FBI Data: Mass Killers Strike Those They Know

Friday, 22 Feb 2013 10:03 AM

By Cyrus Afzali

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As the nation’s leaders continue to debate additional gun control measures in the wake of the Connecticut school slaughter, a new analysis of FBI crime data shows more than half the victims of mass shootings knew the person who killed them.

USA Today conducted an analysis of 934 gun-related deaths that occurred in mass shootings over a seven-year period. The data show that those deaths account for less than 1 percent of gun-related homicides.

Additionally, the paper conducted a separate analysis of 56 mass shootings occurring since 2009 using data provided by a group of mayors promoting additional gun restrictions, and  similar conclusions were reached. In that analysis, 57 percent of the cases examined by the Mayors Against Illegal Guns involved domestic violence. That group, founded by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, includes more than 850 mayors nationwide.

The Dec. 14 massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., prompted some in Congress to call for a renewal of the federal assault-weapons ban and a ban on high-capacity ammunition magazines holding more than 10 rounds.

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The group of mayors has joined forces with gun-control organizations to call for changes in federal and state laws governing firearms, including mandatory background checks on all gun purchases. Currently, only federally registered gun dealers conduct background checks.

A bipartisan group of lawmakers led by Republican Sen. Tom Coburn of Oklahoma and Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia are working on legislation that would apply background checks to private gun sales, a move that is opposed by the National Rifle Association. NRA President David Keene this week said the group will work to help defeat lawmakers who vote to expand background checks. The NRA also plans to unveil anti-background-check advertising on Saturday.

USA Today’s analysis shows that more than 75 percent of mass killings involved a gun. Altogether, of the 934 people who were killed in mass shootings in the last seven years, 376 were killed by family members. Dozens more were killed by friends, neighbors, and co-workers.
The analysis included events at schools or colleges, as well as statistics from states such as Florida, for which FBI data was incomplete. The newspaper used the FBI definition of mass shooting, which is where four or more people were killed.

Criminal researchers interviewed by the paper in conjunction with the study specifically highlighted mental health issues, something the NRA and other groups have stressed in recent weeks.

Grant Duwe, director of research for the Minnesota Department of Corrections and who has studied mass shootings, said that in almost 60 percent of mass shootings in the last 100 years, signs of mental illness have been found.

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