Congressional study shows increase in mass shootings

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A first responder escorts two women and a young girl from the scene of the December 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newtown, Connecticut. (Photo: Associated Press)

Americans are afraid of future mass public shootings and that fear follows an increase in the number of yearly occurrences and the number of victims per incident during a 15-year period, according to a recent congressional report.

The news is saturated with stories of mass shootings – the Washington Navy Yard, where 12 people were killed and three injured; an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, where 27 were killed, two injured; a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, where 12 were killed, 58 injured; Ft. Hood, Texas, where 13 were killed, 32 injured, and the list continues.

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.

The report found that there were at least 317 mass shootings in the United States between 1999 and 2015, with 1,554 victims murdered and 441 wounded. During that period, there were about 21 mass shootings per year where 104 people were murdered and 29 wounded.   

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups

Researchers looked at the 31 yearly mass murders that occurred on average in the country between 1999 and 2013 and found that 21 were committed entirely with firearms.

Of those mass murders, 4.4 per year happened in a public place. During that same period, about 8.5 mass shootings involved a gunman murdering their domestic partners and children in private residences or secluded, sparsely populated areas, the researchers said.

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.

Approximately 8.3 yearly felony mass shootings where the gunman was committing some other crime also occurred in those 15 years.     

The study, performed by the Congressional Research Service, was built upon data which looked at the 44 years between 1970 and 2013 and found an increase in yearly incidents from 1.1 in the 1970s to 4.5 between 2010 and 2013.

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.

The last 15 years of that timeframe show a less steep increase, with only an average of 4 incidents occurring per year in the 1990s and 4.1 in the 2000s.

Victims per incident also increased, with an average of 5.5 murdered, 2 wounded in the 1970s; 6.1 murdered, 5.3 wounded in the 1980s; 5.6 murdered, 5.5 wounded in the 1990s; 6.4 murdered, 4 wounded in the 2000s and 7.4 murdered, 6.3 wounded from 2010 through 2013.    

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.

Source: CRS analysis of FBI Supplementary Homicide Reports, press accounts, agency press releases, and other compilations by mass media and advocacy groups.

Researchers used the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s framework for classifying a mass murder or massacre as any incident where four or more victims are slain, excluding the shooter, if killed by suicide or justifiable homicide.

The FBI’s classification of multiple homicides was created for criminal profiling to aid law enforcement in investigations, not for data collection, so there’s often overlap that leaves room for different interpretation of the data, the report said.