General Question

ninjacolin's avatar

Are mass shooting incidents trending in America right now?

Asked by ninjacolin (14204points) December 15th, 2012

Wondering what the stats show. Seems like it happens pretty frequently and I’m curious if it can be shown that there is a growing trend of such incidents?

Spree killer incidents
Rampage killer incidents

Any other research we could pour over?

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38 Answers

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

I’d have to do some research to get you accurate info. It does seem to be increasing lately.

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

One word: guns.

Emotional instability has been around forever. Teenage angst is nothing new. Disenchantment, disillusionment, despair, devestation, despondency…they’re all part of the human condition. What’s new in the equation? Weapons.

Has anyone ever gone on a knifing rampage? Has anyone ever been the tragic victim of a drive-by strangling?

Blackberry's avatar

No. This is nothing new and there’s no mass breakdown of America or society coming.

ninjacolin's avatar

“Murder a bunch of innocents then kill yourself”

as a recipe, I feel pretty certain there’s a pattern to its occurrence within the past, say, 20 years. But I’m looking for some stats to back it up or disprove it. I’m wondering if more and more people are resorting to this kind of fatal expression.

bkcunningham's avatar

To answer your question in one word. No.
Violent crime trends in the US are down and in 2011 were at the lowest since 1969. Take a look at this and tell me where the US ranks.

tedibear's avatar

@PaulSadieMartin – Yes, someone has gone on a knifing rampage just recently. This one happened in Florida in June. And this was in 2011 in New York City. This was in March in Columbus.

There are many reasons these things happen and easy access to guns isn’t the only one. That doesn’t mean it isn’t a reason, just not he only reason.

_Whitetigress's avatar

Two Words, Morgan Freeman.

Morgan Freeman’s brilliant take on what happened yesterday :

“You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single victim of Columbine? Disturbed
people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.”


Qingu's avatar

Hard to say. I don’t see much of the trend in “rampage killers” but school massacres do seem to be increasing in frequency and in the number of people killed.

I’m not sure the media is what’s at play. We’ve always had a media fascinated by mass murderers. Maybe you can argue that the form of media matters; with 24-hour news and the Internet there’s much more intimacy. So Freeman might have a point.

There’s also simply more people. If we assume that some tiny fraction of the population is prone to such massacres, more people means more massacres.

As far as the high death toll of recent massacres, there seems to be a very obvious reason: it’s never been easier to purchase an assault weapon and ammo. People would still go on mass killing sprees without semiautomatic rifles, but they wouldn’t be able to kill as many people.

Nullo's avatar

@Qingu I don’t suppose you’d care to define an assault weapon?

rooeytoo's avatar

This is a simplistic explanation but I think it has relevance and merit. People grow up with the video games, shooting everyone and everything in sight, the more you kill the higher your score. But it is an abstract theory, has no bearing on RL, until…......someone actually does it in RL, then it suddenly is a possible course of action. Consequently the more often it happens, the more it is going to happen.

I know someone is going to say there are statistics that “prove” violent video games, movies, etc. have no influence on behavior, but I still wonder???? Statistics can be manipulated to prove just about anything you want them to prove. And who pays to have the statistics compiled has a lot to do with the outcome of the data.

Nullo's avatar

@rooeytoo Careful, you’re starting to sound like Jack Thompson…

rooeytoo's avatar

@Nullo – I just googled him and he’s an aussie actor, is that who you mean! And the only thing we have in common is posing naked for Cleo magazine. NO NO NO I am just kidding. Why do you say that???

Have you ever noticed the same thing appears to be true of suicides. When someone famous or someone you know commits suicide it stops being an abstract theory and becomes a viable possibility. I know a family of 6 where 3 kids did it one after another. And they appeared to be a happy, sane family. And when a rock star does himself in, there are always copy cats.

Just my theory.

jrpowell's avatar


NBC did a interview with Rodger Ebert after Columbine. Here is the interesting bit.

Let me tell you a story. The day after Columbine, I was interviewed for the Tom Brokaw news program. The reporter had been assigned a theory and was seeking sound bites to support it. “Wouldn’t you say,” she asked, “that killings like this are influenced by violent movies?” No, I said, I wouldn’t say that. “But what about ‘Basketball Diaries’?” she asked. “Doesn’t that have a scene of a boy walking into a school with a machine gun?” The obscure 1995 Leonardo Di Caprio movie did indeed have a brief fantasy scene of that nature, I said, but the movie failed at the box office (it grossed only $2.5 million), and it’s unlikely the Columbine killers saw it.

The reporter looked disappointed, so I offered her my theory. “Events like this,” I said, “if they are influenced by anything, are influenced by news programs like your own. When an unbalanced kid walks into a school and starts shooting, it becomes a major media event. Cable news drops ordinary programming and goes around the clock with it. The story is assigned a logo and a theme song; these two kids were packaged as the Trench Coat Mafia. The message is clear to other disturbed kids around the country: If I shoot up my school, I can be famous. The TV will talk about nothing else but me. Experts will try to figure out what I was thinking. The kids and teachers at school will see they shouldn’t have messed with me. I’ll go out in a blaze of glory.”

In short, I said, events like Columbine are influenced far less by violent movies than by CNN, the NBC Nightly News and all the other news media, who glorify the killers in the guise of “explaining” them. I commended the policy at the Sun-Times, where our editor said the paper would no longer feature school killings on Page 1. The reporter thanked me and turned off the camera. Of course the interview was never used. They found plenty of talking heads to condemn violent movies, and everybody was happy.

rooeytoo's avatar

Well thank you @johnpowell he sounds like Morgan Freeman and I partially agree, the media coverage does probably play a part. They (like Julian Assange) get their 15 minutes of fame. I truly do not think though that such a complex act can be explained away as easily as simply blaming the media or video games and movies. But I do think they all play a part in desensitizing us. This mass murder seems to be evoking more passion than the theater shooting of not too long ago, that is probably because there are younger children involved.

There are two other points to take note of, gamers and game developers of course are going to poo poo any impact gaming may have. It is obviously in their best interest to do so. And with regard to blaming the media, let’s face it, if people didn’t watch the coverage, they would not put it on. There is a morbid fascination about these mass murders, it is similar to slowing down and looking at accident scenes, etc. I admit to watching it for a while when I woke up.

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bkcunningham's avatar

The Seven Myths of Mass Murder By J. Reid Meloy, Ph.D.

J. Reid Meloy, Ph.D. is Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at the University of California, San Diego, and President of Forensis, Inc., a nonprofit dedicated to forensic psychiatric and psychological research.

Myth 3: Incidents of mass murders are increasing

When a mass murder occurs, it receives instant and pervasive news coverage. Unfortunately, we are prone to overestimate the frequency of an event by its prominence in our minds, and mass murder is no exception. This is a very rare phenomenon and is neither increasing nor decreasing in the US. Since 1976 there have been about 20 mass murders a year. 2003 was the most violent year for mass murder, with 30 incidents and 135 victims. Virginia Tech, Fort Hood, Edmund Oklahoma, and San Ysidro still resonate in the public consciousness, however, reminding us that these events do happen. A positive counterpoint is that rates of all violent crime have significantly decreased over this same time period, from 48 victims per 1000 persons in 1976 to 15 victims in 2010. The most lethal school mass murder in US history was in Bath, Michigan, in 1927, a bombing that resulted in 45 deaths, mostly children in the second to sixth grades.

dabbler's avatar

Yes, trending up. Due to a few things already mentioned.
Guns, but particularly the semi-automatic high-capacity type that let somebody put three to eleven bullets into each of their victims.
Media coverage. People who’ve gone over an edge and need attention see how much attention the mass killers get. The more dramatic and shocking the shooter can make his “event” the more attention he will get.

Yes, there are knife rampages. But a lot more people are injured instead of killed when someone is slashing about.
If you’re spraying bullets,and aiming even a little, it gets worse than a knife rampage quickly.

bkcunningham's avatar

Second deadliest school shooting-, @_Whitetigress but they failed to mention the most children ever murdered at a school was in 1927 in the Bath Townhship, Michigan. The school was blown up with dynamite and 37 children died. In total, 44 people died in this murderous spree by a school board treasurer. He didn’t use a gun.

janbb's avatar

I understand the point of the question but I hate the juxtaposition of the words “mass murders” and “trending.”

SadieMartinPaul's avatar

@tedibear As anti-gun as I am, I have to agree that guns are just part of the problem…certainly a big part, but not the entire reason. There are plenty of guns in Canada, yet very little gun violence.

ninjacolin's avatar

@janbb it’s a horrible thought but something we would want to be on top of, I figured.

@bkcunningham thanks for that link. Unfortunately, the writer didn’t go into very much detail and I still haven’t found an article that talks about these kinds of events alone and doesn’t include general gun violence in their statistics.

I just found this article below, but again they kind of mix it up by mentioning other forms of gun violenece:

A Timeline Of Mass Shootings In The US Since Columbine:
On Friday morning, 27 people were reportedly shot and killed at Sandy Hook elementary school in Newtown, CT. According to sources, 18 of these casualties were children. This is the second mass shooting in the US this week, after a gunman opened fire in an Oregon shopping mall on Tuesday, killing 2. ABC News reports that there have been 31 school shootings in the US since Columbine in 1999, when 13 people were killed. The rate of people killed by guns in the US is 19.5 times higher than similar high-income countries in the world. In the last 30 years since 1982, America has mourned at least 61 mass murders.

bkcunningham's avatar

If I may ask without you thinking I’m trying to argue with you, @ninjacolin, which I’m not, why are you interested in only gun deaths involved in mass murders?

ninjacolin's avatar

Well, according to your link, I fit the category as someone who has a suspicion that this phenomenon is “on the rise.”

Good stats can prove my hunch wrong or right. That’s all.

I was telling some other friends about the 1 weekend I spent in the US this year being the batman premier, and of course I went to see it too. And sure enough, there was a shooting. So, it kinda makes me think the US is suffering a mimetic epidemic of this sort of expression.

But now I’ve re-read your link and I think that settles the matter about increase: “this is a very rare phenomenon and is neither increasing nor decreasing in the US. Since 1976 there have been about 20 mass murders a year. ”

So, that answers that. Thanks again @bkcunningham. Clearly though, the US seems to have all the right ingredients to maintain that high number. I wonder what could be done to bring those numbers down.

LostInParadise's avatar

The number of mass murders per year increased dramatically after 1980. This is in contrast to the homicide rate in the U.S., which has been declining, though it is still high compared to other industrial nations. When I was growing up, mass murders were quite rare. For those of my generation, the Son of Sam murders stand out as an unusual incident.

bkcunningham's avatar

“The Post now confirms that one of the liberal talking points — mass murders are up! — isn’t true. The report tells us:

“The statistics on mass murder suggest it is a phenomenon that does not track with other types of violent crime, such as street violence. It does not seem to be affected by the economy or by law enforcement strategies. The mass murderer has become almost a stock figure in American culture, someone bent on overkill — and, so often, seemingly coming out of nowhere.
The United States experienced 645 mass-murder events — killings with at least four victims — between 1976 and 2010, according to Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. When graphed, these incidents show no obvious trend. The numbers go up and down and up again. The total body count: 2,949.

dabbler's avatar

News Flash! The Post pegs as “liberal talking point” a topic that all the hysterical media are kicking around.

bkcunningham's avatar

Just trying to bring some additional calm, independent, reasonable thinking into the discussion, @dabbler.

dabbler's avatar

@bk That was actually very interesting info, thanks. In general it does illuminate how hysterical all the media have become. If the media were to be trusted (HaHaHaHaHa, ... I kid.) you’d think the person next to you will be going into a homicidal rage any minute now.
[ Or maybe, ... yourself !!! Film at eleven. ]

ninjacolin's avatar

Hey, 20 per year is nothing to ignore. That makes you 4 short of two random shootings per month.

bkcunningham's avatar

It is one of those mornings when I just reread your post for the umpteenth time, @dabbler, and the words you wrote came across as you intended. I’m sorry. Geez, it is going to be one of those days. Look out. LOL PS and your post was hilarious.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

Check out meta guys, dabbler is in 10K country.

bkcunningham's avatar

Thanks for the heads up, @Adirondackwannabe. Congratulations, @dabbler. Nicely done.

Qingu's avatar

@bkcunningham, how do you feel about the US government’s attempt to crack down on acts of terrorism?

9/11 killed a lot of people, but acts of terrorism like that are incredibly rare. Way more people die from car accidents. Way more people die from firearms, and drowning.

Is this an argument, to you, to do nothing about the problem of terrorism?

Qingu's avatar

@bkcunningham, you also cited a blog post in the WP, from arch-conservative Jennifer Rubin. Rubin cites another WP story as evidence that there is no trend for mass murder. But here’s the lead of that story:

“The United States is a less violent country than it was two decades ago. The homicide rate, which hit a peak in the early 1990s at about 10 per 100,000 people, has been cut in half, to a level not seen since the early 1960s.

But there has been no corresponding decline in mass murder — these sudden, stunning eruptions of violence with multiple victims, often perpetrated by gunmen whom researchers refer to as “pseudo-commandos.” Such a killer, clad in body armor and with a small arsenal of firearms, struck Friday in Aurora, Colo., leaving a dozen dead, 58 wounded and a nation horrified.”

And I’m not sure the WP is even correct in the first place, as others have pointed out. Mass murders seem to be on the rise since the 1980’s (from @LostInParadise‘s source):

“It (the NYT) found during the 20th century there were about one to two mass murders per decade until 1980. Then for no apparent reason they spiked, with nine during the 1980s and 11 in the 1990s. Since the year 2000 there have been at least 26, including the massacre in Aurora, Colorado.”

Seems like a pretty huge increase to me.

Also, I’m noticing that all of these conservative commentators think that the problem isn’t lax gun laws, it’s mental health. Rubin, who you cited, is one example. Assuming that you agree with her, I’m curious as to what exactly you think should be done with our mental health system. Do you think we should increase federal funding for state mental health facilities? What mental health policies do you think, specifically, could have prevented people like Holmes and Lanza from mass murders?

Because it seems to me that this is just hand-waiving to avoid facing the real issue of how in the fuck these people were able to get semiautomatic rifles with high capacity clips.

LostInParadise's avatar

This offers an interesting explanation for what is going on. I like that term “aggrieved entitlement”. Here is the article that is referred to. Maybe we should start profiling young white males from conservative rutal towns.

ninjacolin's avatar

“Seems like a pretty huge increase to me.”

yea, from 9 to 11 then up to 26. Definitely an upwards curve for the past 3 decades.
But I’m having trouble understanding how they came to only 26 when other articles state there are 20 per year.

dabbler's avatar

“one to two mass murders per decade until 1980. Then for no apparent reason they spiked,”
Actually the reason is apparent: desperation.
With the substantial cuts to public mental health support in the U.S. during the Reagan era there were suddenly far more lunatics, in marginally functional lives, amongst us.
People who used to be institutionalized or were regular psychiatric outpatients were cost cut out of their stable situations.
Cuts to all forms of public support for the most desperate lets some of them slip over an edge of reason and good judgement.
Folks who feel they have nothing to lose and who aren’t able to avoid following their most desperate visions will consider whatever means they think might work to communicate their pain.

Brian1946's avatar


With the substantial cuts to public mental health support in the U.S. during the Reagan era there were suddenly far more lunatics, in marginally functional lives, amongst us.
People who used to be institutionalized or were regular psychiatric outpatients were cost cut out of their stable situations.
Cuts to all forms of public support for the most desperate lets some of them slip over an edge of reason and good judgement.

I wouldn’t be surprised if a substantial portion of the religious right supports those cuts and opposes denying the sanity-challenged their 2nd Amendment “rights”.

It’s ironic how the perfect-storm confluence of those two disasters would seem- to use their jargon- Satanic in its intent.

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