By Sarah N. Lynch
WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A government-funded research project released on Friday sheds new light on the upward trend of mass shootings in the United States, finding that the number of Americans dying from mass shooters is on the rise, and most people who commit such acts of violence have a history of trauma or were in a state of crisis.
The Violence Project, funded by the Justice Department’s National Institute of Justice, examined 172 mass shootings -defined as killing four or more people – dating back more than 50 years.
It found that of all the mass shootings that took place between 1966 and 2019, more than half took place since 2000, with 20% of them occurring between 2010 and 2019. In the last five years of the study period, an average of 51 people died from mass shootings per year, compared with only eight people in the 1970s.
The Justice Department unveiled some of the study’s highlights the day after President Joe Biden and Attorney General Merrick Garland met with New York City’s mayor to call for greater investments in local police to combat a recent rise in gun violence.
“This study — one of the most extensive assessments of mass violence to date — reveals a deeply unsettling trend: more Americans are dying at the hands of mass shooters than at any point in recent history,” said Amy Solomon, the Principal Deputy Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Justice Programs.
Researchers analyzed data on mass shootings using a publicly-available database, which draws from open source material such as social media and newspapers.
An analysis of some of the data by the National Institute of Justice found that suicidal intention is a “strong predictor” for mass shooting perpetrators, and that 31% of the people who committed mass shootings had experienced childhood trauma while 80% were “in crisis.”
A large percentage of the shooters – 48% – also took steps to leak their plans in advance to family, friends, law enforcement or strangers.
(Reporting by Sarah N. Lynch, Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)