Jamie Fox, our resident criminologist, outlines a few key takeaways from the recently released report on the Sandy Hook shootings.
In his latest USA Today column, James Alan Fox says “it is important to dispel the widely held notion that mass shootings are on the rise. Over the past 30 years, there has been an average of nearly 20 mass shootings a year in the U.S., each involving at least four victims killed, but with no upward or downward trajectory.
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
By James Alan Fox | The Chronicle of Higher Education | December 18, 2012
Even before the death toll in last Friday’s school massacre in Newtown, Conn., was determined, politicians, pundits, and professors of varied disciplines were all over the news, pushing their proposals for change. Some talked about the role of guns, others about mental-health services, and still more about the need for better security in schools and other public places. Whatever their agenda and the passion behind it, those advocates made certain explicit or implied assumptions about patterns in mass murder and the profile of the assailants. Unfortunately, those assumptions do not always align with the facts.
Myth: Mass shootings are on the rise.
Reality: Over the past three decades, there has been an average of 20 mass shootings a year in the United States, each with at least four victims killed by gunfire. Occasionally, and mostly by sheer coincidence, several episodes have been clustered closely in time. Over all, however, there has not been an upward trajectory. To the contrary, the real growth has been in the style and pervasiveness of news-media coverage, thanks in large part to technological advances in reporting. Read More