Mass Shootings/Gun Ownership Disconnect   -   March 6, 2021

No Mass Shooting Murders In More Than a Year – What’s The Takeaway?

The last time America went this long without a murderous mass shooting ended in July 2003.  During many of the intervening years scores of people were killed in mass shootings.  Has a perfect combination of preventive measures paused this scourge?  Or something else?

The FBI defines a mass murder (shooting) as killing four or more persons during an event with no "cooling-off period" between the murders.  “Public” mass shootings exclude family homicides.  Using this definition, the last public mass shooting in America killed six people at the Molson Coors facility in Milwaukee on February 26, 2020.

In looking for seminal events in America since then, two things stand out – Covid-19 and the protests/riots that broke out in American cities following the death of George Floyd.  Changes related to these events may at least partially explain the absence of mass shootings during the past year.

  • Public gatherings have been sharply curtailed as schools, businesses, entertainment and other entities have been closed, locked down, or restricted as to attendance; there have been fewer target opportunities for mass shooters.

  • More virtual and individual social interactions, rather than personal and group interactions, may ameliorate otherwise problematic perceptions among some potential mass shooters.

  • Protests, riots and sanctioned anarchy in American cities may be providing a sort of social connection, virtual outlet or distraction to some who might otherwise commit mass shootings.

  • Some feel that press coverage of mass shootings encourages more mass shootings.  Because mass shootings are not in the media, that “contagion effect” is missing.

  • Sales of personal firearms were sharply higher during 2020, with substantial sales to first-time owners. This fact seems to belie correlation between gun ownership and mass shootings.

Unfortunately, these insights provide little practical guidance for eliminating mass shootings.  Absent a national emergency such as Covid-19, any substantial reduction in public gatherings won’t be accepted in America.  We can’t seriously hope for more riots.  Virtual interactions will continue to replace personal contact, but we don’t really know how this may affect potential mass shooters.  And media will not forswear wide coverage of future mass shootings.

So what we’ve learned is very interesting, but mostly irrelevant, except that the answer is not more gun laws.  There is no simple answer.  But if we really want to reduce mass shootings we’ll do much better focusing on mental health, how to pinpoint potential mass shooters, recognizing patterns that indicate intent, and intervening before anyone gets hurt.

(For more, preview Gun Mania here.)


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