Despite all the public attention to shootings involving more than four fatalities, when the data between 1976 and 2012 are examined, mass shootings in the U.S. are not rising sharply, Northeastern Univeristy criminologist James Alan Fox tells New York Magazine. Because homicides are on the downswing in general, the trend doesn’tchange if the definition of a mass shooting is changed to, say, three victims or more, Fox says. There isn’t an upswing in the number of school shooting victims, based on U.S. Education Department statistics.
Why is there such a powerful feeling that things are getting worse? Media coverage plays a big role. It’s almost hard to believe today, but there was a time in the not too distant past when people in New York might not even hear about a school shooting that happened across the country. Today, every incident immediately explodes onto the national stage and is then amplified a millionfold by social media. Just because it’s easier than it ever has been to think of an example of a shooting doesn’t mean these events are more likely than they were in the past.