Incendiary Images of the Day: Spree Killing Data from Mother Jones

Back in the day (September), Mother Jones magazine marked the “spate” of mass murder and spree killing with a data dive. In the wake of the Clackamas killing, a reader brought the article to our attention. And so we bring it to yours. To start, note the Illinois and California clusters in the map above—which tell you something about the states’ strict gun laws. Or . . . nothing much, really. Needless to say, MJ drills down deeper to create some at-a-glance carnage analysis designed to lead readers to the obvious conclusion: something must be done! Equally obvious: that’s not the way I read it . . .

As always, it’s important to consider the absolute numbers rather than just scan the percentages. In the image above, we’re looking at 49 spree killers obtaining weapons legally out of Mother Jone’s own estimate of some 300M+ firearms in private hands [see: unattributed graphic below]. Even if we assume that the total population of guns is spread over 150 million gun owners, or a 100m, or a million, those 49 sales to unhinged individuals still represent a rounding error.

While gun control advocates will see MJ’s madman gun derivation stat as a reason to tighten firearms purchase and possession laws, you could also use the data to suggest that A) gun laws are working (given these relatively small numbers) and B) if the current laws don’t prevent mass murder/spree killers from accessing guns legally, how would new ones increase their effectiveness?

Wouldn’t spree killers thwarted by background checks (as if) simply obtain guns illegally, as hundreds of thousands of criminals do? Common sense says a madman’s gotta be mad. In a country awash with guns (yay us) psycho killers will find a way to tool-up.

The public “gets it.” Hence the increase in applications for concealed carry (and guns sales generally) in areas where there’s been a spree killing.

But that’s not how this game is played. At least not by the gun control industry—which has to work hard to avoid contemplating the dysfunctional relationship between gun laws and firearms-related crime. For example . . .

Look at the total numbers: Semiautomatic handguns (67), Assault weapons (35), Revolvers (20) and Shotguns (17). One hundred-thirty-nine firearms out of 300m+. Relatively speaking, why would anyone call for an assault weapons ban given the rifle’s relatively minor role in mass shootings?

Never mind. Amidst the Mother Jones FUD [click here to read More Guns, More Mass Shootings—Coincidence?] a single sentence stands out, like a beacon of truth in a sea of misdirection:

But while access to weapons is a crucial consideration for stemming the violence, stricter gun laws are no silver bullet.

Winning?

[h/t Craig M.]

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About Robert Farago

Robert Farago is the Publisher of The Truth About Guns (TTAG). He started the site to explore the ethics, morality, business, politics, culture, technology, practice, strategy, dangers and fun of guns.

35 Responses to Incendiary Images of the Day: Spree Killing Data from Mother Jones

  1. avatarKirk says:

    As I note here re: Colorado’s Gov. Hickenlooper’s craven suggestion for more laws, and as Ma Jones unsurprisingly does, the term “Assault Rifle” is legally defined: http://guardamerican.com/index.php/blog/35-politics/337-colorado-gov-proposes-new-gun-laws.

    It’s mis-use is nails-on-chalkboard to me.

  2. avatarJohn Doe says:

    “But while access to weapons is a crucial consideration for stemming the violence, stricter gun laws are no silver bullet.

    Winning?”
    Doubt it. They probably want a complete ban & confiscation instead of stricter gun laws.

  3. avatarnonnamous says:

    That first map is really just a correlation with population density, proving…not much at all

  4. avatarHeath R says:

    Looks like its centered around major cities….only one conclusion.
    WE NEED COMMON SENSE ASSAULT CITY BANS!!!!

  5. avatarjwm says:

    I was living in Tracey Ca. when the idiot shot up the school yard in Stockton with some civilian version of the AK47. Up until that time unneutered EBR’s were legal here. Soon after we got our “assualt weapon ban”. And of course, since the ban the cities of L.A. and Oakland and the other big cities here have become crime free and everybody lives in peace.

    • avatarLance says:

      Strange you Kaliforians banned those ”Evil AKs with Bayonet lugs and threaded barrels” but he didn’t use those features to kill those kids Can you guess your States ban didn’t work…..

  6. avatarensitu says:

    As a person that has lived outside the US for long periods of time I can attest that bizarre, serial, mass killings are NOT a US centric phoneme

  7. avatarAharon says:

    My take-away from the graphs is that there are too many people living in America and not enough guns. IMO, there should be at least one long gun and one handgun for each represented person in America.

    Moving right along, there are about 312 million (legal and illegal) people and about 300 million estimated guns in America. Therefore, to reach that two guns for each person ratio we still have a long way to go. America does not have too many guns; in reality America has too few guns. Owning guns demonstrates Civic responsibility and the Democratic stability of our country requires it.

    • avatarCarlosT says:

      Really, it should be at least four. Carry handgun, home defense handgun, shotgun, and rifle. So there should be 1,248,000,000 guns in the US. So there’s a long, long way to go.

  8. avatarCarlosT says:

    There isn’t a problem with the numbers not matching between chart one and chart two. The first chart is really about people, the second chart is about weapons. Since people can use multiple weapons in their sprees, there’s no issue with the second chart having a larger total.

    • avatarAK says:

      I pointed that out earlier too, but my post was deleted. What gives?

      More than likely these people got all of their guns in one way. For someone who couldn’t legally buy a gun there’s no way for them to have obtained guns legally and illegally. That, combined with spree killers using more than one gun, is probably is why the numbers for the first graph are rolled up and don’t match the second.

    • avatarg says:

      +1 Was thinking the same thing.

  9. avatarLance says:

    The real cause of mass shooting is not guns and AWB do nothing the article’s data shows it. The real problem is the media who wants to ban all guns glorifying and making the killer…. (no murder is the right word) look like a poor misunderstood person. We need not to show his face and his rants off TV showing fame the murders want. Only public show should be his public execution by a slow means IE hanged or gas chamber!!!!

    Blame the scum of Katie Couric and Bob Costas for more idiots on spree murders!!

  10. avatarRepubAnon says:

    It might be an idea to demystify guns – say, by teaching gun safety alongside driver safety in high school. This whole “gun ownership gives you a magic sphere of protection and power” meme is as bad as the “no guns = no violence” side.

    I don’t feel particularly safe on the roads – too many crazy drivers ignoring basic safety principles when operating their motor vehicles. However, banning cars isn’t the answer – better drivers training is the answer.

  11. avatarIn Memphis says:

    Looks like a pretty drastic rise in gun owners between ’94 and ’04. I guess that Bill Clinton did a great job taking thoes evil guns out of our hands.

  12. It’s time to use the proper expression. It’s not a ‘gun control’ mindset, it’s a ‘gun prohibition’ mindset. It’s the fool’s illusion that government can legislate behavior. Prohibition failed for alcohol, is failing for drugs, and would fail for firearms.

  13. avatarGreg Camp says:

    Mass shooters go to places where there are lots of people–are we surprised? That’s the only correlation. Gun laws make no difference. If you expand the map enough, you’ll see that even Hawaii has had an incident, despite its onerous laws. Notice also that this is sixty-one shootings in thirty years. Now every one of those is an outrage, but in a country of 300,000,000+ people, the number doesn’t even come close to being an epidemic or a crime wave or something that justifies sweeping away the rights of the tens of millions of gun owners who did nothing wrong.

  14. avatarBen Keim says:

    I find it rather bemusing that the article states that “In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun” when both the Mall and theater where the shootings took place were gun-free zones. Do they expect the day to be saved by illegal carriers? I honestly can’t tell if the author honestly doesn’t see the connection or they do and kept the line in for inflammatory purposes, despite the fact that it makes no sense when you stop and think about it for five seconds.

    • avatarDerryM says:

      My take on what you asked is that when the MSM, like MJ, ABC, CBS, CNN, FOX, NBC et al and the Brady Bunch and their ilk are propagandizing these types of statistics they deliberately omit (not mentioning the two killing sprees that were in “Gun Free Zones”) and grossly distort (like stating “In not a single case was the killing stopped by a civilian using a gun”). This is just diligent and deliberate practice of Fact Twisting in the best tradition of Arch Propagandists like Josef Goebbels, Uncle Joe Stalin, Mao Tse Tung (Mousie Dung?), and others.
      So, you can expect this kind of stuff in these types of articles because it goes right over the heads (or through the ears) of the “gun prohibitionist’s” (nice suggestion Cody L. Custis {are you related to the famous Custis Family of the Revolutionary Era?}) ardent supporters, most of whom are too ignorant to know they are being lied to. So, if they got lucky and an “illegal carrier” actually intervened in such a situation, they would turn around and make a big screaming deal about how that person put more “innocent bystanders” in harm’s way when he/she should have let the Police handle it. Real “common sense” cannot win with the “gun prohibitionist” mindset. It is antithetical to proper propagandizing.

    • avatarg says:

      How you read the line probably depends on your beliefs about firearms and self-defense.

      Personally, my interpretation was, “Sure, of course no spree killers were stopped in CA or IL… you can’t carry there” AND “Hmmm, nobody was stopped? Probably because the places that got shot-up (schools, post offices, etc) forbid carry!”

  15. avatarDavid says:

    I’m sure a lot of those “assault weapons” are just “military-style” handguns too

  16. avatarJohn says:

    Huh… Just checked out the map, surprised they didn’t include JFK in the Dallas sprees… after all… two people were shot in one incident. *eye roll* Maybe it’s because it was a bolt action hunting rifle and not a “high capacity mag using assault rifle.”

    And for that matter, what about the casualties caused by the Branch Davidians? Guess that doesn’t count either.

    • avatarCarlosT says:

      Their criteria included at least four people shot.

    • avatarWonderbread says:

      The Branch Davidians didn’t cause anything. They were attacked, shot, gassed and burned by the same government thugs now planning to execute gun owners Horiuchi-style in order to take their dangerous guns.

  17. avatarGS650G says:

    How about a map showing all the abortions performed in the past week, I bet it would look a lot busier than this one and represent a lot more lost lives.

  18. avatarMike says:

    The problem with his article is a small data set, 61 incidents is just barely statistically relavant so you can’t draw any conclusions other then your chances of being in a mass shooting are very very slim. Also given around 3% of the population conceal carries (2012 numbers) there would only be 1-2 events (statistically) were a civilian would be carrying a gun and that’s before you factor out the number of events in gun free zones, so you can’t concluded carrying a gun won’t make a difference since there isn’t enough data. There is however enough data to show carrying does make a difference in every day violent crime (Justice Dept National Crime Victimization survey) and that bystanders aren’t usually in danger. Even if no lives are ever saved by a gun in a mass shooting, the vast number of lives saved every year far outweigh mass shootings and annual muders combined. If this was graphed against the above data the mass shooting number would be too small to even see.

  19. avatar;sfjlkda says:

    It might be interesting to overlay this with statistics on federal employees by state, something like:
    http://www.eyeonwashington.com/few_map_2008/
    or
    http://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field

  20. avatarDon says:

    The title of the article says “America” but they really only show statistics in the United States. If they filled in the dots in the neighboring American country of Mexico, where private ownership of guns is virtually banned, the map would look somewhat different.

  21. avataruncommon_sense says:

    I read the source article along with some of the comments there. One particular person has a position that I just cannot grasp. The person claims that the Second Amendment only applies to people who arm for militia duty and thus Congress can pass whatever laws they want to “regulate” (perhaps but not necessarily referring to the word “regulate” in the Amendment itself) the militia — just as they can pass whatever laws they want to regulate our present day standing army. And he makes this claim because all of the proposed drafts of the Amendment and congressional debate surrounding the drafts were exclusively about militia versus a standing army for national defense.

    I recognize the legal argument to give some authority to the early drafts and congressional debate on record. I just don’t understand the end result. If the only purpose of the Second Amendment is national defense for the government, why state it at all? The government would never call up the militia for national defense while simultaneously denying them arms. Further, that interpretation of the Second Amendment is not consistent with the Declaration of Independence, the rest of the Bill of Rights, and the public writings of the Founders. I have a hard time believing the Founders would let that slide. What am I missing?

  22. avatarKCK says:

    In Chicago or LA in the last moth, has there been any double homicides?
    Did Anderson Cooper have 8hrs straight coverage (repetition)?
    When you have predictable events like gang shootings, we may as a society attack the conditions that produce the violence (another discussion for another day) but if media coverage is an indicator of our level of concern, then it would seem like acts by mentaly ill individuals are the top priority, Yet these events are IMPOSSIBLE to prevent but are the focus of the gun CONTROL advocates.
    Alert: new shooting at an elementary school in Connecticut

  23. avatarJ.Parks says:

    The media barely ever mention Jeanne Assam and when they do they mischaracterize her as a security guard. How about we all call Ms. Assam what she is, a civilian concealed carrier who asked her pastor if she could provide security for their congregation. This is what can happen when you prepare, VA Tech is what happens when you don’t.

  24. avatarMark S Wild says:

    Someone should overlay this map with the Brady Campaign’s map/gun control report card where they say things are ‘strong’ or ‘weak.’

  25. Today’s tragedy makes discussion moot; Obama WILL use it as a hammer to drive through legislation.
    Of course changing the law wont affect homicidal lunatics in the slightest but that isn’t really important to those in power.

  26. avatarDon says:

    Need to put a bar on that each of those graphs “guns not used in crime”, and expand the scale so it fits.

    -D

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