Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mass Shootings Aren't More Frequent - but They Are Deadlier

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Mass Shootings Aren't More Frequent - but They Are Deadlier

Article excerpt

ATLANTA * It can sometimes seem as though mass shootings are happening more frequently. Researchers who have been studying such crimes for decades say they aren't, but they have been getting deadlier.

In the five years since a gunman killed 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Conn., the nation has seen a number of massacres topping the death toll from Newtown and previous mass shootings, many of them involving rifles similar to the one used at Sandy Hook.

But Americans wanting to know why deadlier mass shootings are happening will get few answers. Is it is the wide availability of firearms? Is it the much-maligned "assault weapon" with its military style? Is it the mental health system?

"We're kind of grabbing at straws at this point in terms of trying to understand why the severity of these incidents has increased," said Grant Duwe, a criminologist who studies mass killings.

The federal government does little research on the matter, because a measure dating to the 1990s had the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention retreat from firearms research. Instead, a handful of academics, such as Duwe, have toiled sometimes for decades with limited funding trying to better understand why these shootings happen and how to prevent them.

While mass shootings happen with regularity, they still remain so rare that there isn't enough information to draw conclusions with any certainty.

The profile of mass shooters loners, depressed people who rarely smile or those who take to the internet to rant about a perceived insult or gripe is so broad and common that it's impossible to pinpoint who might turn that anger into violence.

"There are lots of people who are isolated, don't have lots of friends, who don't smile and write ugly things on the internet and blame others for their misfortunes and don't want to live anymore and talk about mass killers and maybe even admire them," said Northeastern University professor James Alan Fox, who began studying mass shootings in the 1980s and has written six books on the topic.

Five years ago this week, Adam Lanza, 20, of Newtown shot and killed his mother in their home and then drove to Sandy Hook Elementary with an AR-style long gun and a handgun. …

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