Forget What You’ve Heard: Mass Shootings Aren’t Rising. But They Probably Aren’t Going Away.


Criminologist James Alan Fox on who shoots, and why.

By Megan McArdle | The Daily Beast | February 1, 2013

Mass shootings are rising. They’re committed by lunatics who suddenly snap and start shooting at random. If only we had better gun laws or mental health screenings, we wouldn’t have so many tragedies.

Stop. Almost everything you think you know about mass shootings is wrong. This morning, I sat down for an IM interview with Northeastern University Criminologist James Alan Fox, who has been studying mass murder for years, and has authored two books on the subject: Extreme Killing, and Violence and Security on Campus.

Megan: First of all, thanks for doing this. Second of all, can you start off by talking a bit about yourself? How did you start studying mass shootings?

James Alan Fox: I started studying mass murder in the early 1980s (along with Northeastern University colleague Jack Levin) to see if there were any common traits and characteristics to the crimes or the perpetrators. There had been a pervasive sense back then that mass murderers were crazed lunatics who suddenly snapped, went berserk, and killed indiscriminately. By studying 42 cases that had occurred in recent years (recent back then, anyway), we found that many common assumption were quite off the mark. Read More

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