Mass Shootings in America

Published by The Voice

by Georgia I. Salvaryn

*Award-winning article in the New Jersey Collegiate Press Association 2015-16 contest (njcollegepress.org) — tied Second place for Enterprise/Investigative Reporting for Two-Year Colleges*

Gun violence and mass shootings have been increasingly common in the United States. From Columbine High School to Umpqua Community College, mass shootings have threatened the safety of several thousands of communities in America.

According to the 11 Facts About Guns article on dosomething.org, there are approximately 270 million firearms possessed by civilians in America, and only 897,000 carried by police; approximately 20 percent of gun owners own 65 percent of the guns. The article also states that in 2011, 10.3 in every 100,000 people in the United States were victims of gun related deaths.

According to politifact.com, in the last decade, the number of Americans killed by terrorism is 24; the number of Americans killed by gun violence is 280,024.

According to the CDC, the number of violent gun deaths between 2005 and 2013 (the latest year on record) was 279,976. That includes suicides, homicides, and police-related shootings. As stated on shootingtracker.com, there have been 389 mass shooting gun deaths in 2014 and 375 so far in 2015.

ABC News reports that there have been 31 school shootings in the U.S. since Columbine in 1999. The rate of people killed by guns in the U.S. is 19.5 times higher than similar high income countries in the world.

CNN’s article American deaths in terrorism vs. gun violence in one graph on cnn.com states that during his presidency, President Barrack Obama has had to deliver statements on gun violence 15 times. After a gunman opened fire at Oregon’s Umpqua Community College, killing nine people and injuring seven, a visibly upset Obama said the shootings were becoming all too routine.

“The reporting is routine,” Obama said. “My response here at this podium ends up being routine, the conversation in the aftermath of it. We’ve become numb to this.”

There are many explanations as to why someone would participate in a mass shooting. Many sources have attempted to figure out the ground reason behind mass shootings, but there is more than one explanation.

Harvardpolitics.com recently posted an article titled School Shootings: An American Problem? The article pertains to the issues that could possibly be leading to the increase in mass shootings and compares U.S. numbers to numerous countries around the globe. According to the article, of the top 10 countries with the most guns per capita, seven had no school shootings. Switzerland has 46 guns per 100 people, Finland 45, and Serbia 38, yet none of these countries had a school shooting in the period studied. Although America has far more civilian firearms per capita than any other country, its number of school shootings is still abnormally high.

Harvardpolitics.com also states that in a 2013 Gallup poll, Americans ranked the “failure of the mental health system to identify individuals who are a danger to others” as the leading cause of mass shootings. Believing those with mental illnesses can be violent, Congress passed the 1968 Gun Control Act, the 1993 Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act, and the 2008 National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS) Improvement Act. All prohibit the sale of firearms to those with a mental illness.

According to the Education Week blog, the path to a violent mass attack often starts with a relatable frustration that grows through cultivation and study by the attacker. And attackers usually experience “leakage” before they act, giving indications that they are planning to do something.

“I think this idea of ‘just snapped’ really undermines the importance of ongoing risk management and assessment,” Anders Goranson, a psychologist and threat-assessment specialist, said in a lecture at an annual meeting of the American Psychological Association.

There has also been a reason to believe that bullying can lead to mass shootings, but Psychologist Dr. Peter Langman says otherwise.

 Reports of bullying against school shooters have often been highly inconsistent and impossible to corroborate,” Langman states in his Statistics on Bullying and School Shootings report on http://www.schoolshooters.info. “Of the 48 shooters I studied, I estimate that approximately 40% experienced some kind of bullying. This means, of course, that approximately 60% did not. Even if my numbers are a bit off due to lack of information, this still suggests that approximately half the shooters were not teased or otherwise harassed.”

At the end of Langman’s report, he summarizes his information by stating, “The connection between bullying and school shootings is elusive. Certainly, harassment may contribute to perpetrators’ rage and/or depression. At most, however, it is but one factor among many that cause rampage attacks. Even those shooters who were most severely bullied, such as Pennington and Coon, did not target kids who picked on them. In fact, both targeted teachers who gave them unacceptable grades. This indicates the complexity in sorting out the possible impact of peer harassment on the perpetrators’ motivations.”

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