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Killing by the Numbers: How Much More to Follow?

Photo by Andrew Kitzmiller | CC BY 2.0

On February 14th, 17 people were killed and more than 15 injured at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, FL.  It is considered the nation’s biggest school shooting, but far from the only one.

Since January 1, 2018, 17 additional shootings have taken place in or around a U.S. school.  They’ve taken place in Nashville, TN (Feb. 9), New York, NY (Feb. 8), Oxon Hill, MD (Feb 5), Maplewood, MN (Feb. 5), Los Angeles, CA (Feb 1), Philadelphia, PA (Jan. 31), Dearborn, MI (Jan. 26), Mobile, AL (Jan. 25), Benton, KY (Jan. 23), Italy, TX (Jan. 22), Gentilly, LA (Jan. 22), Winston Salem, NC (Jan. 20), Marshall, TX (Jan. 15), San Bernardino, CA (Jan. 10), Denison, TX (Jan. 10), Sierra Vista, AZ (Jan. 10) and Seattle, WA (Jan. 4).

More disturbing, since the Columbine High School, in Columbine, CO, massacre in 1999 (where 13 people were killed and 24 wounded), there have been 10 school shootings in which four or more people were killed, including the death or suicide of the perpetrators, and these mass shootings have resulted in 122 fatalities.  However, the New York Times reports that since the 2012 Sandy Hook school in Newtown, CT, where 26 people (20 students and six adults) were killed, at least 239 school shootings have taken place nationwide and 438 people were shot.

Adding to this picture, the Gun Violence Archive reports that 429 teenagers and 86 younger children have been killed in shooting in 2018.

Sadly, school shootings are just one example of the numerous types of shootings that define everyday American life.  Among other types are political killings, murders, domestic violence killings, “mass” shootings, “lone wolf” terrorist acts and killings by police of citizens. Often forgotten, as shootings have increased, the violent crime rate has fallen.  Pew Research notes: “Using the FBI numbers, the violent crime rate fell 48% between 1993 and 2016. Using the BJS data, the rate fell 74% during that span.”  But shootings keep going up and up and up.

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The following analysis provides a snapshot of some of the different dimensions in which shootings and killings play out in American life.  It reflects the deepening social crisis, that they mythic “wild west” of the nation’s past has become every-day main street.  The data comes from a variety of sources and may reflect overlap counting.

Political terrorism

Since 1900, according to Wikipedia, more than 100 acts of political terrorism have taken place in the U.S.  They include the assassinations of two presidents — William McKinley (1901) and John Kennedy (1963) — as well as the attempted assassinations in the continental U.S. of seven presidents — Theodore Roosevelt (1912), Franklin Roosevelt (1933), Harry Truman (1950), Kennedy (1960), Richard Nixon (1972, George Wallace paralyzed), Gerald Ford (1975) and Ronald Reagan (1981, James Brady wounded).  Assassinations and attempted killings of other politicians and public personalities only compound the story.

Political terrorism involves more than shootings.  A 1999 FBI report, “Terrorism in the United States,” found that in the two decades between 1980 and 1999 there were 327 domestic terrorist acts that left 205 people dead and 2,037 injured.  A 2010 report from the University of Maryland’s START (National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism) project found that between 1970 and 2007 the U.S. faced 1,347 “terrorist attacks.”  It reports that New York was the most targeted city (21% or 284 attacks), followed by Miami (70), San Francisco (66), Washington, DC (59) and Los Angeles (54).  (For a list of terrorist acts dating from 1865, see Wm. Robert Johnston, “Terrorist attacks and related incidents in the United States.”)

 

Lone-wolf shootings

“The United States (US) is the primary target among western states for lone wolf terrorist (LWT) attacks, and the frequency of attacks continues to increase.”  These words open a June 2015 Georgetown National Security Critical Issue Task Force (NSCITF) report, “Lone Wolf Terrorism.”  It points out that while such terrorist acts constitute a very small portion of all terrorist attacks (1.8 percent), it notes that such attacks more than doubled from 30 attacks in the 1970s to 73 attacks in the 2000s.

Over the last few years, there have been dozens of such incidents.  October 31, 2017, Sayfullo Saipov, a 29-year-old legal immigrant form Uzbekistan, drove a rented pickup truck on a bicycle path abutting the West Side Highway along the Hudson River in New York’s downtown Tribeca district, attacking pedestrians and bicyclists, killing 8 people and injuring 12 others.

Six other lone-wolf attacks over just the last five years suggest how extensive is the phenomenon: (i) Omar Mateen killed 49 (50 including himself) people and injured 58 at an Orlando, FL gay nightclub in 2016; (ii) Micah Johnson shot and killed four Dallas police officers and one Dallas Area Rapid Transit officer in what authorities called a “sniper ambush” in 2016; (iii) Ahmad Khan Raimi, a 28-year-old, Afghan-born U.S. citizen, detonated a pressure cooker bomb in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and exploded a pipe bomb along a Marine Corps charity race in in Seaside Park, NJ, in 2016; (iv) Syed Rizwan Farook and Tashfeen Malik shot and killed 14 people and wounding 22 others at an office 2015 Christmas party in San Bernardino, CA; (v) the white racist Dylann Roof killed nine African-American parishioners at the Emanuel AME Church in downtown Charleston in 2015; and (vi) the 2013 Boston Marathon bombing by Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev left three spectators dead and wounded 264 others.

Mass Shootings

On November 5, 2017, 26-year-old Devin Kelley killed 26 people and injured 20 others attending Sunday church services at the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, TX.  A month earlier, on October 3rd, in Las Vegas, NV, Stephen Paddock, a 64-year-old retired real-estate speculator and gambler, shot re-tooled assault rifles from a room on the 32nd floor of the Mandalay Bay at attendees of the Route 91 Harvest music festival, killing 59 people and leading to over 500 people being injured.

The nonprofit advocacy group, Everytown for Gun Safety, released a revealing study, “Mass Shooting in the United States, 2009-2016,” reporting that from 2009-2016, there were 156 “mass shootings” in the U.S.  Such incidents are defined in terms of whether four or more people were shot and killed.  Digging deeper, it found: “These incidents resulted in 1,187 victims shot: 848 people were shot and killed, and 339 people were shot and injured. In addition, 66 perpetrators killed themselves after a mass shooting, and another 17 perpetrators were shot and killed by responding law enforcement.”  Most disturbing, “the majority of mass shootings — 54 percent of cases — were related to domestic or family violence.”

Domestic Violence

Everytown Research reports that “domestic violence affects millions of women across the country, and guns in the hands of domestic abusers can turn abuse into murder.”  It notes that American women annually suffer from 5.3 million incidents of intimate partner violence and, in an average month, 50 American women are shot to death by intimate partners. It also finds that approximately 1 million women alive today have been shot, or shot at, by an intimate partner, and that 4.5 million women alive today have been threatened with a gun by an intimate partner.

The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence adds to this sad story, noting that between 1990 and 2005 firearms were used to kill more than two-thirds of spouse and ex-spouse homicide and that individuals killed by current dating partners made up almost half of all spouse and current dating partner homicides

Murders

The FBI’s Uniform Crime Reporting data reveals that in 2016 firearms were used in three-fourths (i.e., 11,004) of 15,070 murders reported killing. The weapons used breakdown as follows: handguns (7,105), rifles (374), shotguns (262) and other (not specified, 3,077).

Police shootings

The website 538 finds that there is no reliable source to determine the total number of annual police shootings.   In 2016 it reported that “police officers in the U.S. shoot and kill about a thousand people each year, accounting for roughly 3 percent of all gun death.”  The data was drawn from studies conducted by The Guardian (which counted 1,019) and The Washington Post (990).  It also draws on three other, crowdsourced efforts, to estimate that about 980 shooting took place in 2016.

VICE estimates that police in the 50 largest local departments shot at least 3,631 people from 2010 through 2016, involving both fatal and nonfatal incidents.  It states: “That’s more than 500 people a year. On more than 700 other occasions, police fired at citizens and missed. Two-thirds of the people cops fired at survived.”

***

In the U.S., guns and ammunitions are a big, big business.  According to one estimate, in 2014, approximately 371 million firearms were owned by civilians and domestic law enforcement in 2014; of these weapons, approximately 300 million are owned by civilians.  About 146 million or 39 percent were handguns.

The website, Statistical Brain, provides a useful summary of the U.S. firearms industry.

+ One third (32%) of U.S. households report owning a gun.

+ Nearly half (49%) of Americans “felt laws limiting gun ownership infringe on the public’s right to bear arms.”

+ Firearm production is staggering, annual average total of 3,444,375 weapons — rifles (1,425,500), shotguns (777,125), revolvers (352,625) and pistols (889,125).

+ The firearms industry is huge – 464 weapons and ammunitions producers generating $11 billion in revenues.

+ Between the 1990 election and January 2018, “gun rights” interests reported contributing $42 million to federal candidates – 89 percent went to Republicans,11 percent to Democrats.

In addition, it provides the following summary overview of the National Rifle Association, the gun-industry’s leading lobbying group.

+ Members = 5 million

+ Annual revenue = $348 million

+ Total spent on lobbying = $3.6 million

+ Campaign contributions = $582,000

+ Contribution to NRA PAC = $6 million

However, according to Bloomburg, over the last few years gun manufacturers over produced and now sales have stagnated.  Remington Arms (aka Remington Outdoor), a company founded in 1816, has filed bankruptcy.

The students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, in Parkland, FL, have taken up a campaign against the proliferation of guns in society, dubbed #NeverAgain.  The term draws from post-WW-II efforts by Jews and others to remember the Holocaust.  The students’ campaign targets the NRA and politicians like Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) who do its bidding.  Like Black Lives Matter and #MeToo, this insurgent force may signal a rebirth of grassroots activism, a political force to challenge the corporate-dominated status quo.

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David Rosen is the author of Sex, Sin & Subversion:  The Transformation of 1950s New York’s Forbidden into America’s New Normal (Skyhorse, 2015).  He can be reached at drosennyc@verizon.net; check out www.DavidRosenWrites.com.

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