September 16, 2013
Mass U.S. shootings such as the bloody rampage at the Washington Navy Yard spur safety concerns and garner intense media attention while statistically accounting for few of the total murders reported nationwide.
In the 30 years through March, 78 public mass shootings occurred in the U.S. — incidents in which four or more people were killed at random by a gunman killing indiscriminately, according to a report issued that month by the Congressional Research Service. These crimes don’t include gang-related killings or domestic disputes where a person slays relatives or other people linked to the assailant.
The mass slaughters listed in the report caused the deaths of 547 people. Over the same three decades through 2012, that’s less than a tenth of 1 percent of the 559,347 people the Federal Bureau of Investigation estimates were murdered in America.
“It is a very, very small percentage,” said James Alan Fox, who teaches criminology at Boston’s Northeastern University and co-authored a book about mass shootings called “Extreme Killing,” published in 2011.