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Monday, August 31, 2015

Research finds correlation between mass shootings and gun control

This file photo taken on July 28, 1997 shows a policeman holding one of 4,500 guns on display before being melted down in Sydney after Australia banned all automatic and semi-automatic rifles in the aftermath of the Port Arthur shooting in 1996.
5 percent of the world's population accounted for a disproportionate 31 percent of public mass shooters globally from 1966-2012, according to new research presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Sociological Association.

An analysis examined the years 1966-2012 using data from the New York City Police Department's 2012 active shooter report, the FBI's 2014 active shooter report, and multiple international sources. The author says it is the first quantitative analysis of all reported public mass shootings around the world that resulted in the deaths of four or more people. By definition, these shootings do not include incidents that occurred solely in domestic settings or were primarily gang-related, drive-by shootings, hostage taking incidents, or robberies. 

In other words, it factored out all ordinary crime and instead focused instead of mentally unbalanced people.  

"The United States, Yemen, Switzerland, Finland, and Serbia are ranked as the Top 5 countries in firearms owned per capita, according to the 2007 Small Arms Survey, and my study found that all five are ranked in the Top 15 countries in public mass shooters per capita," said study author Adam Lankford, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama. "That is not a coincidence. My study provides empirical evidence, based on my quantitative assessment of 171 countries, that a nation's civilian firearm ownership rate is the strongest predictor of its number of public mass shooters. Until now, everyone was simply speculating about the relationship between firearms and public mass shootings. My study provides empirical evidence of a positive association between the two." 

What is left out is that crime and suicide are the biggest uses of firearms. The U.K. bans guns, for example, but it holds down the top three spots in violent crime. And it draws odd correlations, like multiple guns, which are only used in mass shootings. This week, a former television employee and clear racist gunned down a broadcaster and a camera man, but that incident would not count in this analysis. 

"Given the fact that the United States has over 200 million more firearms in circulation than any other country, it's not surprising that our public mass shooters would be more likely to arm themselves with multiple weapons than foreign offenders," Lankford said. "I was surprised, however, that the average number of victims killed by each shooter was actually higher in other countries (8.81 victims) than it was in the United States (6.87 victims) because so many horrific attacks have occurred here."

What it should mean is that murders would be much higher. Yet they are not. Gun ownership doubled this century but murders plummeted. Choosing such a narrow focus - "shooting sprees" but not crime - may hint at an ideological goal rather than an informative one.

Obviously by focusing on just shooting sprees, all by people on psychiatric medication, it makes it seem like schools, factories/warehouses, and office buildings than offenders in other countries, where they were more likely to strike in military settings, such as bases, barracks, and checkpoints. 
Regardless of its clear limitation, Lankford claims, "The most obvious implication is that the United States could likely reduce its number of school shootings, workplace shootings, and public mass shootings in other places if it reduced the number of guns in circulation."

Five percent of the world's population, the U.S., has also accounted for 40 percent of the world's science output since 1966. Freedom for a few dozen people to commit heinous acts may also mean freedom to lead the world in free thought and technological creativity.

Yet another multiple-victim shooting rocked the U.S. Wednesday morning as a gunman killed two Virginia TV journalists — Alison Parker, 24, and cameraman Adam Ward, 27 — live on the air.
This comes on the heels of the Charleston, S.C. church massacre that killed nine, the Lafayette, La. movie theatre shooting that left three dead, and the attack on a military recruitment centre in Chattanooga, Tenn. that killed five.
Every time this happens in America, the two sides of the gun control debate resume arguing. Inevitably, the powerful gun lobby, led by the National Rifle Association (NRA), largely wins with its argument "guns don't kill people, people kill people."
But earlier this week, a study by the American Sociological Association came out debunking the NRA's contention. It reported that the U.S. — which has nearly half the world's civilian-owned guns — is also home to 31 per cent of the world's mass shootings despite making up only five per cent of the world's population.
"That is not a coincidence," wrote study author Adam Lankford. "My study provides empirical evidence, based on my quantitative assessment of 171 countries, that a nation’s civilian firearm ownership rate is the strongest predictor of its number of public mass shooters.
Until now, everyone was simply speculating about the relationship between firearms and public mass shootings [defined as killing four or more people]. My study provides empirical evidence of a positive association between the two."
Of course, America's gun violence problem goes much deeper than mass shootings. While those garner the most attention due to their shocking nature, Vox recently reported that America has 29.7 gun homicides per million people compared to 5.1 here in Canada or 1.4 in Australia.
As well, gun-related suicides outnumber homicides two to one in the U.S.

But gun control actually has a measurable test case: Australia.

No massacres since gun control law passed

As President Barack Obama mentioned during his post-Charleston interview on Marc Maron's WTF podcast, there was a mass shooting in Australia that "was just so shocking the entire country said, 'Well, we're going to completely change our gun laws,' and they did. And it hasn't happened since."

In April 1996, in the Tasmanian town of Port Arthur, a 28-year-old named Martin Bryant shot 35 people dead with a semi-automatic rifle during a horrific killing spree.

As in the U.S., a gun control debate ensued but in Australia the other side won.

Then-Prime Minister John Howard led a bipartisan initiative to pass the strict National Firearms Programme Implementation Act, banning automatic, semi-automatic and pump-action shotguns. They also initiated a buyback program, spending US$230 million to take over 700,000 guns out of private hands.

In the decade prior to the Port Arthur massacre, there had been 11 mass shootings that left 100 dead.

There have been none since.

Gun violence hasn't been eliminated — there was a shooting at Monash University in 2002 that left two dead and a hostage taking in Sydney in 2014 that killed three, including the gunman. But the Washington Post reported a few years ago, after the movie theatre attack in Colorado, that Australia's gun laws had an even further reaching effect beyond mass shootings.

In the decade after the gun control law was passed, gun homicides fell by 59 per cent and firearm-related suicides fell by 65 per cent. There was no related increase in non-firearm homicides and suicides.

An earlier study estimated that 200 lives were saved every year thanks to the decrease in suicides alone.

"Although I had not anticipated the need to act on this matter so early in my term of government, I had always believed there was a clear link between the ready availability of guns and gun-related death," Howard recently told NBC News. "All the credible research both in Australia and elsewhere shows that the gun control laws have markedly reduced gun-related deaths."

Australia Proved Gun Control Reduces Mass Shootings, Homicides, Suicides Joshua Ostroff: 

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