Mass Shootings Up, U.S. Shouldn’t Obsess, Fox Says

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The number of shootings in which four or more people were killed has spiked to 32 this year, according to the Associated Press/USA Today/Northeastern University Mass Killing Database. This figure already surpasses the yearly total for any point since the 1970s. Still, the U.S. should “stop obsessing over mass shootings,” contends Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox. Writing in USA Today, Fox says that, “Despite the recurring horrors of recent months, it would be inappropriate to characterize the scourge of mass killings as the ‘new normal,’ especially since this year’s carnage stands as a relatively short-term surge after many years with no particular upward or downward trend.”

U.S. residents “are fearful and hyper vigilant,” Fox says. Last month at a Boca Raton, Fl., mall, hundreds of shoppers ran for cover when a loud noise was followed by screams about an active shooter. It was actually just the sound of a balloon pop. Similar balloon-burst false alarms prompted widespread panic and lockdowns of buildings at Simmons College and the University of Michigan. One-third of Americans say they avoid public places for fear of being the victim of a mass shooting. Six of ten worry that a mass shooting will occur in their community. “When compared with the actual risk, the climate reeks of hysteria,” Fox says. He cites a “contagion effect,” in which public “obsession over a rare, although awful, event serves as a constant reminder for angry and dispirited individuals that the standard course of action in response to profound disappointment and sense of injustice is to pick up a gun and open fire on those perceived to be responsible.” Fox concludes that “contagion can dissipate as quickly as it spreads. We have the ability to change the narrative.”

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