Mass Murder in America: Today I Know Less Than I Did Yesterday

20 years ago, in 1994, I published my first peer-reviewed scholarly journal article. I have been a sociologist of religion a long time. One thing about being an “expert” in some field of scholarship is that you know more and more about a smaller and smaller part of the world. Consequently, every day I woke up and read the paper, I realized I knew that much less about what was going on in the world and how the world worked.

Entering into the study of American gun culture — a completely new area for me (except insofar as it overlaps with American religious culture) – the feeling of knowing less about the world and how it works is even greater.

FBI Active Shooter Graphic Sep 14

Today I woke up to find that the FBI has released a new study on active shooter incidents in the United States. I have not had a chance to study the report, but one headline (being repeated frequently in the news and social media) stands out: the report suggests that these shootings “are becoming more frequent—the first seven years of the study show an average of 6.4 incidents annually, while the last seven years show 16.4 incidents annually.”

This is something I have called into question, based on the work of Grant Duwe and James Alan Fox, in a previous blog post. And I have also been working with an honors student this fall trying to update Duwe’s work on media distortions in coverage of mass homicides in America.

I am looking forward to the analyses of and commentaries on the report that will surely be forthcoming, perhaps first of all at the Gun Rights Policy Conference in Chicago – where I am heading as I type this.


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