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Mass shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, a Colorado movie theater, and other venues have prompted a fair number of proposals for change. Advocates for tighter gun restrictions, for expanding mental health services, for upgrading security in public places, and, even, for controlling violent entertainment have made certain assumptions about the nature of mass murder that are not necessarily valid. This article examines a variety of myths and misconceptions about multiple homicide and mass shooters, pointing out some of the difficult realities in trying to avert these murderous rampages. While many of the policy proposals are worthwhile in general, their prospects for reducing the risk of mass murder are limited.
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Homicide Studies
2014, Vol. 18(1) 125 –145
© 2013 SAGE Publications
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DOI: 10.1177/1088767913510297
Mass Shootings in America:
Moving Beyond Newtown
James Alan Fox1 and Monica J. DeLateur1
Mass shootings at a Connecticut elementary school, a Colorado movie theater, and
other venues have prompted a fair number of proposals for change. Advocates for
tighter gun restrictions, for expanding mental health services, for upgrading security
in public places, and, even, for controlling violent entertainment have made certain
assumptions about the nature of mass murder that are not necessarily valid. This
article examines a variety of myths and misconceptions about multiple homicide and
mass shooters, pointing out some of the difficult realities in trying to avert these
murderous rampages. While many of the policy proposals are worthwhile in general,
their prospects for reducing the risk of mass murder are limited.
mass murder, subtypes, school shootings, trends, public policy, correlates
Calendar year 2012 offered a rich variety of hot topics for media coverage and public
debate. The political campaign season featured an unprecedented number of presiden-
tial hopefuls and televised candidate debates, while the year’s hurricane season
resulted in wide-ranging destruction, primarily from Superstorm Sandy. In addition,
the debate over universal health care culminated in the most highly anticipated U.S.
Supreme Court ruling in decades.
Nothing, however, surpassed the amount and intensity of interest, at least from a
news perspective, than the scourge of mass murder, specifically, a movie theater ram-
page in Aurora, Colorado, in July and then a public school massacre in Newtown,
Connecticut, in mid-December. As one measure of media attention, the Associated
Press’s year-end poll of news editors placed mass shootings as the leading news story
of 2012 (Associated Press, 2012).
1Northeastern University, Boston, MA, USA
Corresponding Author:
James Alan Fox, School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University, 360 Huntington
Avenue, Boston, MA 02115, USA.
510297HSX18110.1177/1088767913510297Homicide StudiesFox and DeLateur
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126 Homicide Studies 18(1)
Even before the final death toll from the shooting spree at Newtown’s Sandy Hook
Elementary School was determined, politicians, pundits, and professors of various
disciplines were all over the media, pushing their proposals for change. Some talked
about the role of guns, others about access to mental health services, and still more
about the need for enhanced security in schools and other public places. Whatever
their agenda or the passion behind it, these advocates made certain assumptions con-
cerning patterns in mass murder and the profile of mass killers. Unfortunately, these
assumptions were not always consistent with the facts.
Until fairly recently, criminologists had all but ignored the topic of mass murder,
and mass shootings in particular (see Bowers, Holmes, & Rhom, 2010; DeLisi &
Scherer, 2006; Liwerant, 2007). Some scholars may have regarded mass killing, the
murder of four or more victims in a single episode, as merely a special case of criminal
homicide, explainable by the same criminological theories applied to single-victim
incidents and, therefore, not deserving of special treatment. Other criminologists may
have considered mass murder as primarily a matter of psychopathology—a crime per-
petrated by individuals who suffer from profound mental disorders (e.g., psychosis)
and, therefore, best analyzed through the lens of psychiatry. Finally, some may have
assumed that such incidents are not only rare but also aberrational and, therefore,
unworthy of significant research attention. More importantly, opportunities for exam-
ining mass murder in a systematic fashion have been hindered by limited availability
of primary data: Mass murderers are typically deceased, inaccessible for legal reasons,
or unwilling or unable to cooperate with research investigators (see Bowers et al.,
2010; Fox & Levin, 2003).
Perhaps because of the limited body of systematic research on mass murder, much
of the public discourse is grounded in myth and misunderstanding about the nature of
the offense and those who perpetrate it. In this article, we attempt to identify and assess
a number of these misconceptions that seem to have encouraged policy responses with
a slim probability of achieving their desired outcome—eliminating the risk of mass
Myth: Mass Murderers Snap and Kill Indiscriminately
One of the earliest systematic examinations of mass murder incidents challenged the
widespread view in the popular press and professional literature that mass murderers
are crazed lunatics who suddenly snap, go berserk, and kill indiscriminately (Levin &
Fox, 1985). Over the past few decades, moreover, this notion has persisted, at least in
the public’s mind, in large part because of the selective attention to the most extreme
and unusual cases.
However, mass murder rarely involves a sudden explosion of rage. To the contrary,
mass killers typically plan their assaults for days, weeks, or months (see, for example,
Fox & Levin, 2012; Walkup & Rubin, 2013). These preparations include where, when,
and who to kill, as well as with what weapons they will strike. These assailants are
deliberate, determined to kill, with little regard for what obstacles are placed in their
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Fox and DeLateur 127
For example, Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the two adolescents responsible for
the 1999 Columbine High School massacre, purposely chose Hitler’s birthday for their
attack (out of admiration for the dictator’s power) and spent long hours in the woods
fine-tuning their marksmanship skills. They even conceived a grand follow-up plan
should they survive the school shooting: to hijack an airplane and fly it into the skyline
of New York City (and this was 2 years before the September 11, 2001, acts of
The level of detailed planning may help to explain the calm demeanor exhibited by
mass murderers, even in the midst of chaos. Witnesses to a mass shooting often report,
for example, that the gunman appeared relaxed, even smiling, while killing or injuring
dozens of innocent victims (see Aitken, Oosthuizen, Emsley, & Seedat, 2008). Mass
murderers have been known to develop and follow a mental script, one that is rehearsed
over and over again, to the point where they become comfortable with the mission.
Whatever the style of killing, the motives for mass murder are organized around
five primary themes that can occur singly or in combination (Fox & Levin, 1998).
1. Revenge (e.g., a deeply disgruntled individual seeks payback for a host of fail-
ures in career, school, or personal life);
2. Power (e.g., a “pseudo-commando” style massacre perpetrated by some mar-
ginalized individual attempting to wage a personal war against society);
3. Loyalty (e.g., a devoted husband/father kills his entire family and then himself
to spare them all from a miserable existence on earth and to reunite them in the
4. Terror (e.g., a political dissident destroys government property, with several
victims killed as “collateral damage,” to send a strong message to those in
power); and
5. Profit (e.g., a gunman executes the customers and employees at a retail store to
eliminate all witnesses to a robbery).
Among these types, revenge motivation is, by far, the most commonplace (see
Knoll, 2010; Leyton, 1986). Mass murderers often see themselves as victims—victims
of injustice (Bowers et al., 2010; Palermo, 1997). They seek payback for what they
perceive to be unfair treatment by targeting those they hold responsible for their mis-
fortunes. Most often, the ones to be punished are family members (e.g., an unfaithful
wife and all her children) or coworkers (e.g., an overbearing boss and all his employ-
ees). In such cases, there may be a primary target (which itself can be a place, such as
a company, a school, or an agency) while others are killed as surrogates, in what has
been termed “murder by proxy” (see Frazier, 1975).
Sometimes, mass murderers target an entire category of people (e.g., women, Jews,
immigrants, Whites, Blacks, etc.), constituting a hate crime in the extreme. The vic-
tims may be chosen randomly, but the type of victim or the place to find them may not
be. In such cases, strangers are punished just because of their class membership or
group association.
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128 Homicide Studies 18(1)
The rarest form of mass murder is the completely random attack (often in a public
place) committed by someone who in his or her paranoid thinking suspects that the
whole world is corrupt and unfair (Petee, Padgett, & York, 1997). The level of para-
noia may be truly psychotic (e.g., God, the President, or some other powerful entity is
behind a wide-ranging conspiracy) or involve a lesser form of paranoid personality
disorder in which the perpetrator consistently misconstrues innocent acts or gestures
by others as purposely malicious.
Even though most mass murderers deliberately target specific people or places, it
is, of course, the seemingly senseless random massacres that are the most frightening
to people. After all, they can happen at any place, at any time, and to anyone—usually
without warning—and, for this reason, random acts of mass murder, although the least
frequent form, receive the most attention by the mass media and the public alike.
Myth: Mass Shootings Are on the Rise
The recent carnages in Newtown, Connecticut; Aurora, Colorado; and elsewhere have
compelled many observers to examine the possible reasons behind the rise in mass
murder. The New York Times columnist David Brooks noted the number of schizo-
phrenics going untreated (Brooks, 2012). Former President Bill Clinton and other gun-
control advocates have pointed to the expiration of the 1994 Federal Assault Weapons
Ban as the culprit, while gun-rights proponents have argued that the body counts
would be lower were more Americans armed and ready to overtake an active shooter.
There is, however, one not-so-tiny flaw in all the various theories and speculations for
the presumed increase in mass shootings: Mass shootings have not increased in num-
ber or in overall death toll, at least not over the past several decades.
The moral panic and sense of urgency surrounding mass murder have been fueled
by various claims that mass murders, and mass shootings in particular, are reaching
epidemic proportions. For example, the Mother Jones news organization, having
assembled a database of public mass shootings from 1982 through 2012, has reported
a recent surge in incidents and fatalities, including a spike and record number of casu-
alties in the year 2012 (Follman, Pan, & Aronsen, 2013).
It is critical to note that Mother Jones did not include all mass shootings in their
analysis but instead attempted to delineate those that were senseless, random, or at
least public in nature. Mother Jones settled on several criteria for inclusion in its mass
shootings database, specifically the following:
The shooter took the lives of at least four people;
The killings were carried out by a lone shooter;
The shootings happened during a single incident and in a public place; and
The murders were not related to armed robbery or gang activity.
By virtue of these selection rules, mass shootings involving family members were
excluded, even though they too can involve large body counts. Other massive shootings
were ignored because of their relation to gang activity or some criminal enterprise.
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Fox and DeLateur 129
Not only is Mother Jones’s decision to disqualify cases based on certain criteria that
are hard to defend but also the criteria themselves were not necessarily applied consis-
tently (see Fox, 2013). The Columbine mass murder and the Westside Middle School
massacre, for example, were included despite the fact that both were carried out by
pairs of armed assailants. In response to criticism concerning the definitional con-
cerns, Mother Jones emphasized two main themes: the need to focus more narrowly
on “senseless” public shootings and the importance of investigating mass shootings
beyond just the incident counts (Follman et al., 2013). Obviously, public shootings are
worthy of discussion, but then so are mass killings in families or those that are designed
to further some criminal enterprise. Widening the net by including mass shootings in
all forms can only add to our understanding of extreme killing.
As it happens, Mother Jones’s claim concerning a rise in mass shootings doesn’t
stand when considering the full range of cases. Figure 1 displays the number of
mass shooting incidents and victims from 1976 through 2011, based on data from
the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Reporting (SHR) program (along with the
missing Florida data for 1996-2011 drawn directly from the state’s homicide report
records). These reflect all 672 mass shootings with at least four fatalities reported
to local law enforcement authorities as part of the routine collection of crime statis-
tics. Unlike the Mother Jones approach, these data do not exclude cases based on
motive, location, or victim–offender relationship. They only exclude incidents in
which fewer than four victims (other than the assailant) were killed, murders com-
mitted with a weapon other than a firearm, or isolated cases that may have occurred
in jurisdictions that did not report homicide data to the FBI. In addition, only
because of the usual time lag in crime reporting, the figures for 2012 were not yet
According to these expanded data, over the past few decades, there have been, on
average, nearly 20 mass shootings a year in the United States. Most, of course, were
76 78 80 82 84 86 88 90 92 94 96 98 00 02 04 06 08 10
Figure 1. Mass shootings in the United States, 1976-2011.
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130 Homicide Studies 18(1)
nowhere as deadly as the recent massacres in Aurora and Newtown that have countless
Americans believing that a new epidemic is on them and that have encouraged healthy
and often heated debate concerning causes and solutions.
Without minimizing the pain and suffering of the hundreds of those who have been
victimized in recent attacks, the facts clearly say that there has been no increase in
mass shootings and certainly no epidemic (see Duwe, 2004). What is abundantly clear
from the full array of mass shootings is the largely random variability in the annual
counts (Best, 2013). There have been several points in time when journalists and oth-
ers have speculated about a possible epidemic in response to a flurry of high-profile
shootings. Yet, these speculations have always proven to be incorrect when subsequent
years reveal more moderate levels.
The year 1991, for example, saw a 35-year-old gunman kill 23 people at a cafeteria
in Killeen, Texas, and a disgruntled graduate student murder 5 at the University of
Iowa, along with other sensationalized incidents. The surge in mass killings was so
frightening that a rumor spread throughout the nation that there would be a mass mur-
der at a college in the Northeast on Halloween (Farrish, 1991). Fortunately, October 31
came and went without anything close to a massacre taking place.
And as of this writing, more than one third of the way into 2013, Mother Jones has
identified but one incident that fits its definition of a senseless mass shooting. If this is
any indication, the tendency for bad years to be followed by better ones will hold true
once again.
Myth: Recent Mass Murders Involve Record-Setting Body
If anything has increased with regard to mass murder, it is the public’s fear, anxiety,
and widely held belief that the problem is getting worse (see Baldassare, Bonner,
Petek, & Shrestha, 2013). Unquestionably, this perception is linked to the style and
pervasiveness of news-media coverage, owing in large part to advances in technology
(Heath & Gilbert, 1996). In 1966, when Charles Whitman opened fire from atop the
307-foot tower at the University of Texas in Austin, there were no 24-hr news stations
or fleets of satellite trucks to relay images of tragedy as they unfolded. CNN wasn’t
born until the 1980s, and the other major cable news outlets not until much later.
Today, of course, the American public can watch chilling live coverage of some far-
away mass shooting by turning on their high-definition television screens, making it
feel as if the event is happening just down the street.
The emotional impact of the Sandy Hook slaughter was intensified by the imme-
diacy of news reports. Young children, their eyes fresh with tears and their faces filled
with terror from just having fled their embattled school building, were swarmed by
reporters holding microphones and cameras. The news coverage of Sandy Hook had
Americans glued to their TV sets. According to a USA Today/Gallup poll of more than
1,000 adults, half the respondents watched the news reporting “very closely,” while
90% indicated watching at least “somewhat closely” (Saad, 2012).
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Fox and DeLateur 131
The extensive news focus on school shootings certainly had an impact on percep-
tion and fear. The same USA Today/Gallup poll found that nearly one quarter of those
surveyed believed that a shooting spree such as Sandy Hook was “very likely” to occur
in their own community and more than half thought that it was at least “somewhat
likely” (Saad, 2012).
Meanwhile, as news of the Sandy Hook shooting was still unfolding and before any
perpetrator or motive was identified, scores of journalists were asking whether this
was the worst school shooting in history. It didn’t matter that deadlier episodes had
occurred overseas (the 2004 school siege in Russia), at a college setting (Virginia Tech
in 2007) or involving means other than gunfire (the 1927 school explosion in Bath,
Michigan), reporters were eager to declare the Sandy Hook massacre as some type of
new record (see Best, 2013).
When it comes to news reporting, the penchant for some journalists to characterize
tragedy as some kind of record is mystifying. Whether the latest massacre is in any
sense the worst doesn’t change the associated pain and suffering of the victims, their
families, and the community at large.
At the same time, there is a definite downside to media overexposure and obsession
with records, and that is the possibility that some like-minded and obscure individual
will see an opportunity for recognition and perhaps a chance to break a record for
bloodshed (Dietz, 1986). Of course, the overwhelming majority of Americans who
watch the news about a mass shooting identify with the pain and suffering of the vic-
tims and their families. However, a few individuals instead identify with the power of
the perpetrator, empathize with his or her frustrations, and maybe even admire his or
her instant but undeserved celebrity.
The dynamics of imitation and reinforced learning suggest that people are far
more likely to model the behavior of others if they perceive the act as reaping some
reward (see Bandura, 1978). Many rational adults would question how compelling
Columbine shooters Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris could be as role models when, at
the end of the school day, they were found lying dead from self-inflicted gunshot
wounds. However, teenagers can often interpret outcomes very differently from their
parents. To an unhappy, alienated adolescent, the two gunmen could be seen as
heroes: Not only had they avenged the bullying, intimidation, and acts of ostracism
that are commonplace in sprawling high schools such as Columbine but also they
were famous for it. When TIME magazine placed the gunmen on its May 3, 1999,
cover with the headline “The Monsters Next Door,” most readers saw the “cover
boys” as just that—monsters. A few like-minded teenagers would have considered
them celebrities who had the courage to get even, to claim a victory for bullying vic-
tims everywhere (see Paton, 2012).
There are many curious examples of copycat offending, and not just among chil-
dren and adolescents. The U.S. Postal Service suffered a series of shootings, beginning
with the 1986 massacre of 14 postal employees in Edmond, Oklahoma, from which
came the well-known phrase, “going postal.” Some of these perpetrators spoke openly
about other postal rampages that had preceded their own. Adam Lanza, the Sandy
Hook school shooter, was reportedly obsessed with Anders Breivik, a Norwegian mass
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132 Homicide Studies 18(1)
murderer responsible for killing 77 people, and he, in turn, was fascinated with the
notorious Unabomber, Theodore Kaczynski.
This so-called “copycat effect,” while widely embraced in the popular press, has
received only limited attention in scholarly research, and mostly in the area of suicide
(see Coleman, 2004). Sociologist David Phillips (1982) gave the imitation hypothesis
more than a modicum of credibility with a series of studies related to the publicity sur-
rounding suicides and subsequent increases in attempted or completed suicides.
Phillips similarly observed, based on quasi-experimental time series data, a lagged
impact of executions and major prize fights on rates of homicide (Phillips, 1983).
Phillips’s findings, however, have been seriously criticized for violation of model
assumptions and for capitalizing on chance results (Baron & Reiss, 1985).
Given the paucity of hard evidence about the exact magnitude of copycatting, par-
ticularly with regard to multiple murders, we are left with but an array of anecdotes
suggesting how mass murderers were drawn to those who perpetrated similar crimes.
Even then, there is no certainty that the murders would not have occurred regardless
of modeling. At best, copycatting might influence the form, and not necessarily the
inspiration, for mass murder.
Whatever the extent of imitation, it is important that media coverage not obsess
over large and especially record-setting body counts and avoid the tendency to sensa-
tionalize already sensational events (see Duwe, 2000). Indeed, there is a critical dis-
tinction between shedding light on a crime and a spotlight on the criminal.
Myth: Violent Entertainment, Especially Video Games,
Are Causally Linked to Mass Murder
Besides the imitation of notorious crimes and criminals, fictional portrayals of vio-
lence can provide a source for modeling behavior. Certainly, concern over the negative
impact of violent entertainment extends back generations. Yet, the realism offered by
today’s entertainment options has intensified the debate.
It can be tempting to try to implicate entertainment media—especially video games—
for various stunning episodes of extreme violence. A Gallup poll taken in the wake of the
April, 1999, Columbine massacre found that 62% of the more than 1,000 adults sur-
veyed nationwide felt that entertainment media was a major cause of school violence
(Newport, 1999), and 83% supported restrictions on sales of violent media to children
(see Carlson, 2002). Furthermore, a Gallup poll of approximately 1,000 adults nation-
wide taken immediately following the December 2012, Sandy Hook shooting found that
78% of respondents believed that reducing the depiction of gun violence in entertain-
ment media would be effective in decreasing the risk of mass shootings (Newport, 2012).
It is not surprising that most schoolyard shooters and many adult mass murderers
played violent video games in their spare time. To be sure, violent people are often
attracted to violent entertainment, on TV, in film, or through game consoles. However, the
ability to document a direct causal link indicating that consuming violent entertainment
leads to violent behavior has eluded social science researchers for years (Brief of Social
Scientists et al., 2010; Ferguson, 2011; Grimes, Anderson, & Bergen, 2008).
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Fox and DeLateur 133
Much was written in the popular press about the fact that Sandy Hook shooter
Adam Lanza spent long hours alone in the basement of his Newtown home playing
violent video games (see, for example, Edelman, 2013). However, his gaming may be
more a symptom of his personality and temperament than the cause. As a socially
awkward youngster, reportedly with Asperger’s syndrome, his social isolation may be
the key to his preoccupation with gaming as well as his rampage against an unwelcom-
ing society.
The entertainment industry has, at times, been used as a convenient scapegoat, and
censorship as an easy solution. Lawsuits directed against various media organizations
have occasionally been launched, albeit unsuccessfully, when it was discovered that
some mass murderer had been obsessed with violent entertainment. Such concerns
also led to the passage of a 2005 California ban on the sale of violent video games to
minors, although the U.S. Supreme Court ultimately judged the prohibition to be
unconstitutional in a 7-2 decision (Brown, Governor of California, et al., v.
Entertainment Media Association et al., 2011). It has long been easy to point fingers
at this profitable industry, while ignoring some of the root causes of violence that are
much more difficult to resolve.
To the extent that youngsters spend endless hours being entertained by violence
says more about the lack of parental supervision and control. It isn’t that the entertain-
ment media are so powerful; it is that our other institutions—family, school, religion,
and neighborhood—have grown weaker with respect to socializing children (see
Flannery, Modzeleski, & Kretschmar, 2013; Paton, 2012). Banning violent entertain-
ment may be an easy fix, especially when policymakers are unwilling or unable to deal
with the more fundamental causes of violence.
Myth: Greater Attention and Response to the Telltale
Warning Signs Will Allow Us to Identify Would-Be Mass
Killers Before They Act
In the aftermath of an extremely violent episode, survivors typically question why
certain warning signs were ignored. The warning sign can even come in the form of
overt or veiled threats articulated by the soon-to-become mass murderer—a process
that has been termed “leakage” (O’Toole, 2008). If anything, these indicators are yel-
low flags that only turn red once the blood has spilled and are identified in the after-
math of tragedy with crystal-clear hindsight.
There certainly exist a number of common features in the profile of a mass shooter.
As shown in Table 1, they are overwhelmingly male (more than 95% are male), more
often Caucasian (nearly two thirds are White), and older than murderers in general
(half are more than 30 years of age). Beyond just these demographics, mass killers
tend to share a number of psychological and behavioral characteristics, including
depression, resentment, social isolation, the tendency to externalize blame, fascination
with graphically violent entertainment, and a keen interest in weaponry (see Fox &
Levin, 2003). However, these characteristics, even in combination, are fairly prevalent
in the general population.
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134 Homicide Studies 18(1)
Profiles and checklists designed to predict rare events—such as mass shootings—
tend to over-predict, producing a large number of “false positives” (see Chaiken et al.,
1994; Norko & Baranoski, 2008). Many people may closely match the profile—angry,
frustrated folks who are reclusive, quick to blame others for their shortcomings and
make threatening remarks—but very few will in fact commit murder, much less mass
murder (see Bjelopera, Bagalman, Caldwell, Finklea, & McCallion, 2013; Ferguson,
Coulson, & Barnett, 2011; Mulvey & Cauffman, 2001).
In addition, aggressive attempts to single out potential troublemakers before they
make trouble can potentially do more harm than good by stigmatizing, marginalizing,
and traumatizing already troubled individuals. If they already feel mistreated, then
focused interventions, even if benevolent, can easily be misinterpreted as further evi-
dence of persecution, thereby encouraging a violent outburst rather than discouraging
it (see Fox & Levin, 1994, 2012; Lakeman, 1997).
Myth: Widening the Availability of Mental Health
Services Will Allow Unstable Individuals to Get the
Treatment They Need and Avert Mass Murders
Recent mass shootings at the hands of seemingly disturbed individuals have prompted
mental health advocates to push for increased access to treatment. Unfortunately,
countless Americans suffer from depression and loneliness. Many go without the psy-
chiatric treatment that they desperately need but perhaps cannot afford.
Table 1. Demographic Characteristics of Mass Shooters, 1976-2011.
Demographic characteristic n%
Offender sex
Male 506 95.8
Female 22 4.2
Total 528 100.0
Offender race
White 321 62.0
Black 171 33.0
Other 26 5.0
Total 518 100.0
Offender age
Under 20 63 12.2
20-29 196 38.1
30-39 127 24.7
40-49 95 18.4
50 and above 34 6.6
Total 515 100.0
Note. The total count of 692 was reduced because of unknown offender characteristics.
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Fox and DeLateur 135
It would certainly be a fitting legacy to the tragedy in Newtown if mental health ser-
vices were expanded and improved. However, greater access to treatment options may
not necessarily reach the few individuals on the fringe who would seek to turn a school,
a shopping mall, or a movie theater into their own personal war zone. With their ten-
dency to externalize blame and consider themselves as victims of mistreatment, mass
murderers see the problem to reside in others, not themselves (Knoll, 2012). If urged or
even coerced to seek counseling, the would-be mass murderer would likely resist angrily
to the suggestion that something is wrong with him or her. He or she desires fair treat-
ment, not psychological treatment (see, for example, Fox & Levin, 1994).
In the aftermath of high-profile mass shootings, political leaders often rally to
address the needs of the mentally ill. Unfortunately, this timing tends to stigmatize the
vast majority of people who suffer from mental illness as if they too are mass murder-
ers in waiting (see Barry, McGinty, Vernick, & Webster, 2013). However, no clear
relationship between psychiatric diagnosis and mass murder has been established (see
Busch & Cavanaugh, 1986; Dietz, 1986; Taylor & Gunn, 1999).
In addition, the sudden initiative to aid the psychologically impaired may be the
right thing to do but for the wrong reason. For example, during an April 8, 2013,
speech in Hartford, Connecticut, delivered months after the Sandy Hook school shoot-
ing, President Barack Obama (2013) urged Congress to respond: “We need to help
people struggling with mental health problems get the treatment they need before it is
too late” [italics added]. We should endeavor to help the mentally ill out of concern for
their well-being, not just because we are worried about the well-being of those they
might kill (Swanson, 2008).
Myth: Enhanced Background Checks Will Keep
Dangerous Weapons Out of the Hands of These Madmen
If one thing is predictable about mass shootings, it is that they will spark heated debate
over gun control. Many public officials and private citizens alike insist that we must
find a way to keep guns away from our most dangerous element (see Barry et al., 2013;
Best, 2013). However, they are often blinded by passion and anger from confronting
the practical limitations to achieving that desirable objective.
Most mass murderers do not have criminal records or a history of psychiatric hos-
pitalization (Dietz, 1986). They would not be disqualified from purchasing their weap-
ons legally. A recent examination of 93 mass shootings from January 2009 through
September 2013, conducted by Mayors Against Illegal Guns (2013), found no indica-
tion that any of the assailants were prohibited by federal law from possessing firearms
because they had been adjudicated mentally ill or had been involuntarily committed
for treatment. And in just 10 of the 93 cases, there was evidence that concerns about
the mental health of the shooter had been brought to the attention of a medical practi-
tioner or legal authority prior to the shooting spree.
People cannot be denied their Second Amendment rights just because they look strange
or act in an odd manner. Moreover, would-be mass killers can usually find an alternative
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136 Homicide Studies 18(1)
Table 3. Weapons Used in Public Mass Shootings.
Type of firearm n%
Assault weapons 35 24.6
Semiautomatic handguns 68 47.9
Revolvers 20 14.1
Shotguns 19 13.4
Total 142 100.0
Source. Mother Jones database of mass shootings, 1982-2012.
way of securing the needed weaponry. Several mass shooters have used firearms pur-
chased, borrowed, or stolen from a family member or friend (see Follman et al., 2013).
Myth: Restoring the Federal Ban on Assault Weapons
Will Prevent These Horrible Crimes
In the aftermath of the Newtown shooting, many media pundits and political leaders
alike decried the expiration of the 1994 federal ban on certain military-style assault
weapons. However, a comparison of the incidence of mass shootings during the 10-year
window when the assault weapon ban was in force against the time periods before imple-
mentation and after expiration shows that the legislation had virtually no effect, at least
in terms of murder in an extreme form. As shown in Table 2, based on SHR data from
1976 to 2011, the average incidence and victimization level during the federal prohibi-
tion was not especially different than in the years before or after the law was operative.
The overwhelming majority of mass murderers use firearms that would not be
restricted by an assault weapons ban (see Duwe, 2007). Moreover, the Mother Jones
data, notwithstanding the questions surrounding inclusions/exclusions, suggest that
assault weapons are not as commonplace in mass shootings as some gun-control advo-
cates believe. As shown in Table 3, semiautomatic handguns are far more prevalent in
random massacres than firearms that would typically be classified as assault weapons
(Follman et al., 2013). In fact, only one quarter of these mass murderers killed with an
assault weapon; they easily could have identified an alternate means of mass casualty
if that were necessary.
Table 2. Mass Shootings and the Federal Assault Weapon Ban.
Time period
Incidents Victims
Total Average Total Average
1976-1994 335 17.6 1,536 80.8
1995-2004 193 19.3 876 87.6
2005-2011 144 20.6 699 99.9
Source. Supplementary Homicide Reports, 1976-2011.
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Fox and DeLateur 137
In an analysis of mass shootings from January 2009 through September 2013,
Mayors Against Illegal Guns (2013) confirmed the limited role of military-style assault
weapons. Only 14 of the 93 incidents examined by this gun-control group involved
assault weapons or high-capacity magazines. Of course, limiting the size of ammuni-
tion clips would at least compel a gunman to pause to reload or switch weapons,
potentially giving others a brief window of opportunity to escape or even intervene
(see Barry et al., 2013; Best, 2013). However, such an initiative would likely affect
only newly produced accessories. Unfortunately, there is an ample supply of large-
capacity magazines already in circulation for anyone determined enough to locate one.
Myth: Expanding “Right to Carry” Provisions Will Deter
Mass Killers or at Least Stop Them in Their Tracks and
Reduce the Body Counts
The potential for citizens to counterattack while an assailant stops to reload is but one
reason why many gun-rights advocates argue against gun restrictions, at least for law-
abiding, licensed gun owners. Specifically, many argue that the establishment of gun-
free zones (e.g., schools, churches, courthouses, and other government buildings)
makes citizens vulnerable to attacks by armed assailants.
Proponents for expanding concealed carry rights contend that having more people
armed in public spaces would not only serve as a deterrent but also permit citizens to
overpower an armed assailant. Whatever the deterrent or intervention effects, detrac-
tors have voiced concern that a sudden shootout between an assailant and citizens
armed with concealed weapons could potentially catch countless innocent victims in
the crossfire. As mentioned, mass killers are often described by surviving witnesses as
being relaxed and calm during their rampages, owing to their level of planning. In
contrast, the rest of us are taken by surprise and typically respond frantically.
Whether or not permitting concealed carry impacts the risk of mass murder is, of
course, an empirical question, and not just a debate involving hypotheticals. Using a
Poisson regression approach, Lott and Landes (2000) analyzed the effect of right-to-
carry laws in 23 states on the incidence and magnitude of multiple-victim homicide
over the time frame of 1977-1995, concluding that such legislation works to suppress
the risk and extent of mass violence. However, Duwe, Kovandzic, and Moody (2002),
applying the more flexible and appropriate negative binomial model to a time frame
expanded through 1999, concluded that the effect of right-to-carry laws was negligi-
ble, neither encouraging nor discouraging mass shootings.
The debate over an armed citizenry has focused specifically on schools and the need
to protect vulnerable populations of students from armed assailants. Since the Newtown
shooting, lawmakers in as many as six states have promoted legislation to arm school-
teachers and train them to shoot. And, based on a nationwide poll by the Gallup organi-
zation, nearly two thirds of Americans see merit in this idea (Newport, 2012).
Supporters of firearms-for-faculty laws argue that ever since the early 1990s, when
the U.S. Congress established schools as gun-free zones, an armed assailant, be it a stu-
dent-insider or a stranger-intruder, could be assured to face little opposition. The belief
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138 Homicide Studies 18(1)
is that arming teachers and administrators might serve as a powerful deterrent to anyone
contemplating a Columbine-style school shooting. It is hard to imagine, however, that a
vengeful student, who is willing to die by police gunfire or by his or her own hand,
would be dissuaded by knowing that the faculty were armed. He may even welcome the
chance to shoot it out with the principal at high noon in the school cafeteria.
The debate over guns on campus has been particularly contentious with regard to
institutions of higher education. The national grassroots organization Students for
Concealed Carry has had some success in convincing legislators that the body count in
episodes such as the Virginia Tech massacre, in which 32 people were slain, would be
reduced were properly licensed and trained students allowed to carry guns to class.
However, in light of the low rate of serious violence on campus and the high prevalence
of substance abuse and depression among college students, it would seem ill-advised to
encourage gun carrying by anyone other than duly sworn public safety personnel.
Myth: Increasing Physical Security in Schools and Other
Places Will Prevent Mass Murder
The immediate response to deadly shootings in schools and other buildings is typically a
call for enhanced physical security (see Lassiter & Perry, 2009; Trump, 2011). In the short
term, access control and close surveillance may calm the fears of an anxious public. In the
long run, it is equally important to avoid transforming our public spaces into fortresses.
Out of concern for the safety of the most vulnerable members of society, schools at
all levels have seen the need to invest significant resources in physical security mea-
sures. As shown in Table 4, public schools have particularly embraced access control
strategies as well as surveillance technology. Despite the tremendous suffering that
would come from a school shooting, the exceptionally low probability of such an event
would argue against excessive levels of security (Fox & Burstein, 2010). Children
should not be constantly reminded of their vulnerability, suggesting that they have a
target on their backs. It hardly serves the primary mission of educating students.
Although generally effective in protecting a student population, most security mea-
sures serve only as a minor inconvenience for those who are determined to cause
mayhem (see Fox & Burstein, 2010; Rocque, 2012; Trump, 2000). Two middle school
students in Arkansas, for example, didn’t bother trying to bring guns into school. They
only had to pull the fire alarm and wait outside in the schoolyard for their human tar-
gets to emerge from the building.
Myth: Having Armed Guards at Every School Will Serve
to Protect Students From an Active Shooter and Provide
a Deterrent as Well
In the wake of the Sandy Hook massacre, Wayne LaPierre, Executive Director of the
National Rifle Association (NRA), suggested that we equip every school in America—
schools of every size, level, and type—with an armed guard. Central to the set of
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Fox and DeLateur 139
Table 4. Percentage of Public Schools With Various Safety and Security Measures.
School safety and security
School year
1999-2000 2003-2004 2005-2006 2007-2008 2009-2010
Controlled access during school hours
Buildings (e.g., locked or
monitored doors)
74.6 83.0 84.9 89.5 91.7
Grounds (e.g., locked or
monitored gates)
33.7 36.2 41.1 42.6 46.0
Closed the campus for most
64.6 66.0 66.1 65.0 66.9
Required to wear badges or picture IDs
Students 3.9 6.4 6.1 7.6 6.9
Faculty and staff 25.4 48.0 47.8 58.3 62.9
Metal detector checks on students
Random checks 7.2 5.6 4.9 5.3 5.2
Required to pass through
0.9 1.1 1.1 1.3 1.4
Sweeps and technology
Random sweeps for
11.8 12.8 13.1 11.4 12.1
Provided telephones in most
44.6 60.8 66.8 71.6 74.0
Notification system for
school-wide emergency
NA NA NA 43.2 63.1
Anonymous threat reporting
NA NA NA 31.2 35.9
Used security cameras to
monitor the school
19.4 36.0 42.8 55.0 61.1
Visitor requirements
Sign in or check in 96.6 98.3 97.6 98.7 99.3
Dress code
Required students to wear
11.8 13.8 13.8 17.5 18.9
Enforced a strict dress code 47.4 55.1 55.3 54.8 56.9
School supplies and equipment
No book bags or clear-only
5.9 6.2 6.4 6.0 5.5
Provided school lockers to
46.5 49.5 50.6 48.9 52.1
Source. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, School Survey on Crime
and Safety 2000, 2004, 2006, 2008, and 2010.
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140 Homicide Studies 18(1)
Table 5. Percentage of Public Schools With Security Personnel.
%t of schools with security guards
or sworn police officers
% of schools with regularly armed
security personnel
2005-2006 2007-2008 2009-2010 2005-2006 2007-2008 2009-2010
All public schools 41.7 46.3 42.8 30.7 34.1 28.0
Grade level
Primary school 26.2 33.1 27.7 15.7 20.1 12.5
Middle school 63.7 65.5 66.4 51.8 54.2 51.0
High school 75.2 79.6 76.4 64.0 67.5 63.3
Combined school 43.5 39.9 36.6 32.4 32.1 24.6
Enrollment size
Less than 300 22.7 27.6 25.6 16.2 16.1 13.5
300-499 29.8 36.1 33.5 20.5 26.7 19.8
500-999 50.5 52.7 47.3 36.9 39.5 30.3
1,000 or more 86.9 90.6 90.0 70.3 73.5 74.6
City 49.1 57.3 50.9 30.5 33.1 27.6
Suburb 42.7 45.4 45.4 32.2 33.7 29.6
Town 44.4 51.1 39.0 38.1 45.0 31.6
Rural 33.8 36.0 35.2 27.1 30.5 25.3
Percent minority enrollment
Below 5% 28.3 35.6 30.4 22.9 27.1 21.9
5% up to 20% 38.9 42.9 36.5 30.2 37.7 27.6
20% up to 50% 41.6 44.7 41.9 35.3 38.4 30.5
50% and above 51.3 55.4 52.5 31.3 31.8 29.1
Source. U.S. Department of Education, National Center for Education Statistics, 2005-2006, 2007-2008,
and 2009-2010 School Survey on Crime and Safety (SSOCS), 2006, 2008, and 2010.
recommendations advanced by an NRA-sponsored task force is for schools to be suf-
ficiently prepared to ward off any dangerous intruder (see Hutchinson, 2013).
Actually, as shown in Table 5, many schools, especially high schools and those in
urban areas, already use security personnel, often equipped with firearms.
Notwithstanding the many benefits to employing well-trained school resource officers
(Rich-Shea, 2010) as a deterrent to mass shootings, this too is limited. Columbine
High School, in fact, had school resource officers on duty the day in 1999 when two
alienated adolescents turned their school into a war zone. Columbine was a fairly large
campus with nearly 2,000 students enrolled, and the officers couldn’t be everywhere
at once.
If armed guards and armed teachers are indeed worthy strategies for protecting
children, then what should schools do to protect the students before and after school?
Expanding this approach would dictate providing weapons to coaches, athletic direc-
tors, and even bus drivers.
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Fox and DeLateur 141
The fact that gun control, expanded psychiatric services, and increased security mea-
sures are limited in their ability to prevent dreadful mass shootings doesn’t mean that
we shouldn’t try. In the immediate aftermath of the Newtown shooting, there was
momentum in Washington, D.C., and in various state legislatures to establish policies
and procedures designed to make us all safer.
Gun restrictions and other initiatives may not stop the next mass murderer, wher-
ever he or she may strike, but we can enhance the well-being of millions of Americans
in the process. Besides, doing something is better than doing nothing. At least, it will
reduce the debilitating feeling of helplessness.
Many of the well-intentioned proposals coming in response to the recent spike in
mass shootings may do much to affect the level of violent crime that plagues our
nation daily. We shouldn’t, however, expect such efforts to take a big bite out of crime
in its most extreme form. Of course, taking a nibble out of the risk of mass murder,
however small, would still be a worthy goal for the nation. However, those who have
suggested that their plan for change will ensure that a crime such as the Sandy Hook
massacre will never reoccur will be bitterly disappointed.
Eliminating the risk of mass murder would involve extreme steps that we are unable
or unwilling to take—abolishing the Second Amendment, achieving full employment,
restoring our sense of community, and rounding up anyone who looks or acts at all
suspicious. Mass murder just may be a price we must pay for living in a society where
personal freedom is so highly valued.
Declaration of Conflicting Interests
The author(s) declared no potential conflicts of interest with respect to the research, authorship,
and/or publication of this article.
The author(s) received no financial support for the research, authorship, and/or publication of
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Author Biographies
James Alan Fox is the Lipman Family Professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at
Northeastern University. He has published 18 books, including Extreme Killing: Understanding
Serial and Mass Murder (Sage 2012), co-authored with Jack Levin.
Monica J. DeLateur is a doctoral student in the School of Criminology and Criminal Justice at
Northeastern University. Her current research explores sentencing outcomes and decisions to
prosecute, particularly in human trafficking cases.
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... Public perceptions of crime and mental illness are also shaped by the news media. Oftentimes, depicting crime as caused by mental illness is a strategy reserved for white offenders (Fox and DeLateur 2014;Leary et al. 2003;McGinty et al. 2014). Media coverage emphasizes the mental health of white mass shooters, but it casts non-white perpetrators of extreme crimes as "racial folk devils" (Duxbury et al. 2018, p. 767). ...
Full-text available
On 27 March 2023, Aiden Hale broke into the Covenant School, a private Christian academy in Nashville, TN, and killed three students and three staff members. Hale, a former student at the school, was transgender. Although assigned female at birth, Hale identified as male, asked to be called by a male name, and used he/him pronouns. In the aftermath of the shooting, a newfound wave of anti-trans rhetoric soared, once again putting members of the transgender community in harm’s way. In this article, we review the details of the Covenant School shooting and consider them in the context of the anti-trans movement in the United States, a movement that has escalated as transgender people have become more visible and more vocal in society. We then present findings from an extensive content analysis of newspaper coverage in the two weeks following the shooting (27 March–10 April). In so doing, we add to the literature on K-12 school shootings and gender studies, specifically stigma towards the transgender community.
... The assailants, almost all of which are male, tend to share characteristics from past trauma and personal crises, including depression, resentment, social isolation, the tendency to externalize blame, fascination with graphically violent entertainment, and a keen interest in weaponry. As discussed in Fox & DeLateur (2014), however, these indicators may constitute warning signs but tend to over-predict potential perpetrators as they are prevalent in a large portion of the population. Indeed, Metzl & MacLeish (2015) and Metzl et al. (2021) have more recently suggested that mental illness alone does not provide sufficient evidence to explain and prevent mass shootings. ...
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Over the last fifty years, the United States have experienced hundreds of mass public shootings that resulted in thousands of victims. Characterized by their frequent occurrence and devastating nature, mass shootings have become a major public health hazard that dramatically impact safety and well-being of individuals and communities. Given the epidemic traits of this phenomenon, there have been concerted efforts to understand the root causes that lead to public mass shootings in order to implement effective prevention strategies. For this reason, we propose a quantile mixed graphical model for investigating the intricacies of inter- and infra-domain relationships of this complex phenomenon, where conditional relations between discrete and continuous variables are modeled without stringent distributional assumptions using Parzen's definition of mid-quantile. To retrieve the graph structure and recover only the most relevant connections, we consider the neighborhood selection approach in which conditional mid-quantiles of each variable in the network are modeled as a sparse function of all others. We propose a two-step procedure to estimate the graph where, in the first step, conditional mid-probabilities are obtained semi-parametrically and, in the second step, the model parameters are estimated by solving an implicit equation with a LASSO penalty.
... 6 This four fatality threshold has been utilized by many scholars to define mass shootings (i.e., "mass murders" by firearm). [7][8][9][10][11] In 2013, President Barack Obama called for a separate federal definition of "mass killings" as incidents involving three or more fatalities (with the Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012) (Of note, the fatality thresholds of both "mass murders" and "mass killings" exclude the possible death of the perpetrator of the violence). ...
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Background: The United States experiences more mass shootings than any other nation in the world. Various entities have sought to collect data on this phenomenon, but there is no scholarly consensus regarding how best to define mass shootings. As a result, existing datasets include different incidents, limiting our understanding of the impact of mass gun violence in the U.S. Methods: We compared five datasets of mass shootings for each year included in five databases (2013-2020) and identified overlaps between each database's incidents. These overlaps and divergences between datasets persisted after applying the strictest fatality threshold (four or more) in mass shootings scholarship and policy. Findings: The datasets collectively include 3155 incidents, but the number of incidents included in each individual dataset varies from 57 to 2955 incidents. Only 25 incidents (0.008% of all incidents) are included in all five datasets. This finding persists even when applying the strictest criteria for mass shootings (four or more fatalities). Interpretation: Data discrepancies prevent us from understanding the public health impact of mass gun violence. These discrepancies result from a lack of scholarly consensus on how to define mass shootings, likely the downstream consequence of the politicization of gun violence research. We argue for a broad definition of a mass shooting and a government-supported data collection program to remedy these discrepancies. Such steps can improve the quality of research and support policy-making and journalism on the subject. Funding: This research was supported by the Pahl Initiative on the Study of Critical Social Issues, University of California, Santa Barbara.
... 1 As one category of gun-related homicide, mass shooting generally features more victims, public venues, and indiscriminate shooting. Its salience in media tends to amplify people's safety concerns in public places, including hotels and movie theaters (Fox and DeLateur, 2014;Petee et al., 1997). ...
Most prior research has examined whether not violent content in games could be linked to aggressive behavior. Despite several decades of research, clear links between violent content and player aggression have not been established, with much debate remaining. This chapter argues that research would be more fruitful focusing its attention away from content issues and instead on players themselves. Increasing evidence suggests that player motivations, frustration, and the social context of play are more crucial to understanding the media experience than are morally salient concerns with violence or other objectionable content. It is concluded that players have considerable agency in regard to selecting, interpreting, and shaping their media experience.
Conference Paper
Mass shootings have emerged as a significant threat to public safety, with devastating consequences for communities and individuals affected by such events [7]. However, a lack of widespread use of new technological infrastructure poses significant risk to victims [8]. This paper proposes a system to classify and localize gunshots in reverberant indoor urban conditions, using MFCC features and a Convolutional Neural Network binary classifier [9]. The location information is further relayed to users through a mobile client in real time. We installed a prototype of the system in a high school in Orange County, California and conducted a qualitative evaluation of the approach. Preliminary results show that such a mass shooting response system can effectively improve survivability.
Purpose Reducing fatalities and increasing the number of students able to remain safe during an active shooter event is paramount to the health and well-being of schools and communities. Yet, methodological limitations and ethical concerns have restricted prior research on security measures during school shooter lockdown drills. This study aims to fill that gap by using virtual reality (VR) to statistically examine the effectiveness of active shooter response protocols in a simulated high school. Design/methodology/approach Using a full factorial, within-subjects experimental design, this exploratory investigation used VR technology to investigate whether automatic classroom door locks, centralized lockdown notifications and the presence of a school resource officer (SRO) significantly impacted student safety and casualty mitigation. Data were collected from a convenience sample of 37 individuals who volunteered to participate in 24 school shooter scenarios within a simulated virtual environment. Findings Multiple one-way analysis of variances indicated significant main effects for automatic classroom door locks and SRO presence. Automatic locks yielded faster lockdown response times, and both factors were significantly associated with higher numbers of secured classrooms. Originality/value Findings from the current study address the gap in existing literature regarding evidence-based school safety protocols and provide recommendations for using VR simulations to increase preparedness and reduce fatalities during an active school shooter event.
This study examined public comments on Twitter in the wake of three mass shootings in the United States during the summer of 2022. A total of 1,500 tweets were assessed (N = 1,500) for sentiment, risks presented, attribution of blame, and outrage. A sample of 500 tweets was taken following the Buffalo, New York, supermarket shooting; a sample of 500 tweets was taken following the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting; and a sample of 500 tweets was taken following the Highland Park, Illinois, Fourth of July parade shooting. Results show that risk, blame, and outrage differed significantly between the three situations in a variety of ways. These differences and possible reasons for them are further discussed. This study provides valuable insight on social media conversations about mass shootings – a timely subject that continues to plague the country and lead to polarizing opinions and divisiveness. The study also serves a practical function, as the findings can be presented to government organizations and social media organizations alike as critical insight into public perceptions, it can assist in identifying problematic speech online, and it can inform the development of social media guidelines in maintaining civil discord.
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The recent media hype over school shootings has led to demands for methods of identifying school shooters before they act. Despite the fact that schools remain one of the safest places for youths to be, schools are beginning to adopt identification systems to determine which students could be future killers. The methods used to accomplish this not only are unproven but are inherently limited in usefulness and often do more harm than good for both the children and the school setting. The authors' goals in the present article are to place school shootings in perspective relative to other risks of violence that children face and to provide a reasonable and scientifically defensible approach to improving the safety of schools.
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Purpose – This study examines perpetrators and their fans media participation for the purpose of investigating whether new media produce school shootings anew. Method – We first analyze the narrative structure of eight school shooters’ 75 self-produced videos (1999–2011), then conduct thematic and content analysis of this material. Then, based upon a three-year ethnographic investigation of a subculture on YouTube (2007–2010), from which a sample of 81 users, 142 videos, and screenshots of natural conversation was taken, we analyze the style and ritual practices, fan attachment, and online regulation of the subculture. Findings – The mirroring of the school shooters’ videos and their fans’ media practices highlights a trait of contemporary society: a need for distinction and intrinsic individuality directly linked to a modern era in which autonomy and self-production have become well-praised norms, and media a support for individuation. Social implications – We observe some of the pitfalls of contemporary social injunctions and how the media interplay into this dynamic. This research also emphasizes the role of regulation in an online subculture: opposition encountered tends to contribute to the individualization of positions rather than the reproduction of violence. Value of paper – This study provides a starting-point for future research in visual communication and online fan-based subcultures related to contemporary forms of violence.
This comprehensive, evidence-based examination looks at violence and security across the entire spectrum of education, from preschool through college. In Violence and Security on Campus: From Preschool through College two expert authors take an evidence-based look at this important issue, dispelling myths and misconceptions about the problem and offering appropriate responses to it. Their book examines patterns, trends, correlations, and causes of violence, crime, and disorder in diverse educational settings, from elementary schools through colleges and universities. It reviews data and research evidence related to forms of violence, from bullying to murder, and it explores the varied security concerns that confront schools of different levels. In addition to describing the nature and extent of the school violence problem, which is often divergent from media reports, the authors point to other security issues that need to be considered and addressed by administrators and security personnel. Finally, they assess a variety of policy responses and security solutions—some popular yet ineffective, some challenging yet promising—offering advice that will enhance the security of any institution of learning.
A thorough overview of violence and crime in America’s schools explores which solutions work and which don’t, providing a framework for prevention at every level. Although it is major incidents like Columbine or Virginia Tech that grab the headlines, everyday occurrences of bullying, harassment, and physical intimidation in schools impact entire communities, driving kids out of public schools and destroying faith in public education. Preventing Violence and Crime in America’s Schools: From Put-Downs to Lock-Downs provides educators, parents, law enforcement officials, and other youth-serving professionals with a unique perspective on the topic of school violence. More important, it offers solutions to the problems facing all schools when it comes to violence and safety. Two expert authors examine specifics relating to school violence, opportunities to prevent and intervene, and the importance of planning for a crisis. Most other books about school violence either highlight the research or highlight practitioner viewpoints. This revealing book presents both, balancing insights gained through real-world experiences with research on best practices. The result is a fuller understanding of the problem—understanding that will enable solutions.
Using clinical judgment alone, mental health professionals cannot predict individual patient violence much more accurately than chance. Clinicians could improve their prediction of violence if they routinely used structured risk assessment instruments, but they don't; the use of such tools for screening is not currently the standard of care in the United States and is not commonly reimbursed by insurance. The author argues, however, that clinicians actually can predict and prevent violence if they consider their patients as a group from the perspective of public-health epidemiology. Optimizing treatment for all patients will help prevent violence by the few who pose a risk of violence, even when such patients are not identified in advance.
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.
Security expert Kenneth S. Trump outlines school security issues and provides nuts-and-bolts strategies for preventing violence and preparing for crises. Includes author's companion website.
In recent years, there have been numerous quasi-experimental studies of aggregate mortality data. These studies conclude that mass media portrayals of violence cause imitative responses among the public. This paper examines the logic of this research, arguing that it does not meet the special burdens of proof associated with quasi-experimental studies that use aggregate data to make inferences about individual behavior. We present detailed evidence suggesting that imitation effects attributed to mass media events (prize fights and television news stories about suicides) are statistical artifacts of the mortality data, the timing of media events, and the methods employed in past research. The concluding section discusses some implications of our analysis for future studies of imitative violence and for other areas of research.