I told you yesterday that the remedies suggested in response to the Newtown, CT, shooting would be all about the politics.
Demands for bans on assault weapons in a shooting that did not involve an assault weapon [see update], or for greater gun control laws in response to a shooting in a state with gun control laws which were complied with, are based on emotion, not analysis.
The perception that mass shootings are on the rise such that “something must be done,” appears to be emotion not supported by facts, No rise in mass killings, but their impact is huge:
And yet those who study mass shootings say they are not becoming more common.
“There is no pattern, there is no increase,” says criminologist James Allen Fox of Boston’s Northeastern University, who has been studying the subject since the 1980s, spurred by a rash of mass shootings in post offices.
The random mass shootings that get the most media attention are the rarest, Fox says. Most people who die of bullet wounds knew the identity of their killer.
Society moves on, he says, because of our ability to distance ourselves from the horror of the day, and because people believe that these tragedies are “one of the unfortunate prices we pay for our freedoms.”
Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who has written a history of mass murders in America, said that while mass shootings rose between the 1960s and the 1990s, they actually dropped in the 2000s. And mass killings actually reached their peak in 1929, according to his data. He estimates that there were 32 in the 1980s, 42 in the 1990s and 26 in the first decade of the century.
Chances of being killed in a mass shooting, he says, are probably no greater than being struck by lightning.
Still, he understands the public perception — and extensive media coverage — when mass shootings occur in places like malls and schools. “There is this feeling that could have been me. It makes it so much more frightening.”
The politicians, pundits and bloggers who seek to take advantage of this shooting do those dead children no justice.
Update: The medical examiner stated Saturday that the rifle was used in the shooting, contrary to all earlier reports that the rifle was in the car and the shooting was with handguns.