Only the NRA and mad-dog sycophantic blowhards like John Lott could celebrate the latest study from the Congressional Research Service which shows that nearly 2,000 people were killed or injured in mass shootings between 1999 and 2013. The NRA claimed that mass shootings were “rare,” despite the efforts of Mayor Bloomberg and his media allies to whip up fears about such events; Lott went right to work to make sure that we all understood that any increase in mass shootings were “statistically insignificant” over the fourteen years covered by the CRS report.
I find it a little sickening when a self-appointed bigmouth for the gun lobby dismisses the gun carnage in this country as ‘statistically insignificant.’ Because misrepresentations to the contrary, we are the only industrialized country that generates this type of crazy, homicidal behavior on a year in, year out basis, and the CRS study makes it indisputably clear that the frequency of these attacks is going up. But before I explain how my reading of the report is at such variance with the way the report is characterized by the NRA, let’s examine the methodology and findings in detail.
The FBI has always grouped mass murders into two categories: (1). ‘classic’ mass murders; (2). ‘family’ mass murders. The former involves a ‘mentally disordered individual’ whose victims are generally unrelated to him; the latter, often referred to as ‘familicide,’ grows out of a domestic dispute and usually involves both a partner and children. The report highlights many analytical problems with this approach, and replaces it with a three-pronged categorization: public, familicide and other felony shootings. In a public shooting, at least one killing occurred in a public location whereas other felony shootings grew out of some underlying criminal activity; i.e., robbery, criminal competition, etc. Mass shootings of family-related individuals involved in criminal activity is defined as a felony event.
Of the 1,557 people killed in these three types of mass shootings, 37% were victims of familicide, 34% were victims of other felony shootings, and only 28% were mowed down in public venues. I say ‘only’ because the NRA says the same thing in its summary of the CRS report; i.e., “only” 446 people were killed in public venues. What the hell – that’s nothing. The NRA then goes on to simply lie about the report when it states that “while anti-gun groups would like to portray mass shootings as being most often committed with ‘assault weapons,’ the CRS study found that between 1999 and 2013, less than 10 percent of mass shootings were committed with any firearm capable of using a detachable magazine holding more than 10 rounds.” That’s not what the report says. It says that 27% of mass public shootings involved an ‘assault weapon,’ and since the average number of murders in public shootings is 50% higher than the average number of murders in either of the other two categories, it’s pretty hard to escape the possible link between the lethality of the weapon and the body count which then occurs.
Finally, as to the increase in mass shooting activity which both the NRA and mad-dog Lott are at pains to deny, since 1999 the national gun murder rate has steadily decreased by more than 50%. The mass public shooting rate, on the other hand, spikes up and down, depending on whenever a particularly lethal event (e.g., Sandy Hook) takes place. Over the fifteen-year period, however, the annual number of incidents has not dropped one bit and, in fact, shows a slight uptick over the final five years covered by the report.
To my mind, the most important finding in this study is that in 80% of all mass shootings, it appears that the shooter knew some or all of his victims before the event occurred. This is in keeping with what is generally the case with homicides; i.e., it’s a personal affair. What turns these arguments into mass murders? The gun, nothing but the gun.