Tuesday, December 18, 2012

Facts and Insight About Random Mass Killings

"Has the rate of random mass shootings in the United States increased? Over the past 30 years, the answer is definitely yes. It is also true that the total U.S. homicide rate has fallen by over half since 1980, and the gun homicide rate has fallen along with it.  Today, Americans are safer from violent crime, including gun homicide, than they have been at any time since the mid-1960s.
"Mass shootings, defined as four or more fatalities, fluctuate from year to year, but over the past 30 years there has been no long-term increase or decrease. But "random" mass shootings, such as the horrific crimes last Friday in Newtown, Conn., have increased.  
"Loren Coleman's 2004 book "The Copycat Effect: How the Media and Popular Culture Trigger the Mayhem in Tomorrow's Headlines" shows that the copycat effect is as old as the media itself. Johann Wolfgang von Goethe's 1774 classic "The Sorrows of Young Werther" triggered a spate of copycat suicides all over Europe. But today the velocity and pervasiveness of the media make the problem much worse."


It is rare to find such a factually dense and relevant article, thank you Mr. Kopel.  
After the above intro, he goes on to explore the "why" questions.  
-Why more R/M killings now than in the 60, given that the first Federal gun law came in 68? -10+ round magazines are not new - but a counter point to that is that they are much more common than they used to be, even just as far back as 1986 when I was a police officer.
-What would account for why the 1980s were far worse for criminal homicides generally, but better for the R/M killings?
-Assault weapons bans started in California in 1989, and Connecticut in 1993. Federal "assault weapons" ban was enacted under Clinton in the 90s. So clearly those bans did not stop R/M killings. "Assault weapons" are better regulated now than in the 60s.  

The author suggests three explanations:
-The copy cat effect
-Fewer mentally ill folks are institutionalized
-We designate areas as "gun free", which means they are "safe zones for killers." The author calls these "pretend gun free zones."  

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