5 Things to Know About Mass Shootings in America

Summary: A new study looks at misconceptions that occur as a result of mass shootings and aims to debunk some of the common myths.

Source: The Conversation.

At least 10 students were killed at a Santa Fe, Texas high school on May 18 after a classmate opened fire with a shotgun and a .38 revolver.

The shooting came just three months after another teen shooter killed 17 in Parkland, Florida, sparking nationwide youth-led protests over gun violence – and a familiar debate over what changes could really make a difference.

As a criminologist, I often hear misconceptions creeping into the debate that springs up whenever a mass shooting occurs.

Here’s what the research actually shows.

#1: More guns don’t make you safer

A study I conducted on mass shootings indicated that this phenomenon is not limited to the United States.

Mass shootings also took place in 25 other wealthy nations between 1983 and 2013, but the number of mass shootings in the United States far surpasses that of any other country included in the study during the same period of time.

The U.S. had 78 mass shootings during that 30-year period.

The highest number of mass shootings experienced outside the United States was in Germany – where seven shootings occurred.

In the other 24 industrialized countries taken together, 41 mass shootings took place.

In other words, the U.S. had nearly double the number of mass shootings than all other 24 countries combined in the same 30-year period.

Another significant finding is that mass shootings and gun ownership rates are highly correlated. The higher the gun ownership rate, the more a country is susceptible to experiencing mass shooting incidents. This association remains high even when the United States is withdrawn from the analysis.

Similar results have been found by the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime, which states that countries with higher levels of firearm ownership also have higher firearm homicide rates.

My study also shows a strong correlation between mass shooting casualties and overall death by firearms rates. However, in this last analysis, the relation seems to be mainly driven by the very high number of deaths by firearms in the United States. The relation disappears when the United States is withdrawn from the analysis.

#2: Mass shootings are more frequent

A recent study published by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center shows that the frequency of mass shooting is increasing over time. The researchers measured the increase by calculating the time between the occurrence of mass shootings. According to the research, the days separating mass shooting occurrence went from on average 200 days during the period of 1983 to 2011 to 64 days since 2011.

What is most alarming with mass shootings is the fact that this increasing trend is moving in the opposite direction of overall intentional homicide rates in the U.S., which decreased by almost 50 percent since 1993 and in Europe where intentional homicides decreased by 40 percent between 2003 and 2013.

#3: Restricting sales works

Thanks to the Second Amendment, the United States has permissive gun licensing laws. This is in contrast to most developed countries, which have restrictive laws.

According to a seminal work by criminologists George Newton and Franklin Zimring, permissive gun licensing laws refer to a system in which everyone except specially prohibited groups of persons can purchase a firearm. In such a system, an individual does not have to justify purchasing a weapon; rather, the licensing authority has the burden of proof to deny gun acquisition.

By contrast, restrictive gun licensing laws refer to a system in which individuals who want to purchase firearms must demonstrate to a licensing authority that they have valid reasons to get a gun – like using it on a shooting range or going hunting – and that they demonstrate “good character .”

The differences between these type of gun laws have important impacts. Countries with more restrictive gun licensing laws show fewer deaths by firearms and a lower gun ownership rate.

#4: Background checks work

In most of the restrictive background checks performed in developed countries like Canada and Australia, citizens are required to train for gun handling, obtain a license for hunting or provide proof of membership to a shooting range.

Individuals must prove that they do not belong to any “prohibited group,” such as the mentally ill, criminals, children or those at high risk of committing violent crime, such as individuals with a police record of threatening the life of another.

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Individuals must prove that they do not belong to any “prohibited group,” such as the mentally ill, criminals, children or those at high risk of committing violent crime, such as individuals with a police record of threatening the life of another. NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Here’s the bottom line. With these provisions, most U.S. active shooters would have been denied the purchase of a firearm.

#5: Most mass shootings are not terrorism

Journalists sometimes describe mass shooting as a form of domestic terrorism. This connection may be misleading.

There is no doubt that mass shootings are “terrifying” and “terrorize” the community where they have happened. However, not all active shooters involved in mass shooting have a political message or cause.

For example, the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina, in June 2015 was a hate crime but was not judged by the federal government to be a terrorist act.

The majority of active shooters are linked to mental health issues, bullying and disgruntled employees. Active shooters may be motivated by a variety of personal or political motivations, usually not aimed at weakening government legitimacy. Frequent motivations are revenge or a quest for power.

About this neuroscience research article

Funding: Frederic Lemieux does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

Source: Frederic Lemieux – The Conversation
Publisher: Organized by NeuroscienceNews.com.
Image Source: NeuroscienceNews.com image is in the public domain.

Cite This NeuroscienceNews.com Article

[cbtabs][cbtab title=”MLA”]The Conversation “5 Things to Know About Mass Shootings in America.” NeuroscienceNews. NeuroscienceNews, 19 May 2018.
<https://neurosciencenews.com/psychology-mass-shootings-9090/>.[/cbtab][cbtab title=”APA”]The Conversation (2018, May 19). 5 Things to Know About Mass Shootings in America. NeuroscienceNews. Retrieved May 19, 2018 from https://neurosciencenews.com/psychology-mass-shootings-9090/[/cbtab][cbtab title=”Chicago”]The Conversation “5 Things to Know About Mass Shootings in America.” https://neurosciencenews.com/psychology-mass-shootings-9090/ (accessed May 19, 2018).[/cbtab][/cbtabs]

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  1. Thinking we need to identify disturbed individuals who are making threats, have a history of violent behaviors, and show antisocial behaviors in general. Our mental health system needs to be funded enough to correctly assess and treat people as appropriate. We have a very poorly funded and inadequate mental health system. Some disturbed individuals need to be followed more closely. Some violent mentally ill people need longterm treatment. Longterm treatment no longer exists for mentally ill. Those who are simply antisocial need to be in prison. If they are just violent because of antisocial personality disorder, get them out of the mental health system. Those folks are not that hard to identify for professional mental health workers. Most mentally ill people are more of a risk of self-harm and suicides. CAN WE LOOK AT HOW MANY YOUNG PEOPLE ARE COMMITTING SUICIDE?

  2. Is this a frontal lobe problem with the one who pulls the trigger? Where is the neuroscience.

  3. Correlation is NOT causation. Very limited in the scope of the study such as per capita statistics as mentioned above. Statisticians know that you can say/prove whatever you want by manipulating the numbers or by just leaving significant numbers out of the equation.

  4. Wow, just wow.

    I come to Neuroscience to get away from politics and here it is… Divisive irrelevant biased article coming from the one place I was accustomed to learning at. Dollars to donuts Frederic Lemieux never voted for a republican and thinks trump is the second coming of Hitler. If neuroscience wants to publish articles like this garbage perhaps they should start disclosing political affiliations too.

    Big shocker, in a nation where guns are common people are killed buy guns more. Here is another shocker, places without guns have higher rates of stabbings. In the stone age no homicides were committed by fire arms but stones… the stones were prolific and so many stone related murders.

    The problem with basis is that it is easy to get lost in what you want to prove vs providing useful (life saving/life extending/life improving) data.

    I hope this is the last article I see from neroscience that deals with a subject that is mainly political.

  5. A very poor article with an obvious biased agenda poorly disguised. The last paragraph states “The majority of active shooters are linked to mental health issues”… seems more appropriate to write about that and offer relevant insights. Btw, last year, more people were killed by hammers than guns, please tell us why. Let’s get the social commentary out of Neuroscience news.

    1. Our only ‘agenda’ is to provide news pertaining to neuroscience, psychology, neurotechnology and medical sciences. We consider articles about violence, including gun violence, relevant as much of the debate centers around the issue of mental health.

      With regards to your comment about hammers killing more people than guns. This is neither accurate nor honest. The FBI Expanded Homicide Data table (2016 being the latest fully available) clearly shows 11,004 were killed by firearms in 2016, where as those killed by blunt objects, including hammers, totaled 472. (here is a link: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/expanded-homicide-data-table-4.xls)

  6. Such articles assume as given, the existence of some nebulous right to safety. The only rights ever mentioned by Locke were those of life, liberty, estate, and the pursuit of happiness; and none of those rights are guarantees. Only possessors of those rights are ultimately responsible for defending them. If they are injured, pointing fingers at others doesn’t relieve them of the responsibility of self-care. Americans and others have been too quick to trade convenience for liberty and accept such rationale as exculpation for more invasions of privacy which will, in turn, allow further erosion of their rights.

  7. Very poor…Schools are gun free zones. We have fewer problems in crowded venues when people can carry concealed. In the latest incident, the shooter had 30 minutes to carry out his slaughter, once he neutralized the on-site responders. I only wish a few civilians had been trained and armed. Also, why focus on mass shootings ? What about the frequency of school murders in general ? Has that rate declined or increased? Neuroscience should focus on the “why” of shootings. Guns have always been ubiquitous in the USA, so if the author thinks the killings are increasing, the only useful article is one that tells us why. It certainly is not increased availability of guns.

  8. 1) The US was the most populous country in the study. No adjustment was made for per capita.
    2) More guns in the hands of other people may not make you safer but a gun in your own possession very well might, especially at home if you keep it securely away from others.
    3) Crime, including drug deals, is still the cause of most homicides. It is well known that certain highly restrictive cities in the US account for most of the gun deaths. Stay out of Chicago and New York City and your risk drops by half.
    4) Most states have background checks. Some are tougher than others but still don’t need to eliminate your 2nd amendment rights and make you safer.
    5) There are few, if any, studies on the actual shooters and how they obtained guns and what motivated them because the media don’t want people to realize that bullying, mental disorders, prescribed and unprescribed drugs, and home life are frequently involved.

    The 2nd amendment isn’t the only one that is problematic for the government. There are also active attacks on the 4th amendment such as purchasing data that would require a warrant from private companies.

  9. This article says countries with less gun ownership have less firearm deaths. But that leaves out murders committed with any other kind of weapon, so it doesn’t really carry any weight. The important statistic would be if countries with less gun ownership have less murders overall.

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