Not What You Think

As it turns out just about everything you may have been told about mass homicides in the United States is wrong. This article at The Conversation from researcher Christopher J. Ferguson may cast a little light on the subject. The perpetrators of mass homicides are distributed by race at roughly their proportions in the population and most are not male white supremacists:

Hateful people tend to be attracted to hateful ideologies. Some shootings, such as the 2016 shooting of police officers in Dallas, were reportedly motivated by anti-white hatred. Other shooters, such as the 2015 San Bernardino husband and wife perpetrator team, have espoused other hateful ideas such as radical Islam.

Most mass homicide perpetrators don’t proclaim any allegiance to a particular ideology at all.

Importantly, the prevalence of mass homicides is not increasing in the United States:

To be sure, the U.S. has experienced many mass homicides. Even stability might be depressing given that rates of other violent crimes have declined precipitously in the U.S. over the past 25 years. Why mass homicides have stayed stagnant while other homicides have plummeted in frequency is a question worth asking.

Nonetheless, it does not appear that the U.S. is awash in an epidemic of such crimes, at least comparing to previous decades going back to the 1970s.

Additionally, the United States does not have more mass homicides relative to the size of its population than quite a number of reasonably peaceful countries including Norway, Switzerland, and France.

In my view the causes of mass homicide are multifactorial including the frequent depiction of violence in the society tending to inure people to violence, the reporting of violence inuring people to violence, mental illness, the availability of high-powered firearms, other societal stresses, boredom, and any number of other factors.

The horrific nature of mass homicides makes it a fruitful vehicle for opportunistic political attacks but, as the author of the article notes, let’s not confuse the myths with the reality. Attacking the myths will do little or nothing to curb the reality.

2 comments… add one
  • Grey Shambler Link

    Apparently, the EL Paso shooter’s mother was concerned enough to call police about his gun collection,(and maybe other related items and behaviors) and was simply informed that since he is 21, it’s all legal.

    If he had had a child in his home, things would have been different. He would have gotten a visit by a couple of ladies from child protective services. Whether that intervention would change anything at all is debatable but there is no mechanism in place to simply visit and access individuals who may be troubled, or reported as so. We do need some such mechanism, and it shouldn’t be the SWAT team.

  • steve Link

    “Norway, Switzerland, and France.”

    Going to stick with that ? All you have to do is cherry pick the years you study and use only mean averages, not any other kind norm, and I guess you get the result you want. Also, I think you should take a consistent approach. If you are in one instance claiming that Norway has as many mass homicides/shootings as the US because of one big shooting* (and limiting the study period to 6 or 7 years and making sure you include the year of that shooting), then why would you claim that the number of shootings/homicides is steady when the number of deaths is increasing according to a reference used in this article? I dont see this guy ever giving his definition of mass shooting or did I miss it? That is bothersome in this kind of discussion. Why, for example, do we only include actual deaths?

    There are dozens of articles on this topic all using different definitions and actually, you have to read very carefully, talking about different stuff so that when you start making comparisons you mostly end up comparing different incidents.

    *If you just look at the last 4-5 years, then Norway has no mass shootings. If you look at the last 10-20 years, since they have just the one big shooting then their average is lower than the US. IIRC you have to do the same thing for France.


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