ik alle goeds die op mijn weg ligt. Dan blokkeert het systeem en komen er botsingen met eventuele doden. Ik ben de muur. Jij de auto. En ik duw iedereen weg. Ookal wil ik dat niet. En zo kom ik tekort. Ik kan het niet, maar ik doe m'n best om het cement te laten oplossen zodat de stenen makkelijker verwijderbaar zijn. Ik probeer het. Elke dag opnieuw.

“They all deserve to die. Tell you why, Mrs. Lovett, tell you why! Because in all of the whole human race, Mrs. Lovett, there are two kinds of men and only two. There’s the one staying put in his proper place and one with his foot in the other one’s face. Look at me, Mrs Lovett! Look at you! No, we all deserve to die… Even you, Mrs Lovett, even I! Because the lives of the wicked should be made brief. For the rest of us death will be a relief. We all deserve to die… And I’ll never see Johanna, no I’ll never hug my girl to me… FINISHED!”Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street (2007)