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There could have been three more mass shootings if these men weren't stopped, authorities say



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protests”,”duration”:”01:19″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”https://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/world/2019/08/18/china-police-training-video-hong-kong-protests-wedeman-sot-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”world/2019/08/18/china-police-training-video-hong-kong-protests-wedeman-sot-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190818115824-china-training-video-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/world/2019/08/18/china-police-training-video-hong-kong-protests-wedeman-sot-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/top-news-videos/”,”description”:”CNN’s u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/profiles/ben-wedeman-profile” target=”_blank”>Ben Wedemanu003c/a> reports on Hong Kong protesters’ reaction to a new police training video that China released, which seemingly is intended to intimidate the protesters.”,”descriptionText”:”CNN’s u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/profiles/ben-wedeman-profile” target=”_blank”>Ben Wedemanu003c/a> reports on Hong Kong protesters’ reaction to a new police training video that China released, which seemingly is intended to intimidate the protesters.”,”title”:”Plane crashes into house in upstate New York, FAA says”,”duration”:”01:30″,”sourceName”:”WCBS”,”sourceLink”:”https://newyork.cbslocal.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/us/2019/08/18/new-york-plane-crash-into-house-pkg-vpx.wcbs/index.xml”,”videoId”:”us/2019/08/18/new-york-plane-crash-into-house-pkg-vpx.wcbs”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190818091743-01-ny-plane-crash-0817-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/us/2019/08/18/new-york-plane-crash-into-house-pkg-vpx.wcbs/video/playlists/top-news-videos/”,”description”:”A small plane carrying three people u003ca href=”https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/18/us/new-york-plane-crash-lagrangeville/index.html” target=”_blank”>crashed into a houseu003c/a> in upstate New York, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said.”,”descriptionText”:”A small plane carrying three people u003ca href=”https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/18/us/new-york-plane-crash-lagrangeville/index.html” target=”_blank”>crashed into a houseu003c/a> in upstate New York, a Federal Aviation Administration spokesperson said.”,”title”:”Philadelphia Eagles lure Josh McCown out of retirement”,”duration”:”01:00″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”https://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/sports/2019/08/18/eagles-josh-mccown-contract-philadelphia-eagles-wire-sot-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”sports/2019/08/18/eagles-josh-mccown-contract-philadelphia-eagles-wire-sot-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190817165050-josh-mccown-jets-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/sports/2019/08/18/eagles-josh-mccown-contract-philadelphia-eagles-wire-sot-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/top-news-videos/”,”description”:”Josh McCown, a 40-year-old quarterback who had retired and was going to be an analyst with ESPN this season, u003ca href=”https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/17/sport/eagles-josh-mccown-trnd/index.html” target=”_blank”>agreed to contract terms with the Philadelphia Eaglesu003c/a>, the team announced. CNN’s u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/profiles/coy-wire-profile” target=”_blank”>Coy Wireu003c/a> reports. “,”descriptionText”:”Josh McCown, a 40-year-old quarterback who had retired and was going to be an analyst with ESPN this season, u003ca href=”https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/17/sport/eagles-josh-mccown-trnd/index.html” target=”_blank”>agreed to contract terms with the Philadelphia Eaglesu003c/a>, the team announced. CNN’s u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/profiles/coy-wire-profile” target=”_blank”>Coy Wireu003c/a> reports. “,”title”:”House party turns violent, at least 6 teens shot”,”duration”:”01:40″,”sourceName”:”HLN”,”sourceLink”:”https://www.cnn.com/specials/videos/hln”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/us/2019/08/18/teens-shot-house-party-houston-pkg-wxp-ktrk-vpx.hln/index.xml”,”videoId”:”us/2019/08/18/teens-shot-house-party-houston-pkg-wxp-ktrk-vpx.hln”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190818115550-02-houston-snapchat-party-shooting-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/us/2019/08/18/teens-shot-house-party-houston-pkg-wxp-ktrk-vpx.hln/video/playlists/top-news-videos/”,”description”:”Detectives in Houston say an u003ca href=”https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/18/us/houston-party-teens-shot/index.html” target=”_blank”>impromptu house partyu003c/a> organized on Snapchat devolved into chaos when a verbal dispute led to the shooting of at least six teenagers. CNN affiliate network u003ca href=”https://abc13.com/” target=”_blank”>KTRKu003c/a> has the story.”,”descriptionText”:”Detectives in Houston say an u003ca href=”https://www.cnn.com/2019/08/18/us/houston-party-teens-shot/index.html” target=”_blank”>impromptu house partyu003c/a> organized on Snapchat devolved into chaos when a verbal dispute led to the shooting of at least six teenagers. CNN affiliate network u003ca href=”https://abc13.com/” target=”_blank”>KTRKu003c/a> has the story.”,”title”:”WH trade adviser: Tariffs aren’t hurting anybody here”,”duration”:”06:25″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/politics/2019/08/18/tariffs-trade-war-impact-economy-farmers-peter-navarro-sotu-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”politics/2019/08/18/tariffs-trade-war-impact-economy-farmers-peter-navarro-sotu-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190818094728-tariffs-trade-war-impact-economy-farmers-peter-navarro-sotu-vpx-00044418-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/politics/2019/08/18/tariffs-trade-war-impact-economy-farmers-peter-navarro-sotu-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/top-news-videos/”,”description”:”White House economic adviser Peter Navarro told CNN’s u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/profiles/jake-tapper-profile” target=”_blank”>Jake Tapperu003c/a> that President Donald Trump “has the backs of farmers” as farmers express their frustrations with the Trump administration’s trade war with China.”,”descriptionText”:”White House economic adviser Peter Navarro told CNN’s u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/profiles/jake-tapper-profile” target=”_blank”>Jake Tapperu003c/a> that President Donald Trump “has the backs of farmers” as farmers express their frustrations with the Trump administration’s trade war with China.”,”title”:”Far-left, far-right protesters take to Portland streets”,”duration”:”04:46″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/us/2019/08/18/portland-proud-boys-antifa-protesters-sidner-intv-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”us/2019/08/18/portland-proud-boys-antifa-protesters-sidner-intv-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190817162658-proud-boys-portland-protest-0817-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/us/2019/08/18/portland-proud-boys-antifa-protesters-sidner-intv-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/top-news-videos/”,”description”:”More than a dozen people were arrested Saturday and six others were injured as left-wing anti-fascist demonstrators spent hours counter-protesting against a rally by far-right and extremist groups. CNN’s Sara Sidner spoke to protesters on both sides.”,”descriptionText”:”More than a dozen people were arrested Saturday and six others were injured as left-wing anti-fascist demonstrators spent hours counter-protesting against a rally by far-right and extremist groups. CNN’s Sara Sidner spoke to protesters on both sides.”,”title”:”Suicide bombing kills dozens at wedding ceremony”,”duration”:”02:55″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”http://www.cnn.com”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/world/2019/08/18/afghanistan-kabul-wedding-bombing-hotel-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”world/2019/08/18/afghanistan-kabul-wedding-bombing-hotel-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190817192415-04-kabul-wedding-attack-0817-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/world/2019/08/18/afghanistan-kabul-wedding-bombing-hotel-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/top-news-videos/”,”description”:”A suicide bomb attack at a wedding in Kabul killed at least 63 people and wounded 182, the Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman said.”,”descriptionText”:”A suicide bomb attack at a wedding in Kabul killed at least 63 people and wounded 182, the Afghan Interior Ministry spokesman said.”,”title”:”Greta Thunberg sails across Atlantic in zero-emissions yacht”,”duration”:”01:57″,”sourceName”:”CNN”,”sourceLink”:”https://www.cnn.com/”,”videoCMSUrl”:”/video/data/3.0/video/world/2019/08/18/greta-thunberg-sails-to-un-climate-summit-zero-emissions-yacht-ndwknd-dnt-vpx.cnn/index.xml”,”videoId”:”world/2019/08/18/greta-thunberg-sails-to-un-climate-summit-zero-emissions-yacht-ndwknd-dnt-vpx.cnn”,”videoImage”:”//cdn.cnn.com/cnnnext/dam/assets/190817182311-el-viaje-de-greta-thunberg-activista-cambio-climatico-pkg-kinkade-00001921-large-169.jpg”,”videoUrl”:”/videos/world/2019/08/18/greta-thunberg-sails-to-un-climate-summit-zero-emissions-yacht-ndwknd-dnt-vpx.cnn/video/playlists/top-news-videos/”,”description”:”Teen activist u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/2019/07/29/europe/greta-thunberg-sailboat-scli-intl/index.html” target=”_blank”>Greta Thunberg has set sail in a zero-emissions yachtu003c/a> for a two-week trip across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN’s climate summit. CNN’s u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/profiles/lynda-kinkade-profile” target=”_blank”>Lynda Kinkadeu003c/a> reports.”,”descriptionText”:”Teen activist u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/2019/07/29/europe/greta-thunberg-sailboat-scli-intl/index.html” target=”_blank”>Greta Thunberg has set sail in a zero-emissions yachtu003c/a> for a two-week trip across the Atlantic Ocean to speak at the UN’s climate summit. 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Augustus u003ca href=”http://www.cnn.com/2019/08/17/media/new-orleans-journalist-nancy-parker-killed/index.html” target=”_blank”>died when the plane crashed while Parker was shooting a story u003c/a>about Augustus.”,”descriptionText”:”New Orleans anchor Nancy Parker and stunt plane pilot Franklin J.P. 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Mass shootings are an epidemic. We're investigating culprits: guns, racism, toxic masculinity, and dark money.


Mark Helenowski/John Locher/Mother Jones/AP

When twin gun shootings rocked America earlier this month, killing 31 people in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, Mother Jones did what Mother Jones does: We marshaled resources and flew a reporter to El Paso, and we connected breaking news trends to our extensive history of investigating this epidemic, the rise of violent white supremacy, and the role of toxic masculinity.

While putting together our August 7 episode of the Mother Jones Podcast, our digital team dug into our video and audio archives to produce a segment outlining the breadth of coverage we’ve done on this topic, including:

Check out the video above, featuring the host of the Mother Jones Podcast, Jamilah King, compiling the work of our reporters since Sandy Hook. Read more about Mother Jones‘ gun coverage here, and listen to a special edition of the show, recorded in El Paso, below:



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If you see a red flag for a mass shooting, this is what you should do


Schweit says when it comes to preventing incidents of mass violence, community involvement is key.

“The community has the primary role,” said Schweit, who coauthored an FBI study of 160 active shooter incidents in the US and runs a security consulting firm. “They’re the ones who know the person who might commit this act intimately. They’re the friends and the family members, the teachers, the neighbors, the employers, the coworkers.”Authorities and advocacy groups, like Say Something, are educating the public on what to look for and what to do when they see a red flag for a mass shooting.

What to look out for

People talk themselves out of reporting, or even believing, such red flags for various reasons. They include a fear of being wrong, a reluctance to involve police or just not knowing whether anything can be done, law enforcement experts said.

To report suspicious behavior, one has to know what to look for — and it’s not a profile, a religion, a race, or diagnosis, Schweit said.

“Even though these shootings generally are almost exclusively committed by a single individual, that person is often mistakenly characterized as a ‘loner’ but rarely is that true. It’s also inaccurate to say that this is a person who must have mental health issues or plays too many video games, we know from research that’s not true,” said Schweit. “That begs the question: what are we looking for?”

Observable, unusual behaviors, said Schweit. Those closest to people who may commit violence know what behaviors are unexpected for that individual.

Perhaps it’s not unusual for a person to have a weapon, but it might be alarming if that person is acquiring a large amount of ammunition, tactical gear and a bulletproof vest. Perhaps they are focused on prior shootings, more so than they ever have. Perhaps they are giving their belongings away in a quantity and at a speed that are unexpected.

And often, perpetrators of mass violence will even say something leading up to their attack to make a direct threat or justify the actions they are about to take, said Las Vegas Metropolitan Police Department Lt. Dori Koren, whose team is responsible for taking tips from the community.

“These are planned incidents, and planned incidents give us an opportunity to intercede,” Schweit said.

Where to report it

When it comes to an urgent threat, local law enforcement is the best place to go, Koren said. His team is tasked with sifting through tips and leads and delegating the credible ones to the appropriate unit. The FBI is a partner in these investigations, but local departments are often the first law enforcement response.

In cases involving behavior that indicates someone is struggling, and not necessarily planning an attack, law enforcement may not be the first place to go. Community leaders, counselors and mental health professionals are often a better preventative resource, he said.

Man arrest after expressing interest in committing a mass shooting

The most important thing is to make the concern known, Schweit said.

“If you can’t report to the police, report to HR, report it to the boss, report it to the pastor, to the rabbi, to the teacher,” Schweit said. “You have no idea sometimes how relevant the tiniest piece of information can be.”

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Koren compared the mindset that leads someone to commit mass violence to a highway with on-ramps and off-ramps. Law enforcement can’t control how many on-ramps are on the road, he said. So, he sees his job as creating as many off-ramps as possible.

If police find evidence of a crime or a credible threat, an arrest can be one of those exits. But those off-ramps can come before a crime and are not always limited to arrests.

They include getting community leaders, school administrators, friends and family involved. It can be connecting someone with a counselor or mental health professional to help bring that person out of that dangerous state of mind, a method Koren said he has seen work to de-escalate situations frequently.

“I’ve seen it work on individuals who have threatened to commit mass shootings or mass attacks and there was never enough evidence to arrest that individual. We worked with health professionals and we were able to build an off-ramp for that individual and, at least for the time being, they were no longer a threat,” Koren said.

Sometimes just stepping in and informing the individual that officers are aware of the potential attack, thereby disrupting their plan, is enough to derail it.

It’s important in prevention that those in the public don’t discount what they are seeing for fear of it not being credible, Koren said.

“We have had several instances where we legitimately prevented a very significant school shooter or a very significant mass attacker or a very significant racially motivated or religious motivated active shooter. In many cases the way that was prevented was assistance from the public,” Koren said.

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A man is arrested after expressing interest in committing a mass shooting, FBI says


Brandon Wagshol, 22, was detained Thursday after a tip from a citizen that he was trying to buy large capacity rifle magazines from out of state, the FBI and the Norwalk Police Department said.

Wagshol has been charged with four counts of illegal possession of large capacity magazines, and is being held on a $250,000 bond. He is scheduled to appear in court September 6.

CNN has reached out to the prosecutor and defense attorney.

The FBI and Norwalk Police Department started investigating after the tip. They discovered the suspect was trying to build his own rifle and had posted on Facebook expressing an interest in committing a mass shooting, according to a statement from the police and the FBI. It did not provide details on what his post said.

When authorities executed a search warrant at his home, they found numerous weapons, including a handgun, a rifle, a rifle scope with laser, numerous rounds of ammunition, body armor, ballistic helmet and other tactical gear, police said. While some of the weapons were registered to his father, he had access to them, authorities said.

“We continue to urge the public to please remain alert and to report to law enforcement any suspicious activity that is observed either in person or online,” said Brian Turner, FBI special agent in charge . “With our local partners we gather, share and act upon threat information as it comes to our attention.”

CNN’s Kristina Sgueglia and Melissa Alonso contributed to this report.



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Are Mass Shootings Becoming More Common?


The tragedies in Dayton and El Paso occurred against the backdrop of continued frustration with what seems to be a growing frequency of mass shootings in the United States. But are they really growing in frequency? The answer to this question seems like it should be a straightforward matter of fact versus fiction: let’s just count the number of times these things happen every year, throw them on a graph, and see what we find. Right? Wrong.

First, however, let me just say this article will not review explanations for why mass shootings happen. Although that is an extremely important question, it presumes we know what a “mass shooting” is in the first place. Even though this may seem obvious, my point here will be to show that we actually have no (collectively agreed upon) idea what a mass shooting is, and this is a big problem.

This is a problem because our explanations for the occurrence of something depend on our ability to distinguish that thing from other things that are different in kind. For example, if you define apples as red fruit, and I define them as green fruit, and then we individually set about counting red and green fruit, should we be surprised that we come to very different conclusions about how common “apples” are? This is not too different from the state of research on mass shootings. What follows is not an exhaustive review of the literature on mass shootings, but a brief window into how a series of data measurement challenges can undermine what we think we know about the state of the world.

A recent article by Christopher Ferguson seems to usefully attack several myths about mass shootings by simply comparing the content of these claims with the actual data. Early in the article, his myth-busting makes use of a well-known and respected dataset on mass shootings that is maintained by Mother Jones. 

However, when Ferguson comes to the question of whether mass shootings are on the rise (the “myth” he says, is that they are on the rise), he quietly abandons the Mother Jones data and switches to another well-known dataset—one that is maintained in coordination among USA Today, the Associated Press, and Northeastern University. This switch in datasets would not in itself seem so strange were it not for the fact that the Mother Jones dataset contains data that directly address the question of whether mass shootings are on the rise. So why wouldn’t Ferguson just stick with the Mother Jones data?

For whatever reason (he doesn’t say, and I won’t speculate), Ferguson takes the USA Today data and reports that the frequency of mass shooting incidents has not in fact increased between 2006 and 2019. This, he says, is true given “standard definitions” of mass shootings and according to “most data.” The graph he produces is below. And out of curiosity, I created the same graph but with the Mother Jones data just to see how they compare. It is also below.

Source: Christopher Ferguson / The Conversation

Source: Mother Jones / Mass Shootings Database

Two things to notice about the two graphs. First, many more events occur within each year in the USA Today dataset than in the Mother Jones dataset. Second, Mother Jones seems to record an increase in frequency, while we observe no change in frequency since 2006 in the USA Today data. That’s a pretty meaningful difference! One dataset seems to reveal that mass shootings are on the rise, and another dataset seems to show the situation is pretty much unchanged.

Remember that Ferguson tells us that his conclusions are based on “standard definitions” and “most data.” So let’s check that too. Ferguson cites a study by Fox and DeLateur that is critical of the Mother Jones data. According to Fox and DeLateur, the criteria that Mother Jones uses to determine whether to record an incident as a mass shooting is “hard to defend.” As Fox and DeLateur describe, in order for an event to be included in the Mother Jones dataset, the shooting must have resulted in at least 4 fatalities during a single incident in a public place, the assailant must have acted alone, and their motives or association should not be connected to armed robbery or gang activity. Furthermore, victims must not be directly related to the shooter—otherwise the literature labels this type of event as “familicide.”

Fox and DeLateur argue that we must include “mass shootings in all forms,” which they do by aggregating FBI homicide data that does not exclude cases based on the restrictive criteria used by Mother Jones, such as incident location and victim-offender relationship. The only incidents excluded are those with fewer than four victims (not including the attacker), and those with a weapon other than a firearm. Fox and DeLateur find that there have been about 20 mass shootings a year, with no increasing trend, which is similar to what Ferguson observes with the USA Today data.

A more recent study by King and Jacobson argues that the USA Today data may in fact be the most complete due to its inclusion criteria being broader than Mother Jones, and because it combines FBI data with reporting data to provide a more comprehensive dataset. The broadest event categorized in this dataset is a “mass killing,” which is defined as an incident that results in at least four fatalities. Period. From this very broad criteria, King and Jacobson also distinguish between incidents that involved, for example, a firearm (vs. other weapons), direct family, or criminal activity such as theft. 

What do King and Jacobson find? At the broadest level of categorization (4 people killed), there is no increase in frequency since 2006. They also examine 6 sub-categories of mass killings: 3 methods of killing (shooting, stabbing, arson) and 3 types of killing (family, public, robbery). The researchers find no increases in frequency for any of the 6 types of mass killings. The good news? Unlike Fox and DeLateur who relied on a visual inspection of the trend (i.e. do the bars in the graph above seem to be getting bigger?), King and Jacobson applied statistical techniques to determine whether an upward trend could be detected, which is a more convincing argument that mass killings are not on the rise.

The bad news? This still can’t be directly compared with popular conclusions from the Mother Jones data because although Fox and DeLateur examine mass killings involving a firearm and they examine mass killings in a public place, they do not look at mass killings involving a firearm in a public place. So while their findings are most certainly useful and convincing, they are useful only for the six categories they describe. Among many important caveats provided by the researchers, King and Jacobson usefully note—contra Ferguson’s claims about consensus—that “there is not unanimous agreement on an appropriate definition of a mass killing” and therefore that altering definitional criteria could lead to different results.

For example, Amy Cohen and her colleagues, provide a compelling defense of the Mother Jones data, arguing, among other things, that the inclusion criteria are indeed very specific, but this is a virtue, not a vice. Recall that Mother Jones defines a mass shooting as one that occurs in a public space, results in at least 4 fatalities, and none of the fatalities are related to the shooter. Notice that this definition cuts across 3 of the 6 categories defined by King and Jacobson—shootings, non-family, public location. Cohen et al. show that, when defined this way, a statistically significant shift in the trend of mass shootings occurs around 2011. In the three decades leading up to 2011, the researchers find that “mass shootings occurred every 200 days on average. In the subsequent three-year phase, mass shootings occurred every 64 days on average.”

Unfortunately, the situation is still more complicated than restrictive criteria indicating an increase in frequency and broader criteria indicating no change. Grant Duwe uses criteria that are very similar to the Mother Jones dataset, but still finds little change in the frequency of mass shootings over time. Duwe’s methodology is to start with the FBI data, supplement it with his own research data, and to apply relatively restrictive definitional criteria similar to the Mother Jones dataset. This is basically the best of both worlds: the comprehensiveness of the FBI data plus a conservative definition of mass shootings. The fundamental problem with the Mother Jones data, according to Duwe, is that it underreports the actual number of events that meet its own criteria, and when you include all cases that meet these criteria, the result is that there has been no change in frequency. Duwe speculates that these “sins of omission” are probably due to the fact that Mother Jones relies on news reporting as a source of data, and coverage is less accessible further back in time.

So what do we know? At the broadest level, defined in terms of at least any 4 people killed by anyone, by any weapon, for any reason, in any place, the frequency of mass killings seems to have remained relatively stable since at least 2006. This much seems relatively clear. However, I also find King and Jacobson’s analysis convincing, which shows that some categories of more narrowly defined mass killings have also remained relatively stable. Furthermore, these analyses do not seem to contradict Cohen and colleagues, who persuasively demonstrate that, when using restrictive criteria that I think usefully align with the common notions of “mass shootings,” we see that at least one dramatic form of mass killing has been on the rise. Nevertheless, Duwe throws cold water on even these findings, which again seems to suggest that the weight of the evidence is against an increasing frequency of mass shootings.

Does it matter whether mass shootings are on the rise? I think it does, but a stable rate is almost as bad as an increasing one. I mean, what’s worse? The steady increase of previously rare shootings (Mother Jones) or unchanged levels of relatively common killings (FBI; USA Today)? Either way, what is revealed is that part of the challenge is to speak the same language regarding the underlying nature of the problem. Defining “mass shooting” seems like a simple matter, but it sits at the complicated intersection of many questions: Who did it? Where did they do it? Who they did it to? Why did they do it?

The risk is to cherry pick the data based on definitions of the problem that unproblematically lead to our pre-chosen favored policies. An additional problem is that a puzzle such as this requires great scientific nuance, but it is precisely in these situations when we are most likely to throw science out the window and rely on moral guidance. This isn’t necessarily a vice; to proceed without moral compass on this question seems both misguided and naive. The challenge is to proceed with both heavy heart and open eyes. Toward that end, I have offered no answers, but rather some thoughts meant merely to productively complicate a picture that I think many of us on all sides believe to be all too simple.



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Police face more risks, but train for worst as mass shootings grow



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Active-shooter training with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office
Kathleen Wilson, kathleen.wilson@vcstar.com

Bullet sounds broke the quiet at a Thousand Oaks campus as sheriff’s officers trained for one of the riskiest assignments police ever get: stopping a mass shooting. 

Wearing armored vests and protective helmets, they pursued an officer acting the role of the shooter and stalking empty classrooms at the exercise at Westlake High School.

Deputies with the Ventura County Sheriff’s Office sized up the threat, climbed dozens of steps to reach him and shot modified but nonlethal bullets to take him down.  

Welcome to a glimpse of police training for mass shootings, which recent data suggest have become increasingly risky for the officers who try to stop them.

MORE: What if we never learn motives behind mass shootings?

It’s not usually a job for special teams of tactical and weapons specialists anymore because the experience at Columbine High School 20 years ago showed too many people would be dead by the time they could get there.

Police did not enter the Colorado school for more than 30 minutes while waiting for the SWAT team to arrive, the conventional approach at the time, according to a 2014 report from the Police Executive Research Forum.

Now, the duty falls to patrol officers and usually just a few who can get there quickly, academic and police sources say.

That’s what transpired late last year when a sheriff’s sergeant on patrol and a California Highway Patrol officer responded to the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, where gunman Ian David Long was firing into a crowd of more than 200 people.

Twelve people were killed, including the sergeant, 54-year-old Ron Helus. Long fired more than 50 rounds, killing 11 people and striking Helus multiple times before fatally shooting himself in the head, officials in the sheriff’s office reported.

Helus was fatally struck by a round fired from the rifle of CHP Officer Todd Barrett as the two officers were responding to the shooting, officials said.

Sheriff’s officials are still investigating the incident and have released few details about the response. But detectives handling the probe have said Helus and Barrett were the only two officers who engaged Long with gunfire before he killed himself.

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Last SlideNext SlideA lot like combat

Nationally, police agencies started sending in teams of four or five officers after the 1999 shooting at Columbine.

But that was found to take too long and less than four is now common, said J. Pete Blair, executive director of a nationally recognized training center at Texas State University. 

Blair, who studied 84 active shooting incidents from 2000 to 2010, says the chance that police officers will get shot during their response appears to have increased over the past seven years.

He said it’s hard to say why, but that it may stem from the fact that they’re getting to the scene quicker and confronting shooters who are fighting back.

The challenges in dealing with mass shooters are a lot like combat, said Senior Deputy Nick Odenath, a member of the sheriff’s SWAT team who coordinated the training at Westlake High early this month.

“We’re talking about opposing forces with firearms,” he said. 

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But training helps, said Joe Ramirez, a school resource officer who went through the exercise at Westlake High. 

“Anytime this training happens, it helps you prepare for the worst,” said the 46-year-old officer who works at Newbury Park High.

Ramirez says law enforcement work is scary — period.

“You never know if you’re going to come home,” he said.

During the exercises, the officers are taught to form teams and move to the last known location of the attacker as well as keep track of what’s behind them. Sometimes distractions are added such as strobe lights, radio traffic, the sounds of cell phones and fire alarms, mimicking what could happen in reality.

The sheriff’s office has developed at least 20 training scenarios but leaves room for the officers to make decisions, such as switching weapons when a firearm jams, officials said.

“We want them to think,” said sheriff’s Capt. Bill Schierman, who oversees the active-shooting training program for the largest law enforcement agency in the county.

Difference between life or death

Five years ago, a national report cited police policies that called for training in critical tasks, including how to assess the scene, enter a room, recognize explosive devices and provide emergency aid.

But problems remain, said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, the organization in Washington, D.C., that published the report.

Small police departments don’t have the resources to provide the training and chiefs of major police departments “lie awake at night” wondering if their officers are prepared to deal with an incident like the shootings in El Paso or Dayton, he said.

“This is happening virtually everywhere, and it’s hard to predict,” Wexler said. “I think what we’ve learned is the importance of response. Thirty seconds, a minute can mean the difference between life and death.”

Officials with the sheriff’s office say they have been running a training program for mass shooter incidents since shortly after the attack at Columbine High School in 1999, but that they adapt it to keep up with changes they see around the nation.

“It’s to the point where you have to prepare for as much evil as you can,” Schierman said.

SUPPORT LOCAL JOURNALISM: Track high-profile risks to public safety so you can protect your family safe. Get unlimited access to coverage like this with a digital subscription to The Star. 

Officers also fine-tune training methods based on what they learn from the exercises. No tactics have been changed as a result of the response at Borderline, Schierman said.

He said other officials said they could not comment on the Borderline response and what it might mean for the active-shooter training because the shooting is still under investigation. 

Officials had initially said the investigation might be completed by September, but it now may be delayed until November or later.

Sheriff Bill Ayub said he plans to increase the frequency of training sessions and has been adding complexity since the Borderline incident. The agency is also looking at acquiring upgraded body armor and making improvements to the standard rifles, shotguns and pistols officers carry, Ayub said. 

An analysis of the police response at the Borderline is pending.

Training scenarios

The Texas training center’s introductory class takes 16 hours on top of the training that recruits get in police academies, Blair said. 

He said other modules are also offered along with education for the people who do the training. He did not know of any police agencies in Ventura County that have taken the training, saying California prefers to go its own way. 

The sheriff’s office started holding its own training sessions at campuses after Columbine but has branched out to more venues because the shooters have, Schierman said. Drills are now held at office buildings, restaurants, theaters and shopping malls. 

Six training scenarios were planned Aug. 8 at Westlake High, but most were off limits to the media. A spokeswoman said that was done to ensure no tactics were disclosed.

One that was shown to the media was the basic drill for deputies, and the other an exercise where firefighters and deputies teamed up to find and rescue victims in the school’s theater.

Deputies checked the safety of the area and the youths pretending to be survivors, followed by firefighters who could provide emergency medical care. These joint rescues are rooted in the idea that emergency medical personnel need to get into mass casualty areas as quickly as possible to save lives once the immediate danger is likely past.

It would be difficult to find a police department anywhere that does not offer training for mass shooting incidents, Blair said.

He said more hours of training is better, but that departments are limited by competing demands for other types of training and their job duties.

“The amount will vary,” he said, noting that some have added medical training programs so officers can apply tourniquets or clear airways before it’s safe to get emergency medical personnel inside. 

INTERFAITH: May victims of recent mass violence find inner peace, strength

Patrol officers in police departments in Simi Valley, Oxnard, Santa Paula and Ventura receive about eight hours of training each year, according to an informal survey. If officers graduated from the sheriff’s training academy in Camarillo, they got another four hours.

That number was upped this year to eight and now 16 hours for the class that will graduate in October, said Capt. Mark Franke, who oversees the program. 

Ryan Weeks, the SWAT commander who oversees active-shooter training for the city of Ventura, said he would not call eight hours of training ideal. But there’s not enough time or capacity to do more with demands for other types of training, he said.  

Most of the hundreds of officers in the sheriff’s office are offered the opportunity to take part in the trainings for active-shooter incidents, Schierman said. It was not clear how many hours of active-shooter training that sheriff’s patrol officers receive each year on top of that. 

He said deputies get a day of active shooter training when they leave their posts in county jails, the first stop after they graduate from the sheriff’s training academy and before they’re assigned to patrol. They also receive informal training from sergeants and the instruction that is provided on active-shooting incidents in the training academy.

Kathleen Wilson covers the Ventura County government, including the county health system, politics and social services. Reach her at kathleen.wilson@vcstar.com or 805-437-0271.

Read or Share this story: https://www.vcstar.com/story/news/2019/08/17/ventura-county-sheriff-police-mass-shooting-active-shooter-training/1907126001/



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Reaching critical mass on mass shootings



Reaching critical mass on mass shootings  The Lancet

In just over a week, a spate of mass shootings devastated the USA: in Gilroy, CA, on July 28, 2019, three people were killed and 12 injured at a festival; in El …



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The Case For Publishing The Names Of Mass Shooters


In 1999, bestselling author Stephen King took the unusual step of pulling one of his novels out of print. “Rage,” a bloody revenge fantasy about a troubled teenager who brings a gun to school, had been found inside the locker of a school shooter, a 14-year-old Kentucky boy who killed three girls as they prayed before class. By then, the book had already been linked to three other school shooters. King decided to act.

“My book did not break (them) or turn them into killers; they found something in my book that spoke to them because they were already broken,” he wrote in an essay in 2013. “Yet I did see ‘Rage’ as a possible accelerant which is why I pulled it from sale. You don’t leave a can of gasoline where a boy with firebug tendencies can lay hands on it.”

These days, the media is weighing a similar dilemma: Does detailed reporting on perpetrators of mass shootings function as an accelerant, inspiring would-be attackers to pull the trigger?

A growing movement, led by gun control activists and law enforcement and academics, is pressuring news organizations to reconsider how they report on mass shooters. They argue that fame is the end goal and news coverage may encourage copycat behavior.

They recommend that the media stop naming the perpetrators or using photos of their faces. They want to see them erased from the narrative.

In recent years, many media outlets have taken heed of this advice and are minimizing the emphasis on perpetrators’ names, photos and motives, if not omitting them entirely. It is a surprisingly quick change in news practices, motivated by the noble goal of reducing harm. (HuffPost extensively covers the relevant details about the shooter’s history and motivating ideology, but dedicates much less coverage to the suspect’s personal life than in years past. Photos of alleged shooters are used sparingly, if at all. Names are used for clarity but not repeated ad nauseam.)

But some experts worry that in its more extreme forms, the movement to cut shooters from news coverage may have unforeseen consequences and undercut the public’s ability to understand the violence it faces.

It’s impossible to know whether would-be shooters will be less likely to commit attacks without the promise of name recognition. But Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox thinks the focus on the name and photo is misplaced.

“Names and faces are not what inspire copycats,” he said. “What inspires copycats is the act, not the actor.”

Footage of the crime scene, interviews with scared survivors, photos of grieving families ― all these elements could potentially serve as a trigger for an individual interested in causing pain to a community, he noted.

“There’s some people who would like to create that kind of drama,” he said. “They’d like to see other people suffer because they’re unhappy.”

Fox said he was concerned with where to draw the line on not naming suspects.

“Do we not mention the names of people who kill one person? Do we not mention the names of rapists? What about Timothy McVeigh, he didn’t use a gun,” he asked. “Do you have to kill a certain number to not have your name in the paper? What about white supremacists?”

Fox, who is also harshly critical of the media’s coverage of mass shootings, called for a balance between providing important details and glorifying the attacker.

News organizations should include information on the shooter’s background, he said, such as their work history, their romantic relationships, their access to weapons, previous criminal background and other potential red flags. If the suspect released a video or a document, report what is important to understand the crime. It is essential to understand the motivation behind those who kill for political or ideological reasons ― omitting this information is irresponsible and misleading.

But there’s no need to know frivolous and irrelevant details, such as what they ate in the days leading up to the shooting.

The Limitations Of Generic Language

Instead of using perpetrators’ names, some critics want the media to employ neutral terms like “attacker,” “suspect” or “shooter.”

For Jackson Katz, an author and educator, one obvious limitation of this approach is that it erases gender from the story. While both boys and girls are bullied in school, struggle with mental illness and have access to guns, the perpetrators of mass shootings are overwhelmingly male.

“Gender is at the heart of this,” he said. “It is not about children or young people who are being marginalized, bullied and humiliated. It’s about boys and young men in a culture that teaches them that the way to react to the shame and humiliation and loss that you feel is through redemptive violence. That’s a gendered narrative.”

By removing the gender of the perpetrator from the story, we miss a crucial link, he said. The same is true of race. Many high-profile mass shooters in the past few years have been white men. Without photos of the perpetrators, that pattern is harder to discern and race is essentially cut from the story.

Katz also worried about the impact of passive language in coverage about mass shootings. In a TED talk, he takes viewers through a linguistic exercise developed by feminist scholar Julia Penelope that shows how responsibility can be deflected from those who commit violence.

It starts with a simple, active English sentence: “John beat Mary.” Then the sentence is changed to “Mary was beaten by John.” In the third sentence, it becomes “Mary was beaten.” Finally, the sentence becomes “Mary is a battered woman.” The victim’s identity is now linked to what happened to her, and the perpetrator is — poof — gone.

Amanda Marcotte, a politics writer at Salon, shared a similar concern on Twitter.

“This whole thing where the shooter’s identity and motives are concealed from the public is leading to a lack of coverage of shootings,” she wrote. “Shootings are beginning to be covered like the weather, as events that just happen and the shooter’s autonomy is largely erased.”

The Spread Of Violence

Ultimately, many mass shooters are inspired by those who come before them. The Pulse nightclub shooter called the Boston Marathon bombers his “homeboys” in a 911 call he made during the attack. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooter was obsessed with the Columbine attackers. The man who shot two colleagues on live television in Roanoke, Virginia, said he was influenced by the Virginia Tech shooter.

Some academics believe that sensational media coverage of mass shootings may inspire vulnerable individuals to act out on previously suppressed urges, and a number of studies have been done on the “contagion effect,” examining whether mass shootings can spread rapidly through society like contagious viruses.

In 2015, Sherry Towers, a researcher at Arizona State University, analyzed shootings in schools as well as killings in which at least four people died — incidents that would typically receive national news attention — and found that they were clustered together. After a mass shooting, there was an increased chance of another mass shooting for the next 13 days. Notably, shootings with three or fewer deaths, which generally elicit less attention from the media, did not result in an increased likelihood of another shooting.

“We hypothesize that media might be playing a role,” she told HuffPost. “We can’t prove that with the data because we did not look person by person to see whether or not they were inspired by it. Some of them left manifestos but for the most part, mass shooters don’t. We don’t often know what their ultimate motivation was.”

The research is far from conclusive. Adam Lankford, a criminologist at the University of Alabama, looked at the same data set as Towers and did not find statistically significant evidence of contagion within 14 days of an incident. Even so, Lankford is worried about how the media may be encouraging killers by turning them into de facto celebrities.

“They want to go from being a nobody to being a somebody and they’re calculating accurately that if they commit a mass shooting and kill a large number of innocent people that they will get that reward,” he said. The death toll of mass shooters has increased since 2010, he said, as attackers recognize that more victims means more media attention. “If the media stops giving them fame, it removes that incentive.”

Lankford is one of the 149 experts who signed an open letter asking news organizations not to name perpetrators or show their photos in news coverage. 

He noted that even if the news media stops using the names of shooters in most instances, their identities will still be known by law enforcement and by members of the local community where the crime took place.

“No one is calling for a full blackout,” he said. “But quantity matters. When information about a perpetrator is broadcast to 350 million people, the chances that a tiny percentage of them are going to find it inspiring and exciting and want to imitate it are much higher than if it’s only broadcast to 10,000 people.”

Responsibility To The Reader

One of the principal responsibilities of the media is to provide accurate, complete information to readers. Voluntarily holding back the name of the perpetrators and details of their lives may come across as paternalistic to some readers, and even backfire.

“We’re living in an age of social media,” said Jeffrey Simon, a visiting lecturer in the UCLA department of political science and an expert on terrorist attacks in the U.S. “If a media organization doesn’t publish the name, people are then going to go online and try to learn more about the individual. You’re almost giving them more publicity, because now people are going to be really curious as to who this person was,” he said.

While it is understandable to try to strip mass shooters of notoriety, it is important to get to the root of their violence, and that requires seeing them as human beings, he said.

“We have to know as much as possible,” he said. “How did this individual get to that point? Were there any indicators or anything that somebody could have done to have prevented it?”

There’s also the very real possibility that the media’s ability to gather news could be damaged by the push to omit information about shooters.

It could give “public officials an excuse to withhold information, impede investigative reporting on what makes killers tick, or provide the gun lobby with a way to point fingers at the news media in an effort to deflect pressure for common-sense laws,” the editorial board for USA Today wrote in 2015. News organizations are supposed to find facts and report them, without fear or favor, they added. “Once the news media get caught up in the potential consequences, it will infect everything they cover.”

All of the experts HuffPost spoke to agreed that the media is not doing a good job covering mass shootings. But diluting the identity of the shooter isn’t the fix.

Unlike Stephen King, the media cannot simply take the story out of print.

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Help us tell more of the stories that matter from voices that too often remain unheard.



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A 25-Year-Old Man Was Arrested After Allegedly Texting His Ex-Girlfriend That He Wanted To Commit A Mass Shooting


A 25-year-old Florida man has been charged with making threats to commit a mass shooting after allegedly sending text messages describing his desire to shoot as many people as he could in a crowd.

Tristan Scott Wix of Daytona Beach was arrested Friday after the Volusia County Sheriff’s Office was alerted to a series of text messages he sent saying he wanted to open fire on a large crowd of people, officials said.

“A school is a weak target.. id be more likely to open fire on a large crowd of people from over 3 miles away.. I’d wanna break a world record for longest confirmed kill ever,” Wix wrote, according to the sheriff’s office.

Volusia County sheriff’s spokesperson Andrew Gant told BuzzFeed News Wix sent the messages to an ex-girlfriend. She reported the messages to police, Gant said.

In the messages, Wix allegedly told her that if she wanted “to plan to escape we can work on that,” but that he was not planning on “walking away alive, unless I see it fit.”

He told her that he already had a location in mind and that “a good 100 kills would be nice,” according to police.

However, Wix allegedly added that saying that he wanted to do it and thinking about it was not the same as actually carrying out a shooting. He wrote he was “kinda hoping someone would come into my life worth not doing it for, for the sake of all those people (laughing cry face emoji),” according to the sheriff’s office.

“I’m not crazy I just wanna die and I wanna have fun doing it, but I’m the most patient person in the world,” Wix allegedly wrote.

Wix told police he does not own any firearms but is fascinated with mass shootings, the sheriff’s office said. He was charged with one felony count in the second degree of making written threats to commit a mass shooting, according to online court records.

He was booked at the Volusia County Branch Jail and is being held without bond.



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