Despite several mass killings in recent months–in Seattle, Colorado, and Wisconsin–there is no epidemic of such cases in the United States, says Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox in the Boston Globe. Fox presents a chart showing that over 30 years there has been an average of about 20 mass murders annually (cases in which at least four people have been killed), with an average death toll of about 100 per year.
Fox recalls the flurry of postal shootings in the 1980s and a half dozen schoolyard massacres in the 1990s. “Other than the copycatting reflected in these cases, the clustering of mass murders is nothing more than random timing and sheer coincidence,” Fox says. The lack of any upward trend should not stop people from trying to find causes and solutions for extreme violence, Fox adds. That includes expanding mental health services and a “serious debate about sensible restrictions on gun sales but absent the politics. And perhaps we should all try harder to reach out to those around us who seem to be struggling financially, socially or psychologically.”