Seven Mass Shootings in 2012 Most since 1999

Article excerpt


If it seemed like 2012 was an especially bad year for mass public shootings, that's because it was. Mass public shootings had been on the decline in the United States since the 1990s. The seven in 2012 were the most since 1999, which also had seven cases. More victims were killed and wounded in mass shootings in 2012 than in any previous year. It's unclear whether 2012 is the bellwether of a more ominous trend in mass murder. What is clear, however, is that there's been little variation in our responses to high-profile mass public shootings over the last five decades. Although mass shootings have occasionally provoked debates over issues such as violent video games, hate crimes or bullying, the public discussion has, by and large, concentrated on guns. The main points raised in 1966 following the mass murder committed by Charles Whitman, which was the first one that ignited widespread debate over gun control, remain largely the same today. Due to the entrenched debate over gun control, though, neither side has been able to make much progress over the years. A good example of this tug-of-war is the passage of the federal assault weapons ban in 1994 and its expiration 10 years later.The recent loss of young, innocent and precious lives in Newtown, Conn., may pack enough emotional power to engender enactment of new gun laws, including reinstatement of the assault weapons ban. Yet we should ask ourselves a critical question: When it comes to reducing the incidence or severity of mass public shootings in the United States, would tightening or loosening gun control legislation make a significant difference either way? Probably not. On the one hand, when the incidence of mass public shootings began to increase during the 1980s and 1990s, rates of gun ownership were relatively stable. On the other hand, peer-reviewed research has demonstrated that right to carry concealed firearms laws do not have a significant impact on mass shootings.Our myopia over guns, however, may ultimately be counterproductive, because it diverts attention from areas where it might actually be possible to make a difference. Rather than the shooter erupting without warning or snapping, mass shootings are often preceded by a great deal of planning and deliberation in which there are multiple warning signs that provide an opportunity to intercede. For instance, as mass public shooters are contemplating their attack and brooding about those who have, in their eyes, wronged them, they frequently make verbal or written threats of violence. Of the more than 150 mass shootings in the United States over the last century, nearly one-third involved the shooter communicating violent threats before the attack.We haven't always done a good job of taking threats seriously. When Joe Wesbecker's co-workers heard gunfire at the Standard-Gravure plant in Louisville, Ky., on the morning of Sept. 1, 1989, they knew that Crazy Joe had returned to make good on the violent threats he had been expressing for months. Before Clifton McCree killed five of his former co-workers in Florida in 1996, he had repeatedly threatened them by promising, If you mess with my job, I will take you out. …