U.S. Has Had Seven Mass Killings This Year

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Robert Siegel talks to Mark Follman of Mother Jones magazine about other mass shootings in history. He wrote about it for the magazine earlier this year.


The particulars of the alleged shooter's life, in this case, may be exceptional. But such events are common enough that we now actually have a lengthy list of similar crimes. This makes seven this year alone, seven mass killings. A few months ago, the magazine Mother Jones published a guide to mass shootings in America. And one of the authors, Mark Follman, joins us now. Welcome to the program. And...

MARK FOLLMAN: Thanks for having me.

SIEGEL: First, let's talk about how many mass shootings over how many years and what qualified as a mass shooting for the long article that you worked on.

FOLLMAN: Sure, Robert. And I'd just like to say at the outset that this is a tough day and my thoughts and prayers are with the families of the victims. We've been looking at this issue of mass shootings for several months at Mother Jones and this is just, you know, the scope of this is hard to grasp still. So our investigation at Mother Jones, we started it after the Aurora killings in July.

And looked to see how often this type of event had happened in the last 30 years and we found 61 cases. This is the seventh this year alone and this year is the worst in the 30 years. The worst year yet in terms of both the frequency of the events and the number of casualties.

SIEGEL: You're defining these events as, I believe it was, four people, apart from the gunman, being killed in some public place or more than that.

FOLLMAN: That's right. Four or more fatalities in a public place such as a school or workplace, a shopping mall...

SIEGEL: A school?

FOLLMAN: Schools.

SIEGEL: A common place for this to happen?

FOLLMAN: Yeah. In the 61 cases that we examined, there were 11 school shootings. This would be the 12th.

SIEGEL: The weapons that are used in these. You found that, for the most part, they haven't been obtained illicitly.

FOLLMAN: That's correct. Reportedly, the shooter of today's event obtained his weapons legally, although we still don't know if that's been confirmed. This is a very clear trend in this type of event, according to our data set. In 80 percent of the cases, the weapons were obtained legally by the perpetrators.

SIEGEL: And the gunmen, typically? Nearly all male, I gather, we should start there.

FOLLMAN: Yes. In all but one case, the gunmen were male. Typically, the average age we found was 35. They're typically in their 20s or 30s, typically a white male.

SIEGEL: Now, in this case, it's being reported that the shooter killed his mother who was a teacher at the elementary school and there's also another death at a related location at a house. If that's true, this is kind of a hybrid. This is a terrible crime, horrible crime of domestic violence, killing your immediate family members, followed by randomly killing other people. Does this conform to pattern? Does it defy patterns? What would you say?[POST-BROADCAST CORRECTION: The mother of the shooter was not a teacher at the elementary school. She was the person killed at the house.]

FOLLMAN: There are some other cases where this type of pattern has occurred. I believe the Red Lake massacre in Minnesota is one where the gunman killed his own family members before then going to a school and killing a number of people. I think it points to one of the most vexing questions about the issue of mass shootings. And another element that we looked at with the investigations at Mother Jones is how mental health figures into all of this. There's a very, very strong pattern of mental illness among these shooters.

SIEGEL: Mark Follman, thank you very much for talking with us.

FOLLMAN: Thanks for having me, Robert.

SIEGEL: Mark Follman of Mother Jones, who worked on the "Guide To Mass Shootings In America."



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