Mass Shooting Data Update, Post-Las Vegas Effects on Numbers from GVA, MJ
Once again, we have to face another horrifying mass shooting event. This time, it was the worst mass shooting event in U.S. history. It’s frustrating to see this happen again with the understanding that our country is unlikely to anything to do anything but repeat the same slogans, with politicians offering “thoughts and prayers” but no action. I try to stick to data analysis and art on this site, without making things too political, but my frustration has the better of me on this topic. These large scale homicides have become routine, and there is zero political will to take even minor steps to mitigate this epidemic. It makes me sad to write about this again.
Unfortunately, on all matters regarding statistics and research regarding firearms and firearm related fatalities, our federal government has punted on its responsibility to collect meaningful data. As I explored in the three prior articles on mass shootings, there are other resources to bail us out. Each has its pros and cons, and none is what I would consider complete and definitive.
Part 1 (Intro, Mother Jones Data): https://jonamdall.com/2017/08/07/mass-shooting-research/
Part 2 (GVA Overview, Rampage Events): https://jonamdall.com/2017/08/09/mass-shooting-research-part-2-rampage-events/
Part 3 (State Comparisons, GVA Data): https://jonamdall.com/2017/08/15/mass-shooting-research-part-3-state-comparisons-gva-data/
Here are the best resources I’ve been able to find, with some links. The two primary sources I’ve examined are Mother Jones and hwww.gunviolencearchive.org/ (GVA). Mother Jones has much more detail on events (description, weapons, mental illness status, etc), but has has a very sparse amount of events compared to GVA. GVA appears to be the most complete list of events, but provides very few details (only location and victim number) compared to Mother Jones. Another drawback of GVA is that their publicly available data only goes back to 2014, whereas Mother Jones has gone back to 1982. I also looked at Stanford University’s database, but ultimately decided not to explore it further due to their self-described limitations. And finally, I’ve linked a Washington Post article with some excellent infographics.
Stanford University: https://library.stanford.edu/projects/mass-shootings-america
These sources have updated their databases to reflect this latest tragedy in Las Vegas. I added the new data to my previous spreadsheets, and have included the new graphs below. It doesn’t doesn’t change the race, gender, or ideology graphics much, but does make the trend of increasing events and victims stand out. The state-by-state counts at the end really changed, almost to the point of being unreadable; it really emphasizes how large scale this Las Vegas concert shooting was.
I do not know if this is true for others, but for me, seeing visual representations of the number of people who’ve lost their lives helps keep this very real. I was especially affected by the Washington Post’s graphics I linked above; clicking on the many victims and seeing the scale as these add up is powerful. GVA (gunviolencearchive.org) also has some very well done visual representations on their website and their Twitter account (@gundeaths). I think the more people who are getting into this sort of data, and exploring what’s out there now, the better off we are in furthering this debate beyond “now is not the time to x, y, z.”
Is this specific category of gun violence getting worse? It certainly appears so. The question now is; what steps could we take to mitigate this? Honestly, I do not know definitively how to fix the problem. There are a few ideas out there that could work to get the ball rolling though. First and foremost, all firearm purchasing loopholes need to be closed with no exceptions. I’m specifically thinking of the gun show loophole, but there could be others. Next, law enforcement information sharing on individuals who were denied a firearm purchase needs to be automatic and should override any conflicting privacy protections (I’m not talking about sharing this with the general public here). There is also a significant mental health component; U.S. health care is a mess right now, and individuals with significant mental illnesses cannot be ignored.
Lastly, and probably most controversially, maybe it is time for nation-wide licensing for firearm ownership, mandated federally but perhaps administered by states as drivers licenses are. Another idea I’ve heard mentioned is to legislate that firearm owners should have to carry liability insurance, as drivers do. I doubt that would be a popular idea, but we should explore possible solutions rather than just shrugging our shoulders. I say these things as a firearm owner myself; guns are certainly as worthy of regulation as cars. Firearm ownership is a constitutionally protected right in the U.S., but licensing is not an outrageous step in my opinion.
None of these ideas are catch all fixes, obviously. Implementing one or all of these things won’t end violence, won’t stop all shootings. But it would provide law enforcement with more tools, and make some meaningful steps towards addressing the epidemic of mass shootings in America. Certainly, it’s better than doing nothing again.