Monday, 26 May 2014

What propagates mass shootings ?

So far in 2014, there have been at least 19 mass shootings in the USA that have resulted in 3 or more deaths (see here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here, here and here)

There are a number of factors causing these killing spees, but Forensic Psychiatrist Dr. Park Dietz, pretty much nails the role that the media plays in these comments highlighted by Charlie Brooker (back in 2009 !):

“We’ve had 20 years of mass murders throughout which I have repeatedly told CNN and our other media, if you don’t want to propagate more mass murders, don’t start the story with sirens blaring. Don’t have photographs of the killer. Don’t make this 24/7 coverage. Do everything you can not to make the body count the lead story, not to make the killer some kind of anti-hero. Do localize the story to the affected community and make it as boring as possible in every other market. Because every time we have intense saturation coverage of a mass murder, we expect to see one or two more within a week.”

Worth mentioning that the levels of gun homicides in the USA did, according to this data from the Economist, fall precipitously in the 1990s - although, rarer, mass killings show an upward trend.

Also worth listening to this debate on guncrime research (start 24:20 in) which has contributions from a number of stakeholders and highlights that research is needed to understand which gun control laws work as well as to understand how to reduce (for example) the number of gun related suicides.

And the example of Australia is very relevant. After a 1996 mass killing of 36 people in Port Arthur, Tasmania the government banned the sale and and possession of all automatic and semiautomatic rifles and shotguns. As a result, gun-related homicides dropped 59% over the next 10 years, while gun related suicides fell by 65%. There have been no mass shootings in Australia since the Port Arthur incident.

Also, some interesting historical background in this Berkeley Blog

Lastly, looking at the big picture, here are the homicide rates (all types: gun ,knife etc) for a selection of countries:
South Africa 31.8 per 100,000 people
Pakistan 7.8 per 100,000 people
United States 4.8 per 100,000 people
United Kingdom 1.2 per 100,000 people
Spain 0.8 per 100,000 people

A 3rd Generation Glock, popular in the USA

Links from this Reddit list

Image sources