Mass shootings have become a common tragedy in our society. These shootings represent a fairly recent trend of terror involving gun violence. The definition of the term or phrase, “mass shooting” appears only in medical dictionaries, which define it as, “the discharging of firearms multiple times by one or more parties into a group of unarmed victims.” In general terms, a mass shooting involves a person(s) who kills multiple victims with a gun during a single incident.
As stated, mass shootings have certain key characteristics. Mass murderers commit mass shootings. The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) classified three different perpetrators who commit gun violence: mass murderers, spree killers, and serial killers. According to the FBI, the primary distinction between a mass murderer and a spree killer is that the latter strikes in multiple locations (as opposed to a single locale). Both kill in a relatively short time frame. The serial killer strikes over a longer period of time, in multiple locations, and engages in a “cooling off” period between attacks. For example, the infamous D.C. Sniper’s heinous acts of murder throughout the course of several weeks are not considered mass shootings.
The FBI defines a mass shooting as an incident where people are killed, but research groups, such as the group that created the project, “Mass Shooting Tracker”, calculated that mass shootings involve at least four victims. Since the 1980s, researchers on the subject have used at least four homicides, excluding the shooter if killed during the incident, as the ground number for studying the subject and calculating statistics. However, experts, such as James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, who has written extensively on the subject, concluded that the number four was an arbitrary number. Using the criteria of at least four fatalities, the tracker reported that 294 mass shootings occurred in 2015.
Mass shooting attacks generally occur as a single incident, in a public place, such as a shopping mall, a movie theater, or a school. The FBI classifies school shootings as a sub-category of mass shootings, defined as an attack on any educational institute of learning.
Using these key characteristics to define what a mass shooting is provides a starting point for the cause and solutions.
“What Exactly Is a Mass Shooting?” Mother Jones. Mark Follman, 24 August 2012. Web. Dec 4 2015.
“Another: The 45th School Shooting in America in 2015.” NewsWeek. Michelle Richinick. 1 October 2015. Web. Dec 4 2015.