Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year

Mass Shootings Occur Now Daily in the U.S.:

More than one a day.

That is how often, on average, shootings that left four or more people wounded or dead occurred in the United States this year, according to compilations of episodes derived from news reports.

Including the worst mass shooting of the year, which unfolded horrifically on Wednesday in San Bernardino, Calif., a total of 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in such attacks this year, many of which occurred on streets or in public settings, the databases indicate.
Good times. The only advanced nation on earth that not only puts up with this kind of carnage without becoming alarmed, but also steadfastly believes there is nothing that can be done about.

Or "shit happens" in other words.
The stream of shootings this year — including an attack last week on a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado that left three dead and a shooting in October at a community college in Oregon that left 10 dead, including the gunman — has intensified the debate over the accessibility of powerful firearms.

Two databases that track mass shootings that leave four or more dead or wounded — shootingtracker.com and gunviolencearchive.org — depend on news accounts and are not official. Nonetheless, they give an indication of the widespread nature of such episodes. Since January, there have been at least 354 such cases in about 220 cities in 47 states, according to shootingtracker.com.

In November, six people were killed, five of them shot to death at a campsite in East Texas; 17 were wounded in a shootout as a crowd watched the filming of a music video in New Orleans; and four died, including twin 5-month-olds, in an episode of domestic violence in Jacksonville, Fla. So far this week, five people were wounded Sunday morning in a shooting in Kankakee, Ill., and a shooting Wednesday, before the San Bernardino attack, left one woman dead and three men wounded in Savannah, Ga.
Of course, it's all very academic, and reduced to a lot of "thoughts and prayers" among the masses, unless it's you or your family member being blown away. Then it becomes quite personal.

As one wag put it on twitter yesterday, your "thoughts" should be about what action can be taken to stop this kind of violence, your "prayers" for yourself and your own inaction.

But academically speaking, since that's what we do on this blog, researchers get bogged down in definitions of exactly what a "mass" shooting is and, for that matter, what is or isn't an act of "terrorism."
Ted Alcorn, the research director for Everytown for Gun Safety, a nonprofit organization that advocates gun control, said the shootings with multiple victims were a tiny subset of everyday gun violence in America. “You have 14 people dead in California, and that’s a horrible tragedy,” he said. “But likely 88 other people died today from gun violence in the United States.”

In studying shootings that left four or more dead from 2009 to mid-2015, his organization found certain patterns. In only 11 percent of cases did medical, school or legal authorities note signs of mental illness in the gunmen before the attack, the organization said. Domestic violence figured strongly: In 57 percent of the cases, the victims included a current or former intimate partner or family member of the attacker. Half of all victims were women.

More than two-thirds of the shootings took place in private residences; about 28 percent occurred in public spaces, the study found.

More than 60 percent of the attackers were not prohibited from possessing guns because of prior felonies or other reasons. But the organization still found there was less likelihood of mass killings in states that require background checks for all handgun sales than in states that do not — and even less chance of shootings by people who were prohibited by law from possessing firearms.

In a recent report, the Congressional Research Service found a slight uptick in recent years in shootings in which four or more victims died. The report found an average of 22.4 mass shootings a year from 2009 to 2013, compared with 20.2 shootings a year during the previous five years.

But James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University, said his research showed the number of such shootings has roughly held steady in recent decades.

He said that if analysts added a single year, 2014, and looked at four-year intervals instead of five-year intervals, the average number of annual mass shootings actually declined slightly from 2011 to 2014, compared with the previous four-year period.
Sad, isn't it? We are quibbling over statistical anomalies while the body count continues to rise. Does it really matter, ultimately, if it's 20.2 or 22.4 or 21.6 shootings per year to the grieving family members of the now deceased?

And then as usual, the debate becomes about "guns" or "mental illness" or whatever, and pretty soon we square up in our ideological corners and duke it out, shaming and dishonoring the memories of the victims while trying to prove our own, stupid ideological points.

Meanwhile, the killers seem to lack a consistent ideological point.
Dr. Jeffrey Simon, a visiting lecturer in political science at U.C.L.A. who studies mass shootings with many victims, said that the killers shared no consistent ideological motivation.

“They really cut across the spectrum of political and religious ideologies and other grievances,” Dr. Simon said. “You have personal motivations, political motivations, religious motivations, criminal motivations, or just no motivations at all, as the shooter acts out their fantasies. And the line between them sometimes is very blurred.”
That's partly true, but not really. Actually there is one consistent ideological motivation behind these mass shootings: anger. A shitload of twisted, raging, boiling anger.

I'll leave the other commonalities (gender, toxic masculinity, high-powered firearms, etc.) for another post, but the better question is: why so much anger? Why so much sadness (the other side of the anger coin)?

Why so much pain?

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