Study: Mass Shootings on the Rise

, Written by Christine Pitawanich, Posted: Mon, September 16 2013 at 5:17 PM, Updated: Mon, September 16 2013 at 10:03 PM

Yet another mass shooting will have to be added to the U.S. history books. The attack on Monday at a Washington D.C. navy base left at least a dozen people dead, 13 including the shooter. We found data that indicates these types of tragedies are becoming more frequent.

From the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado to the mass shooting at Fort Hood to the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, mass shootings have become an all too frequent occurrence. Now at least 13 people are dead in the most recent shooting at a D.C. navy yard.

Mass Shootings Are Happening More Often

"I do think there has been an increase in that for sure," said Dr. Eric Morrell, who has been a forensic psychologist for the last 20 years.

According to a study released this year out of Texas State University that can be found on the F.B.I's website,  Dr. Morrell is right.

The research tracked every "Active Shooter Event" or ASE that occurred between 2000-2010. They chose to include events based on a certain set of criteria. Their definition of an active shooter event involved "one or more persons enegaged in killing or attempting to kill multiple people in an area (or areas) occupied by multiple unrelated individuals. At least one of the victims must be unrelated to the shooter," the study explained.

The data shows that back in 2000, one mass shooting occurred. That number jumped to 21 just 10 years later.

Why Mass Shootings are Breaking out?

But what's behind the increase? Dr. Morrell  points to three ingredients that can set a mass shooting into motion.

"The first of those would probably be the mobility of our society," began Morrell.

"We have a society now where population is growing, there is less community between people, there is less of a concern for individuals."

He said there's also more crowding and thus, more pressure on individuals who are mentally troubled or disenfranchised.

"[They] don't have a sense of being able to get support from other people or that other people care, so they're likely to become more angry and more disenfranchised."

The second ingredient: exposure to violent video games.

"When you expose children to violence in video games and when you expose the public to violence in movies to a point that it's becoming sort of second nature and an every day affair to see people shot, killed, blown up...the society as a whole becomes less sensitive," said Morrell.

In addition, today's world has easy access to news. Top headlines are just a screen tap away.

"People in years gone by didn't really know that there was as much going on. Now they're much more exposed to it so it can put the idea in their head. If you have somebody who is disenfranchised, that person can now say 'oh somebody just shot somebody so can I," Morrell observed.

The last ingredient on Dr. Morrell's list is the most controversial...access to weapons. He said different people have different opinions, but in his view, one thing is clear.

"If you have access to AK 47s and semi-automatics that can knock out a whole bunch of people at once, and you've got modeling where you've seen it on television [...] you feel disenfranchised because there's really no one to talk to because the community doesn't care about you and now somebody effectively puts a big gun in your hand that you can spray down a bunch of people all at once [...] We clearly need to limit the access of guns," said Morrell.

The topic of gun control is a heated one. Many gun rights advocates believe access to guns is a 2nd Amendment right and don't think limiting the ability to buy guns is the answer.

Looking Ahead: What Can be Done?

"Probably expose to children to less violence [...] more of a sense of a community would certainly help."

He said a change is possible...but only if Americans are open to it.

"The problem with our society is that it many times does not want to hear the answers," began Morrell.

"We can find out what the problems are but many times people just don't want to know because it might be inconvenient or financially less lucrative," Morrell said.

He also said self interest many times blocks willingness to look at the facts and make the changes necessary to stop the increasing number of mass shootings.

While the study referenced looks at the years between 2000 and 2010, researchers said according to their analysis, the same trend of increased mass shootings continued in 2011 and 2012.

Dr. Morrell also mentioned another school of thought that indicates global violence is on the decrease. However, he said America sets itself apart with access to violent media (movies, video games, etc.) and a constant stream of access to information...allowing people to more frequently saturate themselves with news of violent behavior, which can over time make people insensitive to violence.

About the Author

Christine Pitawanich

Christine Pitawanich was born and raised in the Pacific Northwest. In 2010, she received a master's degree in Broadcast Journalism from the S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communications at Syracuse University in New York.

Christine also has a Bachelor of Arts degree in Communications from the University of Washington.

Before joining the NBC5 News team, she had the opportunity to file reports from Washington D.C. for WFFT FOX Ft. Wayne News in Indiana. Christine has also interned at KOMO-TV in Seattle.

Christine loves to ski, try new food and have fun in the outdoors.

Catch Christine anchoring weekdays on NBC 5 News at 5pm.

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