The National Post published an important bit of information that should help Americans keep things in perspective when it comes to the gun control laws being discussed in the wake of the Newtown tragedy. According to criminologist Grant Duwe, who is an accomplished expert on mass public killings, less than 1% of all murders fall under this category.
As the article explains:
Mass public killings create a huge psychic impact but are actually a small percentage of all U.S. mass murders and a miniscule portion of all murders in general, an American criminologist says.
Grant Duwe, who works for the Minnesota State Department of Corrections and is the author of Mass Murder in the United States: A History, has looked at 1,202 mass murders between 1900 and 2009. Of those, 12%, or 142 incidents, were massacres in public such as the Denver shooting early Friday morning and at Virginia Tech in 2007 and Columbine in 1999.
This may not make people feel any better about what happened, and it doesn’t bring the victims back. But it does help us formulate a more sensible approach to preventing more tragedies from taking place. Unfortunately, governments are not able to prevent all terrible things from occurring, and may even wind up causing more harm than good if they pass hastily formed regulations.
The criminologist Grant Duwe, cited above, gained recent notoriety with his comments following the Aurora theater and Sandy Hook atrocities. In a widely circulated article called “No rise in mass killings,” he was cited as saying the following:
Grant Duwe, a criminologist with the Minnesota Department of Corrections who has written a history of mass murders in America, said that while mass shootings rose between the 1960s and the 1990s, they actually dropped in the 2000s. And mass killings actually reached their peak in 1929, according to his data. He estimates that there were 32 in the 1980s, 42 in the 1990s and 26 in the first decade of the century. [...]
Still, he understands the public perception — and extensive media coverage — when mass shootings occur in places like malls and schools. “There is this feeling that could have been me. It makes it so much more frightening.”
It is imperative that all Americans contextualize rare but horrific problems before seeking solutions to prevent them from occurring.