While the attack at the holiday party in San Bernardino, Calif., and the June shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. church in Charleston, S.C., will remain seared in public consciousness, in 2015, mass public shootings remain the least common form of gun violence in America.
Focusing on the widely accepted FBI definition – an incident in which four or more victims are shot and killed – there have been 22 mass shootings this year, according to a Monitor analysis of two crowdsourced databases that rely on news reports.
I've seen stories where it's stated that there is a mass shooting on average more than one a day. I don't want to minimize these tragedies, but exaggerating them doesn't help either. The focus on them in general bothers me. When over 97% of the firearm deaths are in incidents that are not mass shooting events and are given short shrift.
Barring further shootings before the end of the year, 2015 should end up being just slightly above average when compared with the past 15 years.
I realize that saying things are not totally falling apart is not that reassuring maybe. I take solace where I can find it.
A report published by the Congressional Research Service in July found that, using the same definition, between 1999 and 2013 there were an average of 21 mass shootings per year, killing 1,554 people in total and wounding 441. During that 15-year period, the CRS found that about four incidents per year could be defined as “public mass shootings.” According to the CRS, there were 4.1 mass public shootings a year in the 2000s and 4.5 from 2010 through 2013.
I had forgotten about this one in Vermont. Close to home.
In 2015, the most common type of mass shooting was a “familicide” mass killing, in which a family member or former intimate partner shoots four or more victims. There were nine such cases. Jody Herring is accused of going on a shooting rampage in Barre, Vt., in August after losing custody of her daughter, with three relatives and a social worker killed.
We need a lot more study and a lot more education. Fewer guns would help, too. But, how realistic is that?
One anomaly found in 2015 mass shootings is the decline in the number of “felony mass shootings,” a subcategory that the CRS defined as “attributable to an underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance.”
These subcategories are important, researchers say, because different kinds of mass shootings require different policy responses.
"The guy who goes home to his family [and shoots them], that’s a different event than someone who goes out and shoots someone in public," says Deborah Azrael, associate director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center.
"I don't rank one as being more important than the other. I think they have really different policy implications," she adds.
Dr. Azrael argues that subdividing different kinds of mass shootings and improving data collection on them will help researchers detect trends to better direct policy responses.
The NRA is on the run. Keep at them.