A new study by the Congressional Research Service, by far the most thorough and comprehensive of its type to date, confirms that mass shootings continue to be rare in the United States.
While Michael Bloomberg’s TheTrace.org website says that mass shootings happen “more often than they used to,” renown criminologist James Alan Fox, of Northeastern University, whose extensive analysis of mass shootings is discussed at length in the CRS study, says that the study shows “there is no solid trend” in the number of such crimes and “No matter how you cut it, there’s no epidemic.”
The study, “Mass Murder with Firearms: Incidents and Victims, 1999-2013,” defines a “mass shooting” as “a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms, within one event, in one or more locations in close proximity.” Because the underlying circumstances of mass shootings vary widely, the study categorizes such crimes as family-related, felony-related (e.g., robberies and gang shootouts), and those taking place in public locations, such as schools, restaurants and houses of worship.
By CRS’ count, 71 percent of mass shootings and 79 percent of their fatal victims over the 15-year period 1999-2013 were family- or felony-related. Public incidents, while accounting for the vast majority of mass shootings covered by the news media, accounted for only 21 percent of such incidents and 29 percent of their victims.