Exploring the increase in public mass shootings

Even though there’s a running debate as to what exactly constitutes a “mass shooting,” Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s David Hemenway says that the more “public” kind of shootings—like the one on December 2, 2015 in San Bernadino, California that left 14 people dead and 21 wounded—are increasing.

Overall mass shootings—including public shootings, domestic violence, and gang violence—haven’t been increasing that much, said Hemenway, professor of health policy at Harvard Chan School and director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, in a December 3, 2015 Washington Post article. But if the subcategories are separated, it becomes apparent that public mass shootings are on the rise, according to a recent study from Harvard Chan School and Northeastern. “Those [shootings] look like they’re ‘contagious’ much more than the intimate partner violence ones,” Hemenway said.

In a December 4, 2015 article in Mashable.com, Harvard Chan School’s Deborah Azrael, associate director of the Harvard Youth Violence Prevention Center, noted that varying definitions of “mass shooting” complicate public comprehension about the issue. In the Harvard-Northeastern study, for example, mass shootings are defined as those in which four or more people are killed; the FBI, on the other hand, defines them as when three or more are killed—and that definition excludes the shooter.

Overall, approaching gun violence as a public health issue would go a long way toward saving lives, Hemenway said in a December 4, 2015 Toronto Star article. Guns kill more than 33,000 Americans each year—about 90 per day—but it’s preventable, so that makes it a public health issue. “It’s about not getting injured and affected by violence,” he said.

Read the Washington Post article: What makes a ‘mass shooting’ in America?

Read the Mashable.com article: The problem with how we define mass shootings

Read the Toronto Star article: Amid an epidemic of violence, U.S. Congress is still blocking research on gun deaths

Learn more

Living more safely with guns (Harvard Chan School news)

Mass public shootings increasing in U.S. (Harvard Chan School feature)