Mass Shootings in the United States, Placed in Perspective


[Ed: Dr. Faria published this excerpt from his upcoming book America, Guns, and Freedom: A Journey Into Politics and the Public Health & Gun Control Movements on August 13 and August 15. We are happy to share it.]

Mass shootings are a heinous crime, and for the victims and the rest of the population, a tragedy. That should not detract from the fact that many, if not most, of the culprits are deranged malcontents, who in many ways are aberrant products of the times in which we live. Nor should we abdicate our responsibility to report the facts surrounding these tragedies.

For example, despite what you have been led to believe and contrary to sensationalized reporting, mass shootings are not more frequent today, only more publicized and propagandized. Northeastern University Criminal Justice Professor James Fox reported that the highest casualty rate for mass murders in the past three decades occurred in 1977! In that year, 38 criminals killed 141 victims. Compare this to 1994, which had the lowest number of mass murders: 31 criminals murdered 74 people.

In his latest article, Professor Fox reiterated: 

According to a careful analysis of data on mass shootings (using the widely accepted definition of at least four killed), the Congressional Research Service found that there are, on average, just over 20 incidents annually. More important, the increase in cases, if there was one at all, is negligible. Indeed, the only genuine increase is in hype and hysteria. 

From 2000 to 2013 the FBI, which tracks mass shootings as “active shooter incidents,” has found an even lower average of 11.4 incidents occurring per year. One problem is that the definition of what constitutes a mass-shooting incident varies from one publication or organization to the next.

What is clearly evident is that the incidents are not increasing, despite media hype and sensationalization. Yet, obfuscating for political purposes and obviously to increase their numbers, anti-gun activists have tried to label any incident with two or more casualties as a mass shooting, and public health officials have even attempted to lump murder-suicides as mass shootings!

Washington Post report in a moment of clarity summarizes the problem as follows: 

Similarly, Northeastern University Professor of Criminologist James Alan Fox has said that the inclusion of statistics from the FBI’s ‘active shooter’ report gives the false impression that incidents are rising when they are not. ‘A majority of active shooters are not mass shooters,’ Fox told Time. ‘A majority kills fewer than three.’ On Friday, Fox wrote in USA Today that ‘media folks reminded us of the unforgettable, high profile shootings that have taken place over the past few months, hinting of a problem that has grown out of control… as if there is a pattern emerging.’ 


Incidentally, mass killings are not unique to the United States because of wide gun availability. France, for example had more mass killings in one single year, 2015, than there were mass shootings in the United States in all of Obama’s two terms (eight years). And at home, California, one of the states with the strictest gun control laws, including background checks, has the highest number of mass-shooting incidents at 21 cases, counting from 1966 to 2017. We must keep in mind, though, that despite the tragic nature and sensationalism accompanying these heinous crimes, mass shootings represent a miniscule number, one percent or less of homicides, in the U.S. 

In the aftermath of the tragic 2018 Valentine’s Day high school shooting in Parkland, Florida—where 17 students were massacred by criminal gunman Nikolas Cruz—dramatic calls for drastic gun control measures and exaggerated claims about the number of mass shootings in the U.S. were made. For instance, Democrat Senator Chris Murphy of Connecticut made the mendacious claim, “This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America.” The colluding American media did not take Senator Murphy to task, as they do with President Trump’s every pronouncement. 

In fact, America is not the worst country for mass shootings and does not even make it to the top ten, despite the record number of guns in the hands of Americans. France, Norway, Belgium, Finland and the Czech Republic, for example, all have more deaths from mass shootings than the U.S., and in fact, from 2009 to 2015, the European Union had 27 percent more casualties per mass shooting incidents than the U.S. 

Let’s stop sensationalizing violence, turning deranged malcontents into celebrities, even in death, and using the tragedies for pushing, time and again, for more gun control that only disarms citizens and place them at the mercy of criminals, including rampage shooters!




—  Miguel A. Faria, Jr., M.D. is a retired Clinical Professor of Neurosurgery and Adjunct Professor of Medical History at Mercer University School of Medicine. He is Associate Editor in Chief and World Affairs Editor of Surgical Neurology International. He served on the CDC’s Injury Research Grant Review Committee.

All DRGO articles by Miguel A. Faria, Jr., MD