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Effect of Gun Culture and Firearm Laws on Gun Violence and Mass Shootings in the United States: A Multi-Level Quantitative Analysis

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Lemieux – Effect of Gun Culture and Firearm Laws on Gun Violence and Mass Shootings in the United States
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Copyright © 2014 International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences (IJCJS) – Official Journal of the South Asian
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Effect of Gun Culture and Firearm Laws on
Gun Violence and Mass Shootings in the
United States: A Multi-Level Quantitative
Analysis
Frederic Lemieux1
The George Washington University, United States of America
Abstract
This paper examines the merit of two propositions at the center of the debate on gun control in the
aftermath of mass shootings in the United States: (1) gun violence and mass shootings are a cultural
artifact (gun enthusiast perspective); (2) gun violence and mass shootings are more prevalent due to
lax regulations (pro-gun control perspective). To evaluate the value of each proposition, the study
provides three levels of cross-sectional analysis that test the relation between gun culture and gun laws
on deaths by guns and mass shootings (international and national incidents). The quantitative
analyses points out that both cultural and legislative proposition have significant impacts on deaths by
guns. While the cultural explanation seems to be related to an increase in deaths by gun, the
legislative perspective is associated with a decrease in deaths by gun and mass shootings. The
conclusion provides implications for future policy on gun control.
________________________________________________________________________
Keywords: Mass Shooting, Gun Violence, Gun Control, Gun Culture.
Introduction
Government officials and public opinion have been seriously challenged over the past
decades regarding the occurrence and frequency of public mass shootings in the United
States. A report published by the Congressional Research Service (Bjelopera et al., 2013)
estimates that at least 78 public mass shootings transpired between 1983 and 2012.
Together, these violent incidents have resulted in more than 540 casualties and injured
approximately 480 persons. However, these mass shootings are not equally distributed
over time and there is indication that in fact, the frequency of this type of incident has
accelerated in the past five years and broadly shows a sharp positive trend per decade since
the early 20th century. Despite the gruesome and overwhelming consequences, mass
shootings are now becoming the subject of a major debate on a new national law to
address the problem.
1Professor and Director of Police Science and Security & Safety Leadership Programs, College of
Professional Studies, The George Washington University, 805 21st Street, NW Suite 301,
Washington, DC 20052, USA. Email: flemieux@gwu.edu
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Federal agencies, local law enforcement, police officer associations, public safety
groups, medical associations, disaster response and public health preparedness groups, as
well as academics are invested in looking at public mass shootings to better understand
how to effectively prevent these violent tragedies. In December 2012, after the mass
shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the debate on
gun control reached a peak with the creation of a presidential task force charged with
recommending solutions to the problem of public mass shootings and, more broadly, to
gun violence. During these discussions, two main positions were opposing each other.
First, the status quo is argued for the protection of the Second Amendment and the
assertion that gun violence in America is mainly a problem of violent culture with calling
for more situational solutions (e.g., armed guards in public places, school, etc.). The other
side of debate calls for more enforcement and greater restriction for gun accessibility
(background checks) and the restriction of certain types of military style weapons and large
ammunition capacity (Faria, 2013).
These two opposing positions on gun control certainly have theoretical foundations,
and the purpose of this paper is to scrutinize each side’s merits through a multi-level
approach. In the next sections, the nature of mass shootings will be addressed along with
the literature related to gun control, gun violence, and gun culture. The methodology
section explains how information related to this research was collected, structured, and
analyzed. The analysis section examines the relationship between gun control laws, gun
culture, and gun violence in general as well as with mass shooting in particular. This
analytical design is based on a multi-level, cross-sectional analysis, which includes the
macro level (cross-national comparison), the meso level (cross-state comparison), and the
micro level (case comparison). The paper also discusses the implications for future policies.
Review of Literature
Understanding Public Mass Shootings
First, it is crucial to identify and define mass shootings and mass shooters. According to
the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), an active shooter is defined as “an
individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and
populated area.” In its definition, DHS notes that “in most cases, active shooters use
firearms(s) and there is no pattern or method to their selection of victims.”2 The Federal
Bureau of Investigation (FBI) provides a more operational categorization where public
mass shootings happen when four or more people are killed by one or more murderer(s)
in a particular location with no cooling-off period between the murders. The FBI
distinguishes public mass killing from spree killing in which one murderer (or more) kills
several persons in different geographical areas with no cooling-off period. The spree killing
and mass shootings differ from the serial murder because of a lack of cooling-off period
and because of the fact that serial killers rarely kill more than one person at a time. Other
than providing a classification related to the application of the law, these definitions are
not specific enough to conceptualize mass shooting incidents.
According to Bjelopera et al., (2013), the selection of mass shooting targets can be
random, loosely related to the shooter, and/or can involve the killing of a relative (spouse
and/or family members). Despite the increasing number and intensity of these crimes over
2“Active Shooter - How to Respond.” Department of Homeland Security. October 2008.
http://www.dhs.gov/xlibrary/assets/active_shooter_booklet.pdf
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the past decades, mass shootings remain too sporadic and hard to detect or predict (no
hotspot concentration) since most mass shootings are perpetrated by one offender who is
often socially isolated. Moreover, the violence cannot be considered as a means-to-an-end
type of killing as with organized crime violence (for profit) or political violence (for
ideology). In fact, many active shooters seem to act on personal motives associated with
revenge or with serious psychological delusions. On that latter point, a recent survey
conducted by a gun control advocacy group shows that “there was no evidence that any
of the shooters were prohibited from possessing guns under Federal law due to having
been adjudicated as mentally ill or involuntarily committed for treatment” (Mayors against
Illegal Guns, 2013). However, several cases of mass shootings have shown evidence that
shooters had existing records of mental illness and were known to utilize psychiatric
services. This observation raises the debate in gun control legislation about who should be
granted access to firearms.
Gun Control Regulations and their Impact on Gun Violence
At the heart of the gun control debate, in the aftermath of the tragedy of Sandy Hook
Elementary School, is the potential impact of regulations to curb gun violence and to
ultimately prevent public mass shootings. Regulating guns in the United States is a very
contentious topic mainly due to the issues of historical and political contexts. The United
States is one of only two countries in the world - with Mexico - to guarantee the “right
to bear arms” in its constitution. Other countries granting that right in the past have
amended their constitutions to make gun ownership a privilege (not a right), which
requires permission from a licensing authority (the State), as with a driver’s license, for the
sake of better public safety and security (Elkins, 2012).
On the political side, the United States lawmakers have always approached gun control
cautiously due to the profound difference of opinion among the voters on this topic.
Moreover, politicians are facing a strong firearms lobby through gun enthusiast
associations that fund and endorse political candidates. For example, the National Rifle
Association (NRA), which boasts millions of members, uses a scorecard system to rate
politicians’ positions on gun control. To illustrate the power of this system, in 1996, the
members of congress who opposed gun control sponsored a bill that succeeded in limiting
federal government research on the health implications of firearms by restricting the
funding for National Center for Injury Prevention and Control at the Centers for Disease
Control and Prevention (CDC) (Kellermann & Rivara, 2013). More precisely, the
appropriation bill dictates that “none of the funds made available for injury prevention and
control at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention may be used to advocate or
promote gun control.”3 However, in 1994, despite this strong opposition for gun control
regulations from the arms industry and related advocacy groups, the U.S. Congress was
able to pass a bill that restricted public access to hundreds of military-type weapons and
that limited the ammunition capacity of gun magazines. But this bill, the Federal Assault
Weapons Ban, expired in 2004.
In contrast, a 2011 Canadian study on the impact of gun control laws on homicides
shows that the enactment of gun regulations was followed by a significant drop in the
number of homicides committed with a firearm, a decrease of 5% to 10%, depending on
3Omnibus Consolidated Appropriations Bill. HR 3610, Pub L No. 104-
208. http://www.gpo.gov/fdsys/pkg/PLAW-104publ208/pdf/PLAW-104publ208.pdf. September 1996. Accessed
December 19, 2012.
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the province. This reduction was most noticeable in the case of homicides committed
with a shotgun or a hunting rifle. These results suggest that the law’s effectiveness is more
due to the reduced access and availability of firearms rather than the deterrence measures
through severity of criminal sentences that were also included in the legislation (Blais,
Gagne & Linteau, 2011).
On this issue of gun accessibility, a study conducted in the United States examined the
impact of firearm regulations on male suicide rates and showed that (a) gun control laws
which aim at reducing overall gun availability have a significant deterrent effect on male
suicide and that (b) laws that seek to prohibit high risk individuals from owning firearms
have a lesser deterrent effect (Rodríguez-Andrés & Hempstead, 2011). Moreover, Kleck
(2009) suggests that specific gun control laws emerging in the wake of high profile media
events may lack the expected impact and can also defeat the purpose of existing ordinary
laws that address gun violence in general.
Also, two US studies show that the legal purchase of handguns increases the risk of
violent deaths. More precisely for both suicides and homicides, the elevated relative risks
persisted for more than 5 years after the purchase (Cummings and al. 1997). The second
study shows that individuals in possession of a gun were 4.46 (p<0.05) times more likely
to be shot in an assault than those not in possession of a gun. On average, guns did not
protect those who possessed them from being shot in an assault (Branas et al., 2009).
Finally, a study on homicide and geographical access to gun dealers in the United States
shows that the prevalence of federal firearms licensee stores is strongly correlated with
homicide rates in major cities but not so much at the county or town levels (Wiebe et al.,
2009).
In Port Arthur, Australia, a mass shooting that killed 35 persons and injured 37 in 1996
led to the adoption of major gun control laws. A series of studies were conducted after the
enactment of the new laws where statistics on homicides and suicides show that the rate of
firearm homicides decreased by 7.5%. Also, firearm-related suicides of Australian men
declined 59% between 1997 and 2005, while the rate of all other suicides declined by
24.5%, suggesting no substitution effect (Chapman et al., 2006; Chapman & Hayen,
2008). Further, some of the more practical gun buybacks shows a positive impact on gun
violence. For example the study conducted by Leigh and Neill (2010) found that the
buybacks contributed to a decline in the firearm suicide rates by almost 80% with no
significant effect on non- firearm death rates. The effect on firearm homicides followed a
similar correlation. Also, Chapman et al. (2006) pointed out 18 years before the gun law
reforms that there were 13 mass shootings but that none occurred in the next 10.5 years
following the enactment of the 1996 gun control law.
However, this last result is challenged by McPhedran and Baker (2011), who argues
that factors other than the gun control laws must be taken into account to explain a drop
in mass shooting since there was also a drop that occurred during the same period in New
Zealand where no drastic gun control law was enacted. For example, several authors
suggested that the occurrence of violent incidents involving the use of firearms could also
be influenced by economic cycles and employment levels that may have contributed to
variations in levels of violent crime, including mass shootings (Bellair & Roscigno, 2000;
Krivo & Peterson, 2004; Lee & Slack, 2008; Narayan & Smyth, 2004). Also, differences in
gun violence rates between countries and/or regions can be explained by cultural
characteristics.
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Cultural Characteristics and Gun Violence
In the wake of the recent public mass shootings, the following questions have been
raised: Is there an American “gun culture?” Is there a relationship between gun culture
and gun violence? Pro-gun groups have argued that mass shootings are due to a violent
culture but not due to the ownership of firearms; these groups have advocated for armed
guards in public spaces, armed teachers in schools, and an armed general population to
deter or to prevent shooting rampages in public places. This critical argument in the gun
control debate takes root in the historical and cultural relationship between the American
people and firearms. This common explanation for gun violence in United Sates refers to
the violent history of the country, including defining violent periods such as the American
Revolution, the Civil War, and the “Wild West” when most of the domestic conflict was
resolved through the use of weapons. The guaranteed right to bear arms and to be armed
for self-defense as a legal justification to use lethal power, authorizes an individual to kill a
person if a perceived unlawful life threatening attack is imminent. Most recently, “stand-
your-ground” laws expanded the scope of this self-defense concept to include perceived
threatening situations occurring in public places rather than limiting these situations to
defense of home or personal property only (Castle doctrine).
This expansion of the Castle Doctrine into public spaces (Stand-your-Ground) abrogates
another legal common law principle known as duty to retreat,which aims at preventing
the escalation of violence (Catalfamo, 2006; Weaver, 2008). Currently, about 26 states
have adopted Stand your Ground Laws with the vast majority of these states situated in the
Southern and Midwest sub regions of United States.4 These states are also known for their
permissive laws on firearms licensing and purchasing (LACV2012). Thus it is deeply
rooted in American culture to have easy access to firearms, permissive regulations
regarding the carrying of concealed weapons, and the enactment of laws that authorize
citizens to use a gun in public spaces to defend themselves against an imminent deadly
threat.
In a study conducted by Altheimer and Boswell (2012), the authors wanted to examine
the merits of two research questions: (a) is there an association between gun availability,
gun homicide, and homicide at a cross-national level? And (b) is the relation between gun
availability and violence shaped by socio-historical and cultural context? According to the
authors’ results, there is no indication that gun availability operates uniformly or
proportionately across nations to influence levels of violence. However, the main finding
indicates that, across nations, the association between gun violence and gun availability can
be explained by historical and cultural processes.
Another cross-national study conducted by Kopel et al. (2008) scrutinized the
relationship between gun density” and several measures of freedom and prosperity by
using data from the Freedom House ratings of political rights and civil liberties, the
Transparency International Perceived Corruption Index, the World Bank Purchasing
Power Parity ratings, and the Heritage Foundation Index of Economic Freedom. The
results suggest that nations with the highest levels of gun ownership tend to have higher
political and civil freedom, greater economic mobility and prosperity, and much less
corruption than other nations. This relationship only exists for high gun ownership
countries.
4Alabama, Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Indiana, Kansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, Michigan Mississippi,
Missouri, Montana, Nevada, New Hampshire, North Carolina, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania,
South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Utah, West Virginia, Wisconsin.
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Another study comparing perceptions of handguns by young adults living in the
United States and the United Kingdom (Puddifoot & Cooke, 2002) was based on the
theoretical assertion made by Cohen and Nisbett (1994) stating that violent and gun-
related behaviors can be related to broad cultural norms, such as “U.S. southern sub-
culture of violence.” The fundamental premise suggests that there are distinct historical
and cultural conditions occurring in the Southern states of the U.S. that lead to an
ideology authorizing violent behaviors, specifically for self-protection. Results show that
gender plays a critical role in handgun perception since females tend to associate this type
of firearm as a fearful cause of crime while males view handguns as a source of power.
Another difference is associated with the variances in the political ideologies of the two
countries; the reputation of handguns to young adults in the U.S. is much more anchored
in a belief system related to liberty and independence and reinforced by the “right to bear
arms” protected by the Second Amendment. However, the research did not address
possible regional differences within the national sample; for example, between young
adults from the Southern U.S. and young adults from the Northern U.S.
Finally, research conducted by Felson and Pare (2010) examined the effects of region
and race on the tendency to carry weapons for protection. The research also tests theories
on gun cultures as well as honor cultures. The findings show that Southern Caucasians
tend to carry weapons more often for protection than northern Caucasians (especially true
for women). This result tends to confirm the existence of a gun culture difference
between Southern and Northern United States. However, analysis also shows that there is
no regional difference amongst African Americans.
Methodology
The analytical design of this research is based on a three-level, cross-sectional approach;
the macro level focuses on an international comparison between 25 developed countries,5
the meso level implements a national comparison between 50 states, and the micro offers a
case-study comparison between73 public mass shootings. The macro level analysis uses the
rate of death by guns and the rate of gun ownership in each country as inter-dependent
variables. Data for both variables are provided by the United Nations. Also, the meso
analyses uses data sets composed of several control variables per country related to socio-
economic and demographic characteristics, including the following criteria: the percent of
gross domestic product (GDP) dedicated to education, social security budgets, and
healthcare expenditures; the percent of population aged between 15-24 years old; the net
migration rate; the percent of population living in urbanized areas; and, the levels of
education of the overall population. This set of variables will serve as control variables to
better explain gun deaths in a cross-national comparative analysis. Most of this data comes
from the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) reports for 2012
and 2013.6
These gun control law variables identify countries having restrictive or permissive laws
related to firearms ownership (sales, storage and handling). This dichotomous variable is
5The countries are: Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Holland,
Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, Japan, Luxembourg, New Zealand, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Spain, Sweden,
Switzerland, United Kingdom, and United States.
6Statistics provided by OECD can be found at http://www.oecd-ilibrary.org/economics/oecd-
factbook_18147364
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based on the definition proposed by Newton and Zimring (1969). Restrictive gun
licensing laws refers 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 (shooting
range, hunting, etc.) and that they demonstrate “good character”. Usually under such a
system, citizens are required to train for gun handling, obtain a license for hunting, and/or
provide proof of membership to a shooting range. Also, individuals must prove that they
are not part of prohibited groups, such as the mentally ill, criminals, children, or those at
high risk to commit violent crime (such as those with a police record of threatening the
life of another). In contrast, permissive gun licensing laws refer to a system in which all
but 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.
Finally, the macro level analysis will use two proxy variables of “gun culture.” The first
one is the percent of a country’s GDP that is dedicated to military expenditures. The
rationale behind the use of this variable is built on the numerous studies linking the
predominance of war culture and the militarization of several sectors of the society that
valorize the use of military tools and tactics to resolve social problems, which thus creates
a trickling down effect (Haggerty & Ericson, 2001; Kraska, 2002; Lemieux & Dupont,
2005). Also, the military expenditures indicate how much the vitality of a country’s
economy relies on the military-industrial complex. Finally, the level of military
expenditures can provide an indirect measure of military-grade weapons available within
the country throughout its armed force members (active duty, reserve soldiers, honorably
discharged and retired).
The second proxy variable measuring the concept of “gun culture” has been developed
by identifying movies that in some way glorified the use of guns. More precisely, included
in the calculations are the revenues of all movies portraying the use of guns as a violent
justification (protection, revenge, vigilantism, etc.) and/or gun movies that were just based
on a blood-and-gore scenario. The same calculation was made for each of the 25 countries
in the study, and the revenues were provided by national box office information for the
year 2012.7 These movie revenues served to create two variables. The first variable
aggregates the total spending on movies that glorify gun use in each country. The second
one is based on the ratio between the dollars spent on gun movies versus the total dollars
spent for all movies in each country for the year of 2012. The reason why two variables
are created is that one measures spending for gun movies directly based on absolute values
of spending while the other variable offers a relative measure based on a ratio. It is
important to note that the assumption is not to imply that watching gun movies will
predict gun violence in a given country but to see if the fascination for guns in
entertainment activities is related to the rate of gun ownership in the country.
The meso level analyzes three different dependent variables in the 50 states of the US:
death by gun rates, gun ownership rates, and homicide rates. The data is made available by
the Unified Crime Report and the U.S. Department of Justice. As control variables, the
analyses use age structure of the population (percent of 15-24 year olds), unemployment
rate, net immigration rate, percent of people living in urban areas, and percent of spending
for mental health per state. Another variable, the number of concealed weapons permits,
has been used to measure the propensity of each state’s commitment to self-protection by
7 Statistics about international box office revenues can be found at http://boxofficemojo.com/yearly/
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firearms. In order to measure the impact of firearm control laws on gun violence, the data
from Legal Community Against Violence (LCAV) report was integrated to the analysis.8
The LCAV provides a ranking of U.S. states based on 25 policy approaches related to
firearm regulations. States gain or lose points based on the level of restrictiveness or
permissiveness of their gun regulation laws. Finally, in order to test the gun culture
hypothesis, the states have been regrouped in four sub-regions: Midwest, Northeastern,
Southern, and Western. As the studies by Cohen and Nisbett (1994), Felson and Pare
(2010), as well as Puddifoot and Cooke (2002) pointed out, there is a plausible connection
between guns and geography due to historical and cultural characteristics deeply ingrained
in U.S. sub-regions.
Finally, the micro level analysis is composed of 73 mass shooting cases that occurred in
the United States between 1983 and 2013. This data set is composed of several variables
concerning the shooter’s personal characteristics, such as age, race, sex, and mental health.
The database is also composed of information related to the properties of the shooting
event such as the site (school, work place, etc.), location (city/state), number of deaths and
injuries, type of weapons, number of weapons, use of explosives, number of shooters, and
perpetrator outcome (suicide, arrested, killed by police, killed by citizen). The information
about all the cases has been found in local and national electronic newspapers and police
reports.
Macro Level: Cross-National Analysis
Results indicate that the mass-shooting phenomenon is not limited to the United States
but has also happened in several other industrialized countries. Figure 1 in the appendix
provides an overview of the mass shootings that have occurred between 1983 and 2013 in
25 advanced nations comparable to the United States. These shootings varied from 4 to 77
deaths. The first striking observation emerging from Figure 1 is that the number of mass
shootings and related casualties in the United States far surpasses any of the other
individual countries included in this study during that same period of time. Amongst the
sample, the highest number of mass shootings experienced by another country other than
the United States is 7 over a period of 30 years. A total of 41 mass shootings have been
identified in all other 24 industrialized countries total with 78 mass shootings for the
United States. The U.S. has more than the double of mass shootings than all other 24
countries combined in the same 30-year period. On average, there are 7.01 persons killed
in a United States based mass shooting in contrast to 10.6 casualties per incident in mass
shootings based in the other 24 other countries (cumulative average) studied. The
countries that have the highest death rate per single mass shooting are in this order:
Norway (77 in one incident), United Kingdom (15), Australia (14.25), France (10), and
Switzerland (10).
8 The report can be found at http://smartgunlaws.org/wp-
content/uploads/2010/07/Gun_Laws_Matter_Brochure.pdf
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Figure 1. Distribution of mass shooting and related casualties in 25 countries
between 1983 and 2013
A significant finding is that mass shootings and gun ownership rates are highly
correlated (r=0.75; p<0.01) and that this association remains high even when the number
of incidents from the United States is withdrawn from the analysis (r=0.39; p<0.05). In
other words, the higher the gun ownership rate, the more a given country is susceptible to
experience mass shooting incidents; further, this relation is not impacted by an outlier
effect induced by a large number of incidents in the United States. There is also a strong
correlation between mass shooting casualties and death by firearms rates (r=0.86; p<0.01).
However, in this particular analysis, the relation seems to be mainly driven by the very
high number of deaths in the United States. The relation disappears when the United
States is withdrawn from the sample (r=0.16; p=0.43).
However, the difference in the number of occurrences of mass shootings in the United
States compared to each country included in the study presents some limitations. The low
number of occurrences of mass shootings in countries other than the U.S. makes
sophisticated quantitative analysis irrelevant because there is not enough data per country
to analyze. In fact, the volatility of these events challenges the requirements of a sound
multivariate analysis. Despite this limitation, the strong positive correlation between the
number of mass shootings per country and the firearms ownership rate suggests that
accessibility to guns is a critical component of mass shootings. Furthermore, in 71% of the
incidents, the weapons used in mass shootings were legally and directly accessible to the
killers. Since mass shootings are a result of gun accessibility and since gun accessibility
contributes to the high rate of death by gun, the rest of this section will focus on testing
the gun culture and gun control hypotheses on the gun availability and death rate
variables.
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The two main arguments made by gun enthusiasts (the culture-based argument) and
gun control advocates (the access-based argument) can be tested at the international level
between 25 industrialized countries who are members of the Organization for Economic
Development and Co-Operation (OEDC). In order to verify the validity of both assertions, a
first series of correlation analyses were conducted on both gun ownership rates and on the
rates of death by guns. The results show a statistically significant correlation (p<0.05)
between the firearm ownership rate and the following: the Gini Index (r=-0.47), the
percentage of GDP devoted to military expenditures (r=0.47), the total money spent on
gun movies (r=0.74), and the rate of money spent on gun movies (r=0.57). Also, the type
of regulation regarding gun access (permissive or restrictive) is negatively correlated with
gun ownership rates (r=-0.46, p<0.05). In other words, the more restrictive the gun
regulations are the lower the gun ownership rate. It appears that in these preliminary
analyses both the gun enthusiasts and the gun control advocates’ assertions are valid based
on the results related to gun movies and gun access regulations.
But in order to differentiate between the effects of the cultural versus the accessibility
hypotheses, a multiple regression analysis has been conducted that includes only the
variables correlating with gun ownership rates. The results displayed in Table 1 reveal that
the cultural assertion does better in predicting gun ownership than does the gun regulation
hypothesis. More precisely, the better predictor of firearms ownership is the fascination for
firearms (measured in absolute dollars spent on movies that value gun violence). Also, the
percentage of GDP devoted to the military expenditures variable is statistically significant,
which contributes to an understanding of the variation of gun ownership rates between
countries. Despite the fact that the variables related to gun control laws are not statistically
significant (p=0.08), the model informs us that a country that has more restrictive
regulations experiences lower firearm ownership rates (B=-16.75 firearms per 100
inhabitants). This model is statistically significant and possesses a strong regression
coefficient (R square) that explains 62% of the variance of gun ownership between
countries.
Table 1. Summary of Multiple Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting
Gun Ownership Rates in 25 Industrialized Countries*
Variables B SE(B) Beta t-test Sig.
(Constant) 41.97 23.16 -- 1.81 0.09
Rate spending on 0.02 0.01 0.40 2.47 0.02
gun movies (USD)
GDP Military Exp. 11.43 4.37 0.52 2.61 0.01
Gun Control law -16.75 8.96 -0.30 1.86 0.08
Gini Index -1.13 0.72 -0.30 -1.56 0.13
________________________________________________________________________
*Model Summary: R Square 0.62 (p<0.01)
A second series of analysis examines the relation between gun culture, gun control
legislation, and death by firearm rates (per 1000 inhabitants). A first set of results shows
that the gun control regulations (r=-0.61), the percentage of GDP devoted to military
expenditures (r=0.60), and the rate of money devoted to gun movies (r=0.47) are all
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strongly correlated with death by the firearms rates. Again, a multiple regression has been
conducted in order to differentiate the effect of the arguments from both gun enthusiasts
groups and gun control advocacy groups.
Table 2. Summary of Multiple Regression Analysis for Variables Predicting
Death by Firearms Rates in 25 Industrialized Countries*
Variables B SE(B) Beta t-test Sig.
(Constant) 6.23 7.01 -- -0.89 0.39
Gun laws -2.98 1.00 -0.50 -2.96 0.01
Rate spending on 0.00 0.00 0.14 0.56 0.58
gun movies (USD)
GDP Military Exp. 0.96 0.54 0.40 1.78 0.10
Gini Index 0.05 0.09 0.13 0.59 0.57
Net Immigration 0.11 0.28 0.09 0.42 0.68
% Urbanization -0.03 0.06 -0.14 -0.48 0.64
GDP Soc. Security 0.09 0.08 0.24 1.10 0.29
Level of Education 0.03 0.03 0.17 0.80 0.44
Age Structure(15/24) 0.30 0.38 0.21 0.80 0.44
________________________________________________________________________
*Model Summary: R Square 0.77 (p<0.05)
Table 2 shows that gun control legislation is the only and best predictor of the death by
gun rates. The regression model was also enriched by several demographics and
socioeconomic variables that are known in the existing literature to have an influence on
death-by-firearms rates. The findings show that only the gun control laws variable proved
to be a predictor of death by firearms. The model is statistically significant and possesses a
strong regression coefficient (r square) that explains 77% of the variance of death by
firearms between countries. The results imply that, all things equal, restrictive gun control
regulation have a negative effect (reduction) on the rate of casualties due to firearms while
the gun culture variable does not have any predictive value on the death by gun rates.
However, the overall best predictor for death by firearms remains the gun ownership
variable with an almost perfect positive correlation coefficient (r=0.90). It has been
decided to exclude that variable from the model due to the problem of multicolinearity
with other variables included in the analysis.9
Meso Level: Cross-State Analysis
The previous section clearly illustrated that among the 25 countries included in our
study, the United States stands out on death by firearms, gun ownership rates, and the
number of mass shootings. Therefore, this section is scrutinizing the validity of the
hypotheses related to gun culture and gun control legislation among 50 states using similar
measures (dependent variables). The analysis also includes the rate of murders committed
with firearms, which was not reported by all countries in the previous section. The first
series of analysis examines the presence of a regional gun culture. More precisely, the 50
9Multicolinearity is a statistical phenomenon in which two or more predictor variables in a multiple regression
model are highly correlated.
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states have been regrouped according to the U.S. Census Bureau into four sub-regions
(Southern, Western, Northeastern, Midwest), and correlation analyses have been
performed against variables related to gun violence and gun access.
Table 3. Measures of Association between U.S. Regions, Gun Violence, and
Gun Access (N=50).
_______________________________________________________________________
Regions murder/gun All death/gun % Gun owner Concealed Gun
_______________________________________________________________________
Southern r=0.55** r=0.41* r=0.25 r=0.28*
Northeastern r=-0.18 r=-0.52** r=-0.46** r=-0.3
Midwest r=-0.11 r=-0.08 r=-0.22 r=-0.01
Western r=-0.27* r=0.23 r=0.10 r=-0.15
_______________________________________________________________________
*p<0.05 **p<0.01
According to the results displayed in Table 3, a major finding emerges. The direction
of the correlation coefficients is going in the opposite direction when comparing the
Southern region with the three other regions - except for the Western region that displays
a positive coefficient for all the death by guns and a positive coefficient by the percentage
of gun ownership in the population. In other words, this means that the Southern region
is associated with higher rates of murder by gun, higher rates of death by firearms, and
higher numbers of concealed carry gun licenses delivered by the states (all statistically
significant).10 The only region associated with the percentage of gun ownership is
northeastern, which indicates a negative correlation (less gun ownership). Since our
analysis is including all states and is not a sample (total population), it can be concluded
that the Southern region has an established rapport with firearms that is completely
distinctive from the other regions. As noted before, these results are most likely a
reflection of historical and cultural characteristics that pertain to the Southern region.
A second series of analysis scrutinizes the relation between restrictive and permissive
firearm legislations, gun violence, and gun access in the 50 states. The measure related to
the firearms legislation is based on the work performed by the Legal Community Against
Violence Law Center (LCAV), which produced a ranking system of “25 policy
approaches” that regulate firearms in each state. After a thorough review of the
methodology used by the center, it has been concluded that the analysis and rankings
made by the LCAV Center are consistent and robust.
However, in order to generate a dichotomous variable (0-1) that represents the most
permissive and restrictive regulations, the ranking scale has been reconfigured to isolate the
top restrictive states (those with the most restrictive regulations) and the top permissive
states (those with the most permissive regulations). When tested against gun violence and
gun access variables, the results show strong correlation coefficients. More precisely, states
with more restrictive regulations on guns tend to have lower rates of death by guns (r=-
0.60; p<0.01) as well as a lower percentage of gun ownership in the population (r=-0.66;
p<0.01). The reverse is also true in that states having more permissive gun regulations
10Statistics related to concealed carry gun licenses are provided by the Government Accountability Office
(http://www.gao.gov/assets/600/592552.pdf) and several State government agencies.
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tend to show higher rates of deaths by gun (r=0.42; p<0.01) as well as higher percentages
of gun ownership in the population (r=0.50; p<0.01). These results are consistent with
the findings from the LCAV Law Center.
The next series of analyses aims to differentiate between the effects of gun culture and
the effects of gun regulations on gun violence. The preferred analytical framework is based
on two multivariate regression models, one using the percentage of deaths by gun in the
population as a dependent variable and the other using the rate of murders committed by
firearms as a dependent variable. In addition to the Southern region (gun culture) and the
most restrictive states (gun regulation) variables, the models include several socio-
demographic and socio-economic variables that can explain the two dependent variables -
such as the percent of urbanization in each state, the age structure (15-24), the percent of
immigration in each state, and the percentage of persons in poverty per state.
Table 4. Model Summary for Variables Explaining Murder by Firearms and
Death by Firearms Rates (n=50).
Variables B SE(B) Beta t-test Sig.
Model 1*
(Constant) -5.52 2.72 -- -2.02 0.05
Gun Culture (south) 1.52 0.50 0.38 3.00 0.00
Restrictive Laws 0.66 0.76 0.14 0.68 0.39
% Urbanization 0.06 0.02 0.47 2.50 0.05
Age Structure 0.01 0.13 0.01 0.10 0.92
% Immigrant -0.10 0.07 -0.34 -1.55 0.12
Poverty 0.31 0.08 0.49 3.36 0.00
_______________________________________________________________________
Model 2**
(Constant) 4.27 5.42 -- 0.78 0.43
Gun Culture (south) 1.76 1.01 0.22 1.74 0.08
Restrictive Laws -4.50 1.51 -0.47 2.96 0.00
% Urbanization 0.04 0.04 0.16 0.89 0.37
Age Structure -0.01 0.26 -0.01 -0.05 0.96
% Immigrant -0.08 0.13 -0.13 -0.61 0.54
Poverty 0.36 0.17 0.28 2.01 0.03
_______________________________________________________________________
*Model 1: Murder committed by firearm, R Square=0.51(p<0.01)
**Model 2: Death by firearm, R Square=0.53 (p<0.01)
Model 1 illustrates the findings that the best predictors of murders committed by
firearms are in the following order: firstly, the importance of gun culture (1.52); secondly,
the percentage of population living in urban areas (0.06); and thirdly, the percentage of
persons living in poverty (0.31). More importantly, all things equal, the murder-by-
firearms rate in southern states is higher than in any other sub-region. This variable is the
strongest predictor in Model 1. In the second model, the best predictor for the total death
by firearms is the restrictive regulations on guns (-4.50) and the percentage of persons
living in poverty (0.36). More precisely, all things equal, states having stricter gun laws
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experience lower total deaths by guns than states having more permissive regulations. The
variable measuring restrictive gun laws is the strongest predictor in this model. Why is
there this difference between the two models? On the one hand, it seems that murders
committed with guns can be an expected outcome of a gun culture that believes in using
guns or deadly force for protection or for settling conflicts. On the other hand, it seems
that gun control laws have a broader impact on deaths by reducing the likelihood of
suicides and deadly accidents.
Finally, a last series of analyses have been conducted to determine if there is a relation
between gun culture, gun control regulation, and mass shootings. A first set of results
shows that the number of mass shootings and the number of victims related to mass
shootings are not associated with gun culture. However, correlation analysis shows that
states having restrictive gun laws also experienced more mass shootings (r=0.45; p<0.01)
and more victims of mass shootings (r=0.35; p<0.01). This counter-intuitive result can be
explained by the nature of the data being used in this study and as a side effect of cross-
state analysis. While the variable of mass shootings aggregates cases and victims over 30
years, the variable on gun control laws provides a current perspective (2010) on existing
state legislation. One must keep in mind that laws are reactive in nature and that their
enactment is rarely in sync with emerging societal problems.
In a cross-state approach, correlation analysis fails to capture the evolution of states laws
over time and does not take into account what kind of gun control law was in effect at the
time of a specific mass shooting. After the tragic incident at Sandy Hook Elementary
School, the State of Connecticut as well as other legislatures in the country passed
sweeping reforms on gun control laws that were not in effect before. It is most probable
that the frequent occurrence of mass shooting in some states (over time) may have led to
stricter gun control laws and not the other way around. Therefore, this interpretation
makes the analysis on the relation between mass shooting and gun control laws a reversed
association. In other words, the mass shootings are more likely to predict more restrictive
gun control laws over the time than the laws are predictive of mass shootings.
Micro Level: Case Comparison Analysis
This section examines the mass shooting incidents that happened in the United Sates by
comparing cases that have been identified in the media and in government reports. First,
as it has been mentioned in the introduction, the frequency of public mass shootings has
continually increased since 1910. Figure 2 shows that the increase follows a positive trend
with an R-squared exponential curve fit of 0.66, representing an increase in the annual
average mass shootings over the past ten and a half decades (2010- mid 2013). The data
has been aggregated from the work of Duwe (2007) and Kessler (2013). The absolute
number of incidents per decade was transformed into a per-year average to better
represent the intensification of mass shootings in the last half of the decade of the graph
(2010-2013).11
11With 14 incidents over a period of four years, this absolute number was misleading compared to the number
of mass shooting in the three past decades. The yearly adjustment better represents the trend of the mass
shooting phenomenon, especially in accounting for the recent years.
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Figure 2: Annual Average of Mass Shooting Aggregated by Decade, 1910-2013
(sources: Duwe 2007; Kessler 2013)
*2010-13: Since the creation of this database in January 2013, 5 more incidents should have been added by
the time this chapter was written.
An overview of the data provided by Duwe (207) and Kressler (2013) shows that ten
years before the federal gun ban 19 mass shooting took place (1983 to 1994), that there
were 16 incidents during the gun ban period (1995-2004), and that 27 mass shootings
occurred after the ban expired (2005-2013). Despite the fact that these numbers are too
small to conduct reliable statistical analysis, one can observe a steep difference between the
gun ban period and the following period. Nevertheless, the real question is: do gun
control laws reduce mass shootings? Focusing on the years between 1983 and 2013, a total
of 78 cases have been identified, but five of them have been deleted due to inconsistencies
and to the lack of information related to the various variables used in the analysis. In other
words, analyses in this section will be based on a total of 73 cases. As mentioned in the
methodology section, the cases that are used include incidents that resulted in least four
casualties and that these were incidents where a firearm was the predominant tool in the
murders. Also, a total of 13 incidents that can be described as spree killing have been
included in the study because of the dynamics of the situations, which were closer to mass
shootings.
A first set of descriptive analysis shows that mass shooting perpetrators were 35 years
old on average and that their ages ranged from 13 to 66 years old. The vast majority of
shooters are Caucasian and male (66% and 99% respectively). In 56% of the cases, signs of
mental illness existed before the incidents occurred. It has been reported that 52% of the
perpetrators committed suicide, that 17% were killed by police officers, that 30% were
arrested, and that in only one case did a bystander stop the shooter by use of physical force
(without a weapon). Regarding the weapons involved in these incidents, it has been
established that in 59% of the cases, the perpetrators were carrying two or more firearms
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and that assault rifles were used in 26% of the cases. In 76% of the cases, the firearms were
acquired legally through stores or private sales. The vast majority of the mass shootings
happened in a closed environment, such as schools (16%), workplaces (29%), and
commercial buildings like restaurants, shopping malls, or shops (23%). Finally, the total
number of victims is established at 1090. More precisely, these incidents have caused 576
fatalities and 514 injuries between 1983 and 2013.
A second series of analysis examines how the characteristics of the incidents impact the
number of victims. First of all, a correlation analysis shows that the number of weapons
used by perpetrators is positively correlated with the total number of victims (r=0.23;
p<0.05). More importantly, the possession of two or more weapons – instead of only one
seems to be the threshold that generates stronger correlations with the total number of
victims (r=0.30; p<0.01), deaths (r=0.28; p<0.05), and injuries (r=0.23; p<0.05).
However, the analysis found no significant relation between the use of assault weapons
and the number of victims, deaths, or injuries. Moreover, the ANOVA Analysis confirms
that having access to multiple weapons is the best predictor of all categories of victims
(total deaths and injuries). This result is revealing in regards to the debate related to gun
control. The key finding here points out the fact that the type of weapon used may not
matter as much as the overall capacity of fire power without reloading. Many incidents
involved at least two semi-automatic pistols (with magazine clips that can contain 10 to 30
rounds with enlarged capacity clip) as well as an alternative long weapon like shotguns
(containing between 5-8 rounds). In that very realistic example, the firing capacity -
without recharging - is between 25 to 68 rounds, which are equal or superior to the
capacity of an assault rifle (AR-15, AK-47, etc.), which usually has a minimum of 20 to 30
rounds in its magazine clip.
Also, further analysis shows that the state of mind of the perpetrators (mental illness) is
not associated with the number of victims, the numbers of weapons, or the perpetrator
outcome of the incident. In other words, killers who had prior signs of mental illness are
no more destructive than shooters with no such medical diagnosis. Finally, the type of
venue - mainly shootings that take place inside of buildings such as schools, factories,
office buildings, or shopping malls - show higher numbers of victims than in open spaces –
such as killing rampages taking place on streets, parking lots, apartment compounds, etc.
This last finding point out another important factor related to mass shootings: situational
characteristics related to the incident, such as when the mass shooting is taking place,
where it is happening, and how the rampage is executed (improvised or planned). These
factors are as important as the type of weapons used by perpetrators because such factors
may have a direct influence on the number of potential targets available to shooters.
Table 5. Homogeneity of Variance between the Gun Ban Period and Control
Periods for Mass Shooting Incidents and Number of Victims (n=30)
_______________________________________________________________________
Experimental Control F-test Sig.
Incidents 1.80 2.61 0.74 0.40
Total victims 23.50 43.42 0.58 0.45
Casualties 11.60 21.71 1.25 0.27
Injuries 11.90 18.71 0.19 0.66
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Finally, the last series of analysis scrutinizes the impact of gun bans on the number of
mass shootings and victims between 1994 and 2004. In order to measure the effect of the
legislation, the analysis uses a model based on two control periods - 10 years of
observation before a ban (1983-1993) and 10 years after a ban (2004-2013) - against one
experimental period of 10 years during the ban (1994-2003). Table 5 shows that during
the period of the gun ban between 1994 and 2004 (experimental), there is an indication of
a systematically lower number of per-year incidents, injuries, and casualties with lower
total victims compared to non-ban periods (control), although these differences are
assumed to be not statistically significant by the test. However, since we are not working
with a sample but with all mass shootings that happened during a specific period, the
importance of the statistical significance can be marginalized.
Discussion and Conclusion
This study proposed to examine the merits of two central claims in the debate over gun
control legislation in relation to mass shootings in the United States. The first claim is that
gun violence is the result of a cultural appetite encouraged and validated by popular
entertainment such as violent movies. Under that particular claim, gun enthusiasts suggest
that firearms are not the problem but that rather people are (“guns don’t kill, people do”).
Associated with this reasoning comes a series of proposed solutions mainly anchored in the
deterrence theory (harsher sentences for criminals) and a physical prevention paradigm
(more armed guards or armed citizens in public places “good guys with guns”). The
second claim that has been scrutinized suggests that the availability of firearms has an
impact on gun violence and mass shootings. This claim suggests that restrictive firearms
regulation can save lives by imposing background checks, stricter condition for access to
firearms (e.g. mental health, required training, etc.), and banning specific weapons and/or
features (clip magazine capacity).
This research has demonstrated throughout a series of analyses at the international and
national levels, which shows that the best predictor of death by firearms is the possession
of guns (gun ownership). In other words, gun access predicts death by guns; further, this
result is trans-culturally consistent, meaning that this finding is true amongst 25 advanced
democracies and 50 states in the United States regardless of the cultural background. As to
the culture of violence and death by guns relationship claim, this is mainly invalidated at
the international level but partially validated in the Southern region of United States by
the murders by firearms rates. Also there is no connection between gun culture – or the
absence of thereof - and the occurrence of mass shooting.
However, in the United States, the gun culture prevailing in the Southern region of
the United States is associated with and predicts the rate of murders by firearms. On the
other hand, both international and national multivariate analyses show that gun control
legislation reduces overall fatalities related to firearms. This correlation is true for Canada
and Australia, which adopted and maintained stricter gun control laws. The same finding
is also true for the United States as it relates more directly to mass shootings. During the
10-year-long ban on assault weapons and large capacity magazines, total mass shootings,
total victims and total injuries and fatalities were substantially lower than during the 10-
year periods that preceded and succeeded the gun ban.
Thus, in terms of the implications for gun policy and regulation, a certain number of
considerations can be drawn from these results. First, there is absolutely no evidence that
more armed guards or armed citizens reduced or stopped any of the 73 mass shooting
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studied. Only one case involved an unarmed bystander who intervened and tackled a
shooter while he was reloading his weapons. Therefore, the claim that a preventative
heroic action can be taken by an armed guard or citizens is pure speculation and does not
resist the test of fact. Only in 17% of the cases were the shooters killed by police officers
that too only after several victims and casualties. Between the beginning and the end of a
typical killing rampage, the only interruption that makes the shooter pause is the need to
reload or to search for new targets. Also, there is no evidence that harsher punishments
will effectively deter mass shooters from executing their killing rampage. It has been
clearly demonstrated that a vast majority of the shooters committed suicide or got killed
by police officers during a gunfight. Harsher punishments will be totally irrelevant in most
of the cases involving a shooter who is ready to die – 17% of them fought police to the
death and 52% committed suicide.
However, these results show that a reduced firepower capacity- fewer firearms and
therefore a lesser capacity to fire is clearly associated with fewer victims. This result is
true no matter what type of weapon is used by the shooters. In other words, the limitation
of ammunition capacity saves lives more than targeting specific models of weapons. In the
case of the semi-automatic assault rifle, the limitation of ammunition defeats the purpose
of these weapons as a direct consequence. Another finding shows that a majority of
shooters (56%) clearly had known mental illness and at lower percentage had domestic
violence history or were involved in an intense divorce/custody battle. This result points
out critical elements of stability to be assessed during background check procedures. In
addition to criminal records, relevant mental health information and known background
information by law enforcement should be included into the verification process to limit
the access of firearms to at risk individuals based on these cumulative factors. Nevertheless,
legislators should keep in mind that these numbers prove that more restrictive gun
regulations will save lives above and beyond the issue of spontaneous mass shootings and
can counterbalance the deadly effects of a violent gun culture.
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International Journal of Criminal Justi ce Sciences
Vol 9 Issue 1 January – June 2014
© 2014 International Journal of Criminal Justice Sciences. All rights reserved. Under a creative commons Attrib ution-No ncommerc ial-Shar e Alike 2.5 India License
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... While there is a growing body of research examining mass shootings in the United States (Kim et al., 2021), global mass shootings are still an understudied area of inquiry. There have been only a few attempts by scholars to measure the prevalence of mass shootings across countries, and although their study parameters and time periods vary, they have yielded clear and consistent results (Lankford, 2016a(Lankford, , 2016c(Lankford, , 2019(Lankford, , 2020Lemieux, 2014;Silva, 2022a). 2 The evidence strongly suggests that the United States has experienced substantially more mass shootings than any other country in the world, and far more than its proportionate share based on the size of its population (Lankford, 2016a(Lankford, , 2016c(Lankford, , 2019(Lankford, , 2020. The difference between the frequency of mass shootings in the United States and the infrequency of incidents elsewhere is especially stark when comparisons are made with other developed countries (Lemieux, 2014;Silva, 2022a). ...
... There have been only a few attempts by scholars to measure the prevalence of mass shootings across countries, and although their study parameters and time periods vary, they have yielded clear and consistent results (Lankford, 2016a(Lankford, , 2016c(Lankford, , 2019(Lankford, , 2020Lemieux, 2014;Silva, 2022a). 2 The evidence strongly suggests that the United States has experienced substantially more mass shootings than any other country in the world, and far more than its proportionate share based on the size of its population (Lankford, 2016a(Lankford, , 2016c(Lankford, , 2019(Lankford, , 2020. The difference between the frequency of mass shootings in the United States and the infrequency of incidents elsewhere is especially stark when comparisons are made with other developed countries (Lemieux, 2014;Silva, 2022a). For instance, Lemieux (2014) found that from 1983 to 2013, the United States had more than twice as many attacks as 24 other industrialised countries combined, and Silva (2022a) found that from 1998 to 2019, the United States accounted for more than 70% of mass shootings in developed countries. ...
... The difference between the frequency of mass shootings in the United States and the infrequency of incidents elsewhere is especially stark when comparisons are made with other developed countries (Lemieux, 2014;Silva, 2022a). For instance, Lemieux (2014) found that from 1983 to 2013, the United States had more than twice as many attacks as 24 other industrialised countries combined, and Silva (2022a) found that from 1998 to 2019, the United States accounted for more than 70% of mass shootings in developed countries. ...
Article
This study examined fame-seeking mass shooters worldwide who attacked from 1999 to 2022 to identify their profiles, behaviours, influences, and trends. Quantitative analyses revealed many similarities between fame-seeking shooters in the United States and in other countries: compared to other mass shooters, they were more frequently young and more likely to target schools, commit suicide, and kill and injure many victims. Fame-seeking mass shooters who attacked outside the United States appeared more likely to have been influenced by American mass shooters than by perpetrators from all other countries, combined. Findings also showed a substantial rise in the number of fame-seeking shooters over time, along with increases in the proportion of mass shooters who sought fame and the average number of victims they killed. We discuss the implications of these disturbing trends and offer an assessment for the future.
... Before 2019, only three studies provided large-scale comparative analyses of mass shootings in the US and other countries (Lankford, 2016a(Lankford, , 2016cLemieux, 2014). Lemieux (2014) examined the effects of gun culture and firearm laws on gun violence and mass shootings by providing a comparison of the US (n = 78) and 24 other developed countries (n = 41) between 1983 and 2013. ...
... Before 2019, only three studies provided large-scale comparative analyses of mass shootings in the US and other countries (Lankford, 2016a(Lankford, , 2016cLemieux, 2014). Lemieux (2014) examined the effects of gun culture and firearm laws on gun violence and mass shootings by providing a comparison of the US (n = 78) and 24 other developed countries (n = 41) between 1983 and 2013. This study finds the cultural explanation was related to an increase in deaths by guns, while the legislative explanation was associated with a decrease in deaths by guns and mass shootings. ...
... 178). He then reinforces research (Lankford, 2016c;Lemieux, 2014) suggesting this high percentage of mass shootings appears to be connected to America having the world-leading firearm ownership rate. ...
Article
This study compares mass shootings in the US against developed and developing countries (1998-2019). Findings indicate US mass shootings were more likely to involve workplaces, employment/financial problems, relationship problems, and multiple firearms. Mass shootings in all developed countries (including the US) were more likely than developing countries to involve foreign-born perpetrators, ideological motives, fame-seeking motives, schools, open-spaces, and handguns. Mass shootings in the US account for 73% of all incidents and 62% of all fatalities in developed countries. Mass shootings in developing countries were more likely to involve military and police perpetrators, rifles, and military/police locations. A discussion of findings offers insight for understanding and addressing the global mass shooting problem.
... Public discourse views mental illness as one of the leading causes of mass shootings (McGinty, Webster, & Barry, 2013;Metzl & MacLeish, 2015;Schildkraut & Muschert, 2013). This is because, as Lemieux (2014) finds, 56% of mass shooters had a known mental illness. In the aftermath of an attack, public and political discourse suggests mental illness causes gun violence and psychiatric diagnosis can predict gun crimes before they happen (Metzl & MacLeish, 2015). ...
... The Northeast states have the most gun control, and this could be contributing to a decrease in incidents. In one of the few studies assessing the impact of firearm regulations on mass shooting incidents, Lemieux (2014) finds firearm accessibility and ownership are predictive of firearms deaths (including mass shooting incidents). ...
Thesis
This study examines the reality and news media coverage of all mass shootings in the United States from 1966 to 2016. It employs agenda-setting and framing theoretical frameworks to determine the social construction of mass shootings via the mass media. The project uses open-source data to create a comprehensive list of mass shooting incidents. It then identifies all published New York Times articles on each incident. The study summarizes both the reality of the social problem (i.e. incidents) and the news mediated reality (i.e. New York Times). Next, this dissertation conducts a media distortion analysis to determine the perpetrator, motivation, and incident characteristics influencing media selection, prominence, and framing. The purpose is to illustrate the media’s social construction of mass shootings that in turn shapes public perceptions, political discourse, and public policies. The study concludes by highlighting the findings and implications for scholars, practitioners, policy-makers, media outlets, and the general public.
... They can also attempt an attack with these weapons they have. (Lemieux, 2014). ...
... Volume 5/1 2021 Spring p. 148-167 158 which determines the boundaries of the concept of legitimate defense, is shown among the reasons that validate the formation and legitimacy of this culture. A large part of the American people also argue that having a gun in dangerous situations is a necessary action to prevent danger or to increase the probability of survival (Lemieux, 2014). ...
... However, researchers lack a fundamental understanding of how risk factors contribute to school shootings given their random and unpredictable nature. Before 2019, only three studies had provided large-scale comparative analyses of mass shootings in the US and other countries (Lankford, 2015;Lankford, 2016;Lemieux, 2014). ...
Article
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Background: The Cumulative Strain Theory (CST) is a multi-stage explanatory model which is used to analyse students' involvement in mass shootings at schools across the world. School shootings were once considered a uniquely American phenomenon. However, over the last decade, the incidence of these violent attacks has spiked around the globe. In particular, recent reports from Russia have demonstrated a worrying increase in the number of school shootings despite efforts to implement policies to prevent them. Aim: The aims of this report are (1) to discuss the genesis of school mass murders in the context of cumulative strain theory, and (2) to analyse the scope of the problem in the US versus Russia. Methods: We used the five-stage cumulative strain theory to analyse the factors contributing to school shootings using two case studies from each country. We gathered information and evidence from a variety of sources including interview transcripts, statistical data, journal articles, reviews, and other secondary sources published in Russian and English. Results: Our analysis revealed some common features among the school shooters in Russia and the US, such as the self-perception of superiority, vindictiveness and a lack of social support, including challenging relationships with parents and peers. However, the American shooters displayed a readiness for encounters with and possible firearm use against law enforcement officers during the mass murders. We further found that auto-aggressive behaviours were prevalent in the attacks that occurred-in Russia in particular. Unlike those from the US, the reports from Russia pointed towards an association between cumulative economic hardships and various behavioural outcomes ranging from poor psychological health to severe behavioural outbursts and violent behaviours. Conclusion: We believe that the cult of weapons and militarism increase the risk of school shootings in both countries. Neither a single stage of CST nor all five stages together can predict or confirm the association with mass shootings.
... The Virginia Tech shooting ushered in a similar period of frenzied public attention and legislative actions related to firearm regulations, this time focusing on restrictions related to mental illness and faster background check reporting (Schildkraut & Hernandez, 2014). In one of the few studies assessing the impact of firearm regulations on mass shooting incidents, Lemieux (2014) finds firearm accessibility and ownership are predictive of firearms deaths (including mass shooting incidents), and the relative firepower of weapons was significantly associated with fewer deaths. However, further research is still needed to comprehensively understand the influence of gun regulations on mass gun violence incidents. ...
Chapter
The excessive media coverage of mass gun violence has contributed to the public perception of an epidemic. These senstionalized media accounts highlight statistics suggesting a dramatic rise of the phenomenon. This chapter provides an in-depth analysis and comparison of open-source datasets to identify methodological weaknesses and clarify the prevalence of the problem. Findings illustrate the definitional, temporal, and data collection issues impacting the accuracy of assessment. This deconstruction of research counters the perception of a substantial rise in mass gun violence and suggests rates will vary depending on the typological phenomenon being investigated. A discussion of findings illustrates the importance of continuing the examination of mass gun violence and provides comprehensive guidelines for future research assessing the frequency of the phenomenon.
... reduction of school shooting severity, despite their increased prevalence. Rather, the type of firearm utilized in school shootings has been closely associated with the number of deaths and injuries (Lemieux, 2014;Livingston et al., 2019), suggesting implications for reconsideration of the kinds of firearms to which individuals have access. Zero tolerance policies, though originally intended to curtail gun violence in schools, have expanded to cover a host of incidents (e.g., threats, bullying). ...
Article
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Objectives Gun violence in the USA is a pressing social and public health issue. As rates of gun violence continue to rise, deaths resulting from such violence rise as well. School shootings, in particular, are at their highest recorded levels. In this study, we examined rates of intentional firearm deaths, mass shootings, and school mass shootings in the USA using data from the past 5 years, 2017–2022, to assess trends and reappraise prior examination of this issue.Methods Extant data regarding shooting deaths from 2017 through 2020 were obtained from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center for Injury Prevention and Control, the web-based injury statistics query and reporting system (WISQARS), and, for school shootings in particular (2017–2022), from Everytown Research & Policy.ResultsThe number of intentional firearm deaths and the crude death rates increased from 2017 to 2020 in all age categories; crude death rates rose from 4.47 in 2017 to 5.88 in 2020. School shootings made a sharp decline in 2020—understandably so, given the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic and subsequent government or locally mandated school shutdowns—but rose again sharply in 2021.Conclusions Recent data suggest continued upward trends in school shootings, school mass shootings, and related deaths over the past 5 years. Notably, gun violence disproportionately affects boys, especially Black boys, with much higher gun deaths per capita for this group than for any other group of youth. Implications for policy and practice are provided.
Article
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The definitions and terms used to describe single-incident mass casualty events vary widely and remain contested. To allow for the inclusion of more incidents, larger and more representative samples, and more comprehensive analyses, we argue in favor of using the broad term “rampage” and propose a new model, the Rampage Violence Status Model (RVSM), which provides additional context on completion status and can subsume previous terminology. Additionally, by expanding upon previous researchers’ distinctions and definitions of various stages and completion statuses, we suggest adopting the following terms as stages in the progression of rampage violence, per the RVSM: researched, planned, prepared, initiated, interrupted, attempted, and completed.
Chapter
Mass school shootings are infrequent and involve predominantly White perpetrators and victims; yet, they elicit intense social reactions without acknowledging race. In contrast, shootings in cities are frequent, affecting the lives of people of color. Connecting both, this chapter explores how youth of color experience mass school shootings and whether the gun-control movement incorporates their needs. Specifically, 114 youth of color participated in an interview (2013/2015), involving a socio-spatial exploration of their segregated metropolitan area near Newtown, Connecticut, where a young White man killed 26 students and staff members (2012). Furthermore, this exploration involved unobtrusive observation of Connecticut's March for Our Lives (2018). Youth of color were concerned with gun violence in relation to police brutality, crime, and mass school shootings. Those in predominantly White cities experienced the collective pain mass school shootings produce. In contrast, the predominantly White gun-control movement hardly acknowledged youth of color.
Chapter
In the late 1990s, a series of school shootings shocked the nation. Seemingly innocent children with little to no history of deviant behavior engaged in horrific acts of violence against their fellow students and teachers. The previously held beliefs that schools were safe had been shattered by these acts, and social scientists answered the call to find answers as to how and why these acts occurred. In this chapter, the authors discuss what is known about school shooters in terms of characteristics, behaviors, history, as well as the social dynamics of the communities in which they typically reside. While a profile of a school shooter has been deemed inaccurate, are we doomed to make the same mistakes by overlooking signals or warnings provided by shooters?
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The development of legislation aimed at reducing the incidence of firearm-related death is an ongoing interest within the spheres of criminology, public policy, and criminal justice. Although a body of research has examined the impacts of significant epochs of regulatory reform upon firearm-related suicides and homicides in countries like Australia, where strict nationwide firearms regulations were introduced in 1996, relatively little research has considered the occurrence of a specific type of homicide: mass shooting events. The current paper examines the incidence of mass shootings in Australia and New Zealand (a country that is socioeconomically similar to Australia, but with a different approach to firearms regulation) over a 30 year period. It does not find support for the hypothesis that Australia’s prohibition of certain types of firearms has prevented mass shootings, with New Zealand not experiencing a mass shooting since 1997 despite the availability in that country of firearms banned in Australia. These findings are discussed in the context of social and economic trends.
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Bills C-51 (1977), C-17 (1991), and C-68 (1995) were enacted into law by the Government of Canada with a view to tightening controls on firearms in order to prevent homicides related to their use. The effectiveness of these laws has fuelled several debates on the political scene. Given the many limitations of assessments conducted to this day, the credibility of their results is often questioned. Using a multiple-time-series design, the purpose of this article is to assess the impact of the three most recent Canadian gun control laws, all the while overcoming the limitations identified in the scientific literature. Our results show that the enactment of Bills C-51 and C-68 was followed by a significant drop in the number of homicides committed with a firearm, a decrease of 5% to 10%, depending on the province. This reduction was most noticeable in the case of homicides committed with a shotgun or a hunting rifle. No tactical displacement was observed. Finally, results suggest that the effectiveness of these laws is due to the reduced access and availability of firearms rather than to the severity of sentences provided in the legislation.
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The most frequent policy lesson drawn following the Columbine school shootings was the need for more gun controls. Review of the details of both Columbine and other contemporary school shootings indicates, however, that the specific gun control measures proposed in their aftermath were largely irrelevant and almost certainly could not have prevented the incidents or reduced their death tolls. These measures included restrictions on gun shows, child access prevention laws mandating locking up guns, and bans on assault weapons. Ironically, exploitation of school shootings for the advocacy of irrelevant gun controls may have obscured the genuine merits of various gun control measures for reducing “ordinary” gun violence. Thus, mass school shootings provided the worst possible basis for supporting gun control.
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Gun violence and, most recently, senseless shooting rampages continue to be sensitive and emotional points of debate in the American media and the political establishment. The United Nations is already set to commence discussing and approving its Small Arms Treaty in March 2013. And following the Newtown, Connecticut tragedy in the United States this past December, American legislators are working frantically to pass more stringent gun control laws in the U.S. Congress. The American media and proponents of gun control assert that the problem lies in the “easy availability of guns” and “too many guns” in the hand of the public. Second Amendment and gun rights advocates, on the other hand, believe the problem lies elsewhere, including a permissive criminal justice system that panders to criminals; the failure of public education; the fostering of a culture of dependence, violence, and alienation engendered by the welfare state; and the increased secularization of society with children and adolescents growing up devoid of moral guidance. I cannot disagree with the latter view, but I believe there are additional, contributing, and more proximate causes — e.g., failures of the mental health system and the role of the media and popular culture in the sensationalization of violence — that also need to be specifically pointed out and discussed in the medical literature, as I have set out to do in this review article.
Article
This report focuses on mass shootings and selected implications they have for federal policy in the areas of public health and safety. While such crimes most directly impact particular citizens in very specific communities, addressing these violent episodes involves officials at all levels of government and professionals from numerous disciplines. This report does not discuss gun control and does not systematically address the broader issue of gun violence. Also, it is not intended as an exhaustive review of federal programs addressing the issue of mass shootings.
Article
In this article, we extend the literature on adolescent delinquency by offering a theoretical framework that integrates insights from labor-market and stratification research on the one hand and microlevel family and criminological research on the other. Analyses draw from local labor-market data and nationally representative longitudinal survey data on adolescents and employ techniques that take into account clustering within hierarchical structures. Findings suggest strong effects of low-wage service-sector concentration and unemployment on the likelihood of both fighting and drug use among adolescents. Consistent with our emphasis on potential mediating processes, we find that these effects are partially produced through the patterning of family income, family intactness, and adolescent attachment to parents and school. An interesting finding is that low-wage service-sector size and unemployment effects on adolescent delinquency persist even with potential mediators controlled. We conclude by discussing these persistent effects and their implications.
Article
This paper had two objectives. First, to examine the association between gun availability, gun homicide, and homicide in a manner that better accounts for potential simultaneity than previous cross-national research. Second, to examine the manner that the relationship between gun availability and violence is shaped by socio-historical and cultural context. The results lend little support to the notion that gun availability operates uniformly across nations to influence levels of violence. Rather, these results suggest that the nature of the relationship between gun availability and violence is shaped by the socio-historical and cultural processes occurring across nations.
Article
Drawing on labor stratification and life course perspectives, this article extends recent work on the role of labor market conditions in neighborhood rates of violent crime by examining whether distinct aspects of labor market quantity (joblessness) and quality (secondary sector work and low-wage jobs) have varying effects on violent arrest rates for teenagers, young adults, and older adults. Drawing on data for census tracts in Cleveland, Ohio, we demonstrate that the relevance of the labor market for violent crime is contingent on the age group and characteristic examined. Labor market conditions have limited effects on violent arrest rates for teens. Older adult rates are influenced only by levels of joblessness. However, violent crime among younger adults is affected by both the quantity and the quality of work. We discuss the theoretical and empirical implications of these patterns.
Article
We use the National Violence against Women (and Men) Survey to examine the effects of region and race on the tendency to carry weapons for protection. We find that Southern and Western whites are much more likely than Northern whites to carry guns for self-protection, controlling for their risk of victimization. The difference between Southern and Northern whites is particularly strong for women. We do not find much evidence for regional/race differences in carrying knives or mace. These findings provide support for the idea that regional differences in weapon carrying reflect a gun culture rather than an honor culture. We see more evidence of an honor culture among blacks: they are more likely than whites to carry knives as well as guns, controlling for their risk of victimization.