Some Statistics on Recent Mass Shootings
Everyone in the country is dismayed by the series of mass shootings over the past few years. It’s not only interesting (morbidly and horribly) but instructional to try and piece together what is causing these, and if anything, what can be done to prevent this thing in the future. Here are some data:
First, since several have occurred in Texas, my own state, some data:
On average, over the past five years, nearly 3,140 people are killed every year with a gun. (CDC data) This includes all manner of death including murders and suicides. This exceeds the number of US casualties in Afghanistan, which are running about 15 deaths a year. For perspective, there have been more firearm deaths in Texas than US fatal casualties in Afghanistan every year since the start of the war in Afghanistan in 2001. In 2010, the bloodiest year for the US in Afghanistan, there were 498 US Military deaths in Afghanistan, compared with 2,714 firearm deaths in Texas. The news and headlines would not suggest such carnage in an American state, since foreign wars dominate the headlines and national concern.
For the recent spate of mass murders from shooters, here is a recap.
- In 2015 at the Mother Immanual AME Church, nine churchgoers were killed. The gunman acquired his handgun due to a combination of a mistake in the national database, plus a lack of follow-through once the error was noticed. He should not have been permitted to purchase the pistol used in the attack.
- In 2017 at Sutherland Springs, more than two dozen churchgoers were killed. Again, the shooter was able to purchase his four guns although his record of domestic violence would have prevented the legal sales. His Air Force records were not available to the FBI database.
- The shooter in Aurora, Illinois failed a background check and was told to turn over his handgun weapon, but never did and the police did not confiscate it. Five co-workers were killed in a workplace dispute. Apparently few states have a follow-through “confiscation” procedure in this situation.
- The late 2019 shooting spree in west Texas resulted in seven people shot and killed, and many more injured. The shooter failed a background check, but purchased his weapon through a “stranger to stranger” transaction, which currently is not covered by background checks and is a major loophole. A study of this matter shows that twenty-two percent of current gun owners who have acquired their firearm(s) within the last two years used this procedure.
- The Newtown, Connecticut shooting which killed twenty young students and six adults at Sandy Hook School resulted when a disturbed young man used guns owned by his mother.
- Sixteen year old shooter killed four classmates in Marysville, WA in 2014 before killing himself. His handgun was stolen from his father, who bought the gun illegally when he failed to report domestic violence issues and a protective order. The order was never sent into the federal databases.
- A seventeen year old student killed eight students and two substitute teachers in Santa Fe, TX in 2018 wth a shotgun and pistol he took from his father’s closet.
- The deadliest shooting in US history, the Las Vegas, NV attack that left 58 dead and over 500 wounded, involved a shooter who amassed a huge number of weapons at the site: his hotel room overlooking a concert area. He legally obtained 33 of the 49 weapons.
- Gunmen who carried out the attacks at the Parkland, FL nightclub obtained their weapons legally.
- Likewise, the shooters at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, OR purchased their weapons legally.
- As well, the shooter in the movie theater in Aurora, CO passed background checks and obtained his weapon(s) legally.
So we have a combination of events, all involving disturbed individuals with weapons: Reasons included errors involving data that were not available to the national FBI database; the lack of follow-through in taking weapons away from individuals known to be problematic; private purchases from “strangers” in order to circumvent background checks; and getting weapons from a family member without their knowledge. Legally purchasing weapons after background checks can result in problems when mental illness or other severe grudges or strains overcome otherwise rational individuals.
Clearly there is no one magic solution, however one can pull together some threads that can help.
- Correcting holes in the federal databases, including links between the military and civilian information such that the FBI national database is current.
- Mental health procedures to assist angry and mentally disturbed people.
- Red Flag laws: the ability to “tell someone” when an employee or family member is known to be potentially dangerous, along with legal permission to take weapons in those circumstances.
- Elimination of the “stranger to stranger” loophole that permits sale of weapons without any background checks whatsoever. This does not cover family sales, but those are outside examination at this time.
- We should look at the physical ability for someone to be able to fire multiple times, rapidly. It’s hard to support the position that weapons, military and like, which can fire rounds at one per second, and which are designed for lethal combat, are available to the public.
- Large capacity magazines, which permit military style (and other) weapons to fire very large numbers of rounds contribute to mass shootings at times. No reasonable need exists for these to be available to the public, and these should be banned.
Would all these things make mass shootings go to zero? Probably not, but they would have prevented a significant number of deaths that resulted from the horrible events above. It’s hard to imagine the US will be unable to deal with logical steps to address the problem.
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