In this post I am not going to string out the answer to the above question, tease the reader, or toy around with the question in some manipulative literary device to hold the readers’ attentions.
The answer is YES, the number of mass shootings have dramatically increased in at least my lifetime and my memory since childhood stretches back to the 50’s some dimly but certainly to the sixties when i was a precocious kid in college very young and taking in what was going on in those turbulent times. I attended a wonderful university which was, to give the setting for the reader, one of the centers for student radicals in those times through the Nixon administrations.
For fun, like a naive dufus, I decided to take in student radicalism and attended for a while radical gathers to see “up close and personal what all this was about: SDS Weatherman meetings, SNCC meetings, all kinds of radical meetings, and met Rennie Davis, Eric Chester, and others, [authors of the infamous “Port Huron Statement,” one of the earliest manifestos of American student radicalism at the time for all you historical buffs] the then young radical Tom Hayden (future brief California Congressman and short lived husband of Jane Fonda in her notorious anti-Vietnam War days, some remember her posing in that infamous picture with the crew of the North Vietnamese anti-aircraft gun that earned her no boosters back in the USA.I would listen to the arguments to do this and that radical revolutionary actions, like kidnap Kissinger and other idiotic brainless ideas. They were dumb enough to let a little kid like me in (I was not old enough to approach having a driver’s license I was so far ahead in school) and even I could sit the meetings and say to myself scanning the room with the humor and glee only an early teen can have, “He’s FBI, he’s FBI…” and wonder how these dumb clucks had any hope they were going to pull off the “revolution.” So, yes, my political memories start at a very early age because where I went to college and the medical school, news was happening all around me and mass shootings were not a big deal, not very common. Other things were the dominant phenomenon of those times as noted above.
Then things started to change after the Vietnam War came to an end, politics settled down after Watergate and Nixon’s resignation and ouster. Things quieted down for a while although during the 1968 riots over the assassinations of Dr. King and Robert Kennedy, it did not seem like it for a while. Then the white male middle and lower middle class started to really respond to and expect more from Nixon’s Southern Strategy of using th long denied code words of divisive racism to win over the Southern white vote that was carried forth to the present though it has become so much more subtle and “coded” and deniable in the last ten years or so cloaked in the unassailable flag of patriotism. Then the lower middle class and the less educated started to fall behind further and further on the job promotion-skills-modern employability ladder of global competition that we take for granted as part of the economic landscape now. Not doing enough for that strata of worker left behind. And I think that demographic began to simmer and feel cheated. I think the older middle aged shooter often has some of these “feeling cheated” issues. The younger male shooter that has recently emerged since the Columbine Colorado shooting represents another social phenomenon that I hope to address in another post.
As an aside one of the only constructive efforts to help the older group has been the Golden Leaf Tobacco settlement monies at the community college levels that have begun in the last several years to begin to help some but not enough”displaced worker” extricate themselves from the economic sinkhole that has enveloped us. Then started the dot com revolutions where young brilliant kids like Gates and all his thousands of geeky well educated followers took over the country economically, made millions or billions in what first seemed to the traditionalists, (especially the shade tree mechanics (my favorite but true example) to be a fluke and then as these millionaires started to be billionaires by the bushel fulls, millions of displaced workers in my view started to get worried and frankly jealous an really felt left of the New Mainstream. The industrial worker was starting in large numbers to feel cheated, left behind and angry. No longer was it possible to stay with GM lifelong and then retire to Florida; in fact after Reagan’s breaking of the Air Traffic Controllers’ strike and Frank Lorenzo’s taking then Continental Airlines into bankruptcy and then cutting costs by hiring new (or the same workers whether mechanics or pilots) at lower wages did working Americans being to realize the American dream was morphing into something that did not care about their interests at all. Mike Douglas’ seminal and prophetic movie, the 1993 somewhat offbeat and chilling and also somewhat prophetic movie Falling Down where he played an unforgettable average conventional looking worker guy with black frame glasses, short sleeve white shirt with pen or pens in it, who reacts to the stresses in his life with uncontrollable anger and horrible acts of violence, with shootings from his rage. That was the best portrayal I know of, of some of the phenomena we have been witnessing since the ‘going postal” shootings of two decades ago.
Now to the data. An article in the New Orleans Picayune Times by Bruce Alpert of December 9, 2014 prompted somewhat by the Sandy Hook Elementary Shooting by Adam Lanza stated in its first line that “gun violence at U.S. school has continued after the 2012 killing,” and quoted a relatively unknown group following such phenomenon, the Everytown for Gun Safety and Moms Demand Action for Gun Action for Gun Sense in America had compiled data that counted a list of 95 school shootings in 33 states since Sandy Hook in Newtown CT. The title of the article was “Since 2012 Connecticut school shooting, 95 schools — 3 in Louisiana — endured gun incidents: New report,” if you wish to Google it especially at the New Orleans Picayune Times archives site.
Then slowly but unflaggingly the researchers, public health especially, law school “students” of violence, the national governmental agencies who track crime trends, notably the FBI, the Dept. of Justice, etc., sociologists and mental health forensic experts began to weigh in as the phenomenon of mass shootings would not go away as everyone hoped perhaps in the 1990’s and into the early 2000’s. As everyone now knows or has sensed uncomfortably, they have only increased. Data started to emerge from multiple circles such as the above, that mass shootings were on the march in this country. One of the incidents that broke through nearly everyone’s reluctance to acknowledge this phenomenon was the Washington DC reign of terror over a few weeks when John Mohammed and Lee Malvo shot indiscriminate persons from the disguised hole in the trunk of their car with a rifle and eluded capture for an agonizing period of time. That incident was one of several that changed everything. This stuff was different than Ted Bundy and the historical earlier serial killers like John Wayne Gacey killing coeds and kids in serial fashion, and other obviously sick individuals such as Wayne Williams before in the 1970’s in Atlanta killing young boys and teens.
An article, “Mass shootings have become more frequent, data show,” published in June, 2015 in The Los Angeles Times, from the publication, Science Now at http://www.latimes.com/science/sciencenow, stated for instance that between a 2011 shooting at an IHOP restaurant in Carson City, Nevada killing four people [keeping in mind that the still mostly standard definition of a ‘mass shooting’ is the killing at one instance or discrete period of time three or more persons], and the 2013 attack on the Washington Navy Yard where 12 people were killed, a mass shooting occurred “somewhere in America once every 64 days, on average.” Furthermore to buttress the argument that mass shootings have indeed truly increased in number and frequency, the article references a Harvard University School of Public Health study apparently conducted with Northeastern University that showed in the “preceding 29 years, such shootings occurred on average every 200 days…” This study it is to be noted used the newer standard definition of requiring at least four persons being killed by the same individual which makes the data even stronger.
There is a Wikipedia site, the Mass Shootings Tracker site which shows well the trends in mass shootings for the interested or doubtful.
There are many many other unimpeachable sources that document this terrible trend in our society. Some are also advocacy sites that espouse the viewpoint which unfortunately has merit (my apologies to the NRA) that the incredibly widespread access and population wide possession of firearms by the average citizenry partially gives rise to this, and many that are pure “just give me the facts ma’am” Jack Friday “Dragnet” tv series of the 1950’s data mode. As a contrasting example, I would submit the People Republic of China or as my late father, WWII pilot and veteran major of the battles for North Africa and Italy would say seriously, “Red China,” always said. In “Red China,” [I refer to the still totalitarian regime and not to the people and my apologies again to the citizens of the PRC], there is little or NO access to personal firearms at all. So what happens, mass killers, use knives and regularly go on stabbing sprees killing in crowded venues such as stores, restaurants and most unbelievably of all, kindergarten and primary schools; my ‘shrink-y’ not so bright thought is that it takes a lot of rage of go and stab a bunch of helpless cute children in their supposedly safe haven of kindergarten or first grade and that example I think gives a hint as to the motivating forces in mass murderers, perhaps at times aided by the self control loosening effects of festering untreated major though disordered mental illness. I find it interesting that since a couple of years ago when there was a rash of reports of the one after another stabbing incidents in “Red China,” there have been no more. I, for one, do not believe those have suddenly magically ceased, given the economic turmoil and perhaps erosion of the Chinese Dream as their economy now goes into the international dumper…
More soon on other aspects of this unsettling phenomenon. And thanks for reading my musings.