Two articles on mass shootings have just appeared which deserve some Mike the Gun Guy™ space. The first is an article by our friend Eric Fleegler, M.D., who hangs his hat and stethoscope in the Division of Emergency Medicine at Boston Children’s Hospital where he’s seen his fair share of kids killed and injured by guns. You can download his article right here.
In his article, Fleegler notes that more than three-quarters of all deaths in the age cohorts 16 to 34 are due to guns and that annual gun deaths are now almost 40,000, the highest rate in twenty years, the rate has increased nearly 20 percent in the last ten years alone.
This continued surge in gun deaths is particularly interesting because it undercuts Gun-nut Nation’s basic claim that the more that are floating around, particularly the more guns being carried concealed, the more that crime and violence is supposed to go down. Now it’s true that the rate for all violent has dropped from the mid-700’s in the early 1990’s to less than 400 the last couple of years, the murder rate has also declined by roughly half over the same period of time. But the number of states which issued ‘shall-carry’ CCW in 1999 was thirty, the number today is forty-two. How come the murder rate since 2000 is basically unchanged?
The other paper, downloadable here, is an addendum about mass shootings from Adam Lankford, whose original paper went to print in 2016. In his initial piece, Lankford claimed that a review of sources showed that the U.S. experienced a level of mass shootings that was not only an anomaly for advanced countries but for just about every country worldwide. The problem with that paper, whose conclusions vaulted Lankford into the front ranks of researchers engaged in gun violence work, was that the journal which published this piece did not allow access to the data sources which he used.
At the time, I mentioned that the lack of source material not only created some doubt in my mind about whether his work was based on sufficient data to be considered true, but that such data needed to be made available to the entire research community precisely because accurate information about gun violence outside the U.S. is often quite difficult to obtain, never mind understand.
Lankford has mitigated both my concerns in this new piece which contains links to all the data sources he used to compare mass shootings in the rest of the world versus mass shootings in the U.S. Moreover, in talking about mass shootings he introduces a novel concept that creates a different, and I believe, an extremely substantive argument to differentiate between mass shootings which are simply the result of a nut-job who walks into a public space and shoots the place up, as opposed to the mass shootings which we consider to be the work of terrorists both here and abroad.
Basically, Lankford argues that mass shootings in the U.S. are entirely committed by one individual who usually plans and carries out the attack alone – perhaps the only exception being the massacre at Columbine, which occurred twenty years ago this month. On the other hand, mass shootings carried out by self-proclaimed terrorists (or announced to be the handiwork of terrorist organizations) are almost always events in which there are multiple shooters who operate in tandem for the purpose of using the violence to promote a political point.
I happen to believe that differentiating mass shootings based on the number of shooters, rather than the number of victims, is a very significant issue in defining the relative levels of violence between the U.S. and other both advanced and underdeveloped states. I’ll have more to say about this next week when I discuss Lankford’s argument with John Lott. In the meantime, studying mass shootings as a variation of the behavior which is responsible for just about all our gun violence, namely, someone pulls out a gun and – bang! – is a good place to begin.