Questions regarding whether such violent acts serve as an inspiration for new ones have once again been brought up in light of the recent mass shootings in California that left scores of people dead in public areas and six family members dead in a separate attack days earlier.
Data on mass shootings in public places dating back to 1966 clearly shows, according to James Densley, co-founder of the Violence Project, a nonprofit research organization, that such attacks are becoming more common.
However, it is still unclear whether two shootings that occurred close together in time are connected.
As a member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors and a professor of criminology at Northeastern University, James Alan Fox remarked, “You find that even in random simulations, there are periods when there’s a cluster and others when there are not.”
Do mass shootings occur more frequently now?
Based on statistics collected by our news portal over the past five years, the number of fatal mass shootings has climbed from 23 per year in 2010 to 27 per year until the end of 2022.
That covers events when at least four people—not including the shooter—were shot dead, as well as shootings with a range of motivations, such as hate crimes, domestic violence, and gang-related assaults.
There are now five events every year as opposed to two that are now classified as being motivated by hate, terrorism, or indiscriminate violence and receive a lot of media attention. Similarly, there are now 10 attacks per year instead of 7 in public locations, including malls, hospitals, and schools.
What patterns do you notice in gun violence in general?
During the COVID-19 epidemic, the overall number of gun deaths in the United States increased to record highs, and weapons started to overtake other causes of death for kids and teenagers. According to the charity Gun Violence Archive, there are gunshots every day in the US, and since 2020, almost 20,000 people have died as a result of gunfire. According to the charity, another 20,000 people have committed suicide with a gun.
When did a series of prominent mass shootings occur?
Densley of the Violence Project cited several instances of recent mass shootings that took place near each other.
At a Walmart in El Paso, Texas, in August 2019, a far-right shooter killed 23 people. Nine people were killed the following day in Dayton, Ohio, by a shooter. In Midland and Odessa, Texas, at the end of the month, a shooter killed seven people.
In March 2021, a gunman attacked spas near Atlanta and killed eight customers. A few days later, a shooter murdered 10 people at a Boulder, Colorado, supermarket. Four persons were killed at an office in Orange County, California, a few days later by a shooter
A store in Buffalo, New York, and an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas, both experienced mass shootings in May 2022. A hospital in Tulsa, Oklahoma, was the location in June. An Illinois town called Highland Park held a Fourth of July parade in July.
Five people were killed in Colorado Springs, Colorado, in November 2022 when a shooter opened fire at an LGBTQ nightclub. At a Walmart in Chesapeake, Virginia, two days later, a shop manager murdered six people.
Do mass shootings lead to other shootings?
On whether one mass shooting increases the risk that another may occur shortly after, many studies that have been conducted have come to different conclusions.
Remember that there is little research on mass shootings, in part because a Congressional amendment forbade the use of federal public health funding for the study of gun violence for more than 20 years.
A group of researchers from Arizona State and Northeastern Illinois colleges found in 2015 that the likelihood of a new deadly mass shooting increased for 13 days following each incidence. This impact persisted when specifically examining school shootings.
Densley claimed that the Violence Project has observed an “anecdotal” rise in the number of high-profile mass shootings. However, a study to ascertain if the apparent clusters are statistically significant is still in progress.
What about the consequences for future shooters?
Similar to how the propagation of a virus can rapidly boost case counts, contagion research in public health examines whether a single incident increases the risk of a second one occurring immediately thereafter.
The timing of the most recent murder reported on cable news, in contrast, does not cause copycat assaults. Instead, those shooters are driven by a past occurrence, frequently years ago. For instance, some murders, like the 1999 Colorado attack on Columbine High School, have been cited as an inspiration by later murderers.
Although it is unusual to be able to link a purpose explicitly, researchers noted that evidence suggests that youth are more susceptible to persuasion.
Are there measures to stop retaliatory killings?
News media are prohibited from publishing the names or personal information of mass murderers, according to public movements like Don’t Name Them and No Notoriety. The campaigns contend that publicity encourages further assailants looking for notoriety.
Fox disputes the idea and claims that the actual shooting itself, not the gunman, is what may lead to its spread. He said that other white nationalists “applauded” the killing in the El Paso Walmart shooting that targeted Latinos without knowing much about the shooter.
However, Fox agrees that some media sites go too far by disclosing information about the gunman, which diverts attention from the damage that has been done.
News media coverage of mass shootings, according to Sherry Towers, an Arizona State University data scientist who oversaw the 2015 study on shooting “contagion,” suggests a wider interest in knowledge about these tragedies.
She claimed that more than they should be reading the details, the public reads them obsessively. “It nearly comes off as gory entertainment. “We as a culture need to take a closer look at it.”