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September26,20148:30a.m.

WhyYouShouldntFeartheRiseinMassShootings
ByJesseSingal

WednesdaytheFBIreleasedanewreport(http://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/september/fbireleasesstudyonactiveshooterincidents/pdfs/astudyofactiveshooter
incidentsintheu.s.between2000and2013)(PDF)ongunviolencethatsparkedheadlineslikeF.B.I.ConfirmsaSharpRiseinMassShootingsSince2000
(http://www.nytimes.com/2014/09/25/us/25shooters.html?_r=0)intheNewYorkTimesandTheseFBIChartsConfirmThatMassShootingsInAmericaHaveRisen
SharplySince2000(http://www.businessinsider.com/fbisaysmassshootingsareontheriseinamerica20149)inBusinessInsider.Theoutletswerereferringtothisgraph
fromthereport:

Someofthecoverageisconflatingtwodifferentthings:massshootingsandactiveshooterincidents.Masskillingsorshootings,perthegovernment'sdefinition,aresingleincidentsin
whichthreeormorepeoplearekilled.Activeshooterincidents,ontheotherhand,occurwhenanindividualactivelyengage[s]inkillingorattemptingtokillpeopleinaconfinedand
populatedarea.(ResearcherstweakedthislanguageabitfortheFBIreportsothatincidentsinvolvingmorethanoneshooterandincidentsoccurringoutsidewereincluded,and
incidentsclearlyinvolvingdrugorgangviolencewereexcluded.)Unlikemassshootings,theydon'tnecessarilyinvolveanyonebeingkilled.

Sonoteveryactiveshooterincidentisamasskillingincident40percentoftheincidentsthereportcapturedweremasskillings.TheTimesfailstomakethisdistinction.Mass
shootingshaverisendrasticallyinthepasthalfdozenyears,writesMichaelS.Schmidt.Therewere,onaverage,16.4suchshootingsayearfrom2007to2013,comparedwithan
averageof6.4shootingsannuallyfrom2000to2006.Thisissimplyfalse.Thereportclearlynotesthatthe16.4numberreferstoactiveshooterincidents,notmasskillings.Forthe
2007to2013span,theactualnumberofmassshootingsperyearisaboutsix.

Okay:Sowhatdoesthetrendofmassshootingsasopposedtoactiveshooterincidentslooklike?IpulledthenumbersfromthereportsverydepressingAppendixA,whichlists
thedetailsofeachandeveryactiveshooterincidenttheFBIidentifiedbetween2000and2013,includingthenumberofpeoplekilled(theFBIdidntcountperpetratorsasvictims
whentheywerekilledbypoliceorcommittedsuicide).Hereswhatyougetwhenyouaddupincidentswiththreeormorefatalities(youcanlookatmyquickanddirtyspreadsheet
here(https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1gSZQ3vhpvfwsrHQvE9IAK1MwigKUi5nqwv1mxOtnUg/edit?usp=sharing)):

Yes,theresanupwardtrend.Butthefactisthattheseincidentsremainexceedinglyrare.TheyareterriblewhentheyoccurandIhavetosayitfeltweirdsiftingaseriesoftragedies
intoonepilethatcountsforagivenstatisticandonethatdoesntbuttherejustisntahugestatisticaldifferencebetweentwoofthemoccurringinayearandsixoccurringinayear.
(BackinJuneScienceofUsranastory(http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/06/massshootingsarentontherise.html)arguingthatthereisn'talongtermincreaseinmass
shootingsatallitstillholdsupbecausetheresearcherswhosenumbersitwasbasedon,JamesAlanFox(http://www.jfox.neu.edu/)ofNortheastern,usedstatsthatwentallthe
waybackto1976,aswellasaslightlydifferentdefinitionofmassshooting.)

Plus,zoomingoutalittletolookatnotjustthisonespecifictypeofmurder,butallmurders,FBIstats(http://www.bjs.gov/content/pub/pdf/hus11.pdf)(PDF)paintadifferentand
moreencouragingstory:

Whilethere'sbeenashorttermincreaseinoneveryspecific,narrowlydefinedkindofviolence,theoverallhomiciderateintheU.S.(thepurpleline)isonalongtermdownwardtrend
thatincludestheperiodcoveredbytheFBIreport.Massshootingsaccountforatiny,tinypercentageofthetotalmurdersinthecountryin2012,theworstrecentyearformass
shootings,just0.6percentoftotalmurders,accordingtotheFBI's2012homicidenumbers(http://www.fbi.gov/aboutus/cjis/ucr/crimeintheu.s/2012/crimeinthe
u.s.2012/offensesknowntolawenforcement/expandedhomicide/expanded_homicide_data_table_8_murder_victims_by_weapon_20082012.xls).

Overall,whenitcomestoviolencethecountryissafernowthanithasbeenindecades.Obviouslytheresstillmuchvitalworktobedonewhenitcomestoguncontrol,understanding
whyviolentpeoplesnap(http://nymag.com/scienceofus/2014/06/whyschoolshootingshappenhowstopthem.html),andsoon.Buttalkofsharpincreasesinterrible,
shocking,butextremelyrarecrimespromotesanalarmistviewoftheworldthatdoesntquitematchthefacts.
SOURCES:FBI

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