Six Things Americans Should Know About Mass Shootings

Frederic Lemieux, George Washington University

America has experienced yet another mass shooting. This time at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Florida. It is the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

As a criminologist, I have reviewed recent research in hopes of debunking some of the common misconceptions I hear creeping into discussions that spring up whenever a mass shooting occurs.

#1: More guns don’t make you safer

A study I conducted on mass shootings indicated that this phenomenon is not limited to the United States.

Mass shootings also took place in 25 other wealthy nations between 1983 and 2013, but the number of mass shootings in the United States far surpasses that of any other country included in the study during the same period of time.

The US had 78 mass shootings during that 30-year period.

The highest number of mass shootings experienced outside the United States was in Germany – where seven shootings occurred.

In the other 24 industrialized countries taken together, 41 mass shootings took place.

In other words, the US had nearly double the number of mass shootings than all other 24 countries combined in the same 30-year period.

Another significant finding is that mass shootings and gun ownership rates are highly correlated. The higher the gun ownership rate, the more a country is susceptible to experiencing mass shooting incidents. This association remains high even when the number of incidents from the United States is withdrawn from the analysis.

Similar results have been found by the United Nations Office of Drugs and Crime, which states that countries with higher levels of firearm ownership also have higher firearm homicide rates.

My study also shows a strong correlation between mass shooting casualties and overall death by firearms rates. However, in this last analysis, the relation seems to be mainly driven by the very high number of deaths by firearms in the United States. The relation disappears when the United States is withdrawn from the analysis.

#2: Shootings are more frequent

A recent study published by the Harvard Injury Control Research Center shows that the frequency of mass shooting is increasing over time. The researchers measured the increase by calculating the time between the occurrence of mass shootings. According to the research, the days separating mass shooting occurrence went from on average 200 days during the period of 1983 to 2011 to 64 days since 2011.

What is most alarming with mass shootings is the fact that this increasing trend is moving in the opposite direction of overall intentional homicide rates in the US, which decreased by almost 50% since 1993 and in Europe where intentional homicides decreased by 40% between 2003 and 2013.

#3: Restricting sales works

Police secure the area near a mass shooting in San Bernardino, California, December 2 2015.
Mario Anzuoni/REUTERS

Due to the Second Amendment, the United States has permissive gun licensing laws. This is in contrast to most developed countries, which have restrictive laws.

According to a seminal work by criminologists George Newton and Franklin Zimring, 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.

By contrast, restrictive gun licensing laws refer 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 – like using it on a shooting range or going hunting – and that they demonstrate “good character.”

The type of gun law adopted has important impacts. Countries with more restrictive gun licensing laws show fewer deaths by firearms and a lower gun ownership rate.

#4: Historical comparisons may be flawed

Beginning in 2008, the FBI used a narrow definition of mass shootings. They limited mass shootings to incidents where an individual – or in rare circumstances, more than one – “kills four or more people in a single incident (not including the shooter), typically in a single location.”

In 2013, the FBI changed its definition, moving away from “mass shootings” toward identifying an “active shooter” as “an individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” This change means the agency now includes incidents in which fewer than four people die, but in which several are injured, like this 2014 shooting in New Orleans.

This change in definition impacted directly the number of cases included in studies and affected the comparability of studies conducted before and after 2013.

Even more troubling, some researchers on mass shooting, like Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, have incorporated in their studies several types of multiple homicides that cannot be defined as mass shooting: for instance, familicide (a form of domestic violence) and gang murders.

In the case of familicide, victims are exclusively family members and not random bystanders.

Gang murders are usually crime for profit or a punishment for rival gangs or a member of the gang who is an informer. Such homicides don’t belong in the analysis of mass shootings.

#5: Not all mass shootings are terrorism

Journalists sometimes describe mass shooting as a form of domestic terrorism. This connection may be misleading.

There is no doubt that mass shootings are “terrifying” and “terrorize” the community where they have happened. However, not all active shooters involved in mass shooting have a political message or cause.

For example, the church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina in June 2015 was a hate crime but was not judged by the federal government to be a terrorist act.

The majority of active shooters are linked to mental health issues, bullying and disgruntled employees. Active shooters may be motivated by a variety of personal or political motivations, usually not aimed at weakening government legitimacy. Frequent motivations are revenge or a quest for power.

#6: Background checks work

In most restrictive background checks performed in developed countries, citizens are required to train for gun handling, obtain a license for hunting or provide proof of membership to a shooting range.

Individuals must prove that they do not belong to any “prohibited group,” such as the mentally ill, criminals, children or those at high risk of committing violent crime, such as individuals with a police record of threatening the life of another.

Here’s the bottom line. With these provisions, most US active shooters would have been denied the purchase of a firearm.

Editor’s note: this piece was updated on June 12, 2016. It was originally published on Dec. 3, 2015.

The Conversation

Frederic Lemieux, Professor and Program Director of Bachelor in Police and Security Studies; Master’s in Security and Safety Leadership; Master’s in Strategic Cyber Operations and Information Management, George Washington University

This article was originally published on The Conversation. Read the original article.

Banned Alfred Hitchcock Holocaust Documentary Finally Released

The Imperial War Museum says the movie had been suppressed for political reasons and that pieces of it were removed for the 1984 viewing in both Berlin and the U.S., but Alfred Hitchcock’s documentary on the Holocaust has finally been restored to its original intended production and will be released in 2015 on British television marking the 70th anniversary of the liberation of Europe.

During the liberation of the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp in 1945, Hitchcock was asked to put together footage he received by a British army film unit cameraman who shot scenes of the horrible conditions of the camp. The film was to be shown to the German people to shed more light on the atrocities carried out by the Nazis, but was banned due to political unrest in the country after the war.

Slayer Guitarist To Receive Wrath of Westboro Baptist Church at Funeral

The reactionary church hasn’t done quite worse than protest a funeral, but that doesn’t mean there is any level of decency in it, even if the funeral is for a guitarist from a metal band known for its shock value satanism. Slayer, whose band logo is a version of the satanic pentagram with swords and skulls, has always made it a point to incite a reaction from religions and soccer moms, so it’s no wonder that the death of Jeff Hanneman would be heralded as a victory for fundamentalists Christians such as those found at the Westboro Baptist Church.

On Thursday last week, they tweeted:

While Slayer’s religious beliefs may differ vastly from the WBC, they share the same political belief in the freedom of speech. Unfortunately, the WBC is know to take it a step further by bringing their free speech to inappropriate gatherings. The sad, but humorous part about the whole thing? Unbeknownst to the WBC, and if Jeff Hanneman embraced the candid and satirical nature of the punk philosophy that fueled the music he played, would probably laugh and welcome the protest.

Jane Lynch Glee-fully Joins Amway Boycott

Actress Jane Lynch, best known for her parts in the Christopher Guest ensemble pieces and as the tough Glee Club leader Sue Sylvester of TV’s hit series “Glee,” was only too happy to join Rights Equal Rights, the group formerly known as Californians Against Hate, in their boycotting campaign against the direct marketing cosmetics company Amway. “Jane couldn’t grab up the pen fast enough to sign,” said Fred Karger, presidential candidate and founder of Rights Equal Rights, who was interviewed by PopCultureFan last week. In October, it was revealed that Doug DeVos, Amway’s president and CEO made a substantial $500,000 donation to the National Organization for Marriage towards funding political candidates who fight against marriage equality. As of now, only two donors of NOM remain known, the other being Chick-Fil-A. NOM, a non-profit political organization headed by Maggie Gallagher, is currently under investigation for questionable campaign contribution practices in Maine, Minnesota, and Maryland, dating back to 2009. Hopefully, the movement will grow more public awareness. Meanwhile, native Californian Bryan Cranston, of AMC’s “Breaking Bad”, between shooting the series’ final season, made a public service announcement video with wife Robin Dearden and their daughter Taylor, expressing support of gay marriage, a video for the Human Rights Campaign.

The War With NOM: A Conversation with Activist and Presidential Candidate Fred Karger

Fred Who? A reasonable question as well as his own campaign slogan when he ran in this year’s presidential primary. In fact, he was among the first candidates to file for the 2012 election, putting in his papers just a few days before President Obama. A campaign consultant and political watchdog as well as a lifelong champion for gay rights, he ran on a socially and fiscally moderate platform that supports gay marriage and a woman’s right to choose. There’s one more thing about him that might surprise you. He’s a Republican.

He’s also the first openly gay presidential candidate affiliated with a major political party. The election might be over but Karger’s as politically active as ever – this time locked in a fierce battle against the National Organization for Marriage of California. NOM, an organization condoning the slippery slope rhetoric: “if gay marriage is legal, legalizing sexual intercourse with dogs may be on the way,” refuses to publicly disclose the identities of its largest contributors, a practice defended by its director John Eastman. As of May, NOM has been under investigation by California’s Fair Political Practices Organization for allegedly failing to report over $345,000 in campaign contributions and funding attack ads on political candidates who support marriage equality. In not disclosing his contributors or their businesses, Eastman acts not without good reason – Karger’s called for boycotts of Chick-Fil-A and Amway when their stances on gay marriage were made public, sometimes staging protests outside their windows.

I had the chance to speak with Mr. Karger while he was on the East Coast for the wedding of two good friends in Washington. Just hours before the arrival of Hurricane Sandy, he stayed at New York’s Warwick Hotel on 54th Street. With the impending storm, he remained undaunted, proudly staying in a building that stood over Manhattan since 1926. Amid the growing gusts of wind and the surprising quiet of an emptying city, Karger discussed his presidential bid which ended on June 29 as well as his take on the GOP and politics in general.

He was born January 31, 1950 in Glencoe, Illinois, to Jean and Robert Karger. “My childhood was like Leave it to Beaver and I was the Beaver. I had an older brother. My father was a businessman. My mom stayed home. It was a normal, happy childhood. Around high school I began to sense I was different. When I was 21, I saw a psychiatrist, who thankfully, said there was nothing wrong with me and didn’t try to “fix me.” He helped me to realize that I was gay.” Initially, his reaction was to hide it from his family, and he moved to California with friends. “My parents always asked if I was seeing someone, but I never came out to my family until I was in my forties. I always felt like I would ruin the holidays. I didn’t want to do that.”

In the early 1980s, with the onset of the AIDS epidemic, things began to change. “It was an absolutely despicable time. I was always going to funerals of people my age. I always had at least one friend who was dying. And so many of them were being hit with this double-whammy. It was having to, for the first time in their lives, not only come out to their families as gay, but also that they were HIV-positive. Thankfully, I never had to deal with the second half myself.” The passing of his friend Bill from AIDS in 1991 ultimately made him decide to come out. “Bill had a wonderful family who came from Boston to see him. Really wonderful parents who looked out for all of his friends. When I saw that, I wished I could have the same relationship with my family. I told them, and by that point, they were okay with it. Ultimately I’m glad mom and dad got to meet my friends and accept me for who I am.”

with actress Jane Lynch who has supported Californians Against Hate

During his time in California, he dabbled in acting and gave himself two to three years to make it big, landing a role in a commercial for Edge shaving cream directed by the late John Hughes and a brief part in Airport 1975. He continued to pursue his passion for politics, an interest he had since the age of 14, when he traveled by train to help then-presidential candidate Nelson A. Rockefeller with his campaign against the eventual Republican nominee Barry Goldwater in 1964. When asked why he became a Republican, “It always made more sense to me. I guess I inherited it from my parents. My father was a businessman, a moderate Republican who believed in limited government that at the same time is there for those who need help. I believe that.”

When asked about his political role models, Karger points to Teddy Roosevelt who brought the party in a new direction at the turn of the twentieth century with the first laws aimed at protecting civil rights and womens’ rights and anti-monopoly laws. Like many other candidates in the Republican primary, he also cites Ronald Reagan as an inspiration, whose presidential campaign he worked for. He first came to admire Reagan in 1978 while campaigning actively against the Briggs Initiative, a law that if passed, would ban homosexuals from working in California’s public schools. “To get Reagan (who was the former governor of California at the time) to stay neutral would have been considered a victory for us. Instead, he did a very brave thing. He wrote a letter to the Herald-Tribune openly and publicly opposing the Briggs Initiative while preparing for a presidential campaign, a measure that could have risked support for his own campaign.”

While he was displeased with the way the Reagan Administration dealt with the AIDS crisis he admits, “It was quite a different era. One of the biggest battles we had back then was with The New York Times, one of the country’s most progressive newspapers and getting them to print the word ‘AIDS,’ which was an indication of how much of the country felt. I think that his friend Rock Hudson’s death also caused him to break his silence on the issue.” Nonetheless, Karger felt Reagan was a good president who accomplished a great deal. “He was a bit more conservative than I am, but he had an openness about him and was willing to cross the aisle. He did raise taxes, and sometimes I wonder if he’d be able to run for president in 2012, or if he’d be considered too centrist. But he had such charm and a sense of humor that won people over, so yes, I think he would win.”

Although Karger came out to his family in 1991, he kept his sexuality a secret publicly until 2006 when he crusaded to save the oldest gay bar in Laguna Beach. Two years later, he started Californians Against Hate in protest of California’s Proposition 8. He was surprised by how warmly he was received by the GOP when he first filed for election, greeted enthusiastically by Co-Chair Sharon Day and Chief of Staff Jeff Letterson at the Southern Republican Leadership Conference. “Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus shook my hand. They were all glad to have me on board. I think a lot of it was because I do campaigning at colleges. Sharon Day liked how I was able to bring young people into the party, and generally I have what you could call a progressive social stance. The RNC’s been very generous and welcoming to me. Where I’ve run into trouble, where I’ve met with homophobia has been with the third-party groups that I feel are harming the party and the country: CPAC, Faith & Freedom, and the like. I’ve been excluded from debates. They said it was because I’m for gay marriage, but they’ve had heterosexual candidates debate who support gay marriage. I had to file a discrimination complaint with the Human Rights Office in Washington, D.C. back in June.”

Although he is said to have described himself as the Anti-Romney, he never used the words, although he is critical of the LDS Church and Romney’s obligation to follow its word over the bounds of family and country. Although he believes Obama’s record on LGBT rights has improved, he feels the president has not done enough. “We need to find younger people, build a stronger moderate base and keep the Republican party from just turning into a party of rich old white men – that won’t bode well. The two parties need each other in order to function. Such a big part of politics is about making compromises, and I believe it is possible to bring change from within the system. In California, the party’s showing is already down five percentage points which has never happened. That suggests people aren’t joining. If we start moving too far to the right, holding a purist attitude, doing the bidding of Atwater, the party’s going to be losing a generation.”