Mass shoot­ing hand­gun us­age fig­ures un­der­cut ri­fle ban push

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY DAVID SHERFINSKI

Hand­guns are al­most three times as likely to be used in mass shoot­ings as ri­fles, ac­cord­ing to a new re­port from a gun­safety group that ap­pears to cut against gun-con­trol ad­vo­cates’ push to ban some semi­au­to­matic ri­fles.

More than three quar­ters of mass shoot­ings from 1996 to 2016 in­volved a hand­gun, while just 29 per­cent of shoot­ers used a ri­fle, ac­cord­ing to the New York-based Rock­e­feller In­sti­tute, part of a gun safety ini­tia­tive con­vened by a hand­ful of mostly Demo­cratic gover­nors.

Some shoot­ers, such as the at­tack at a Texas school ear­lier this month, car­ried both a hand­gun and a long gun.

The rel­a­tively small per­cent­age of mass shoot­ings in­volv­ing ri­fles busts one of the “myths” of the gun de­bate, the new study said.

“I think it would come as a sur­prise to a lot of peo­ple,” said Robert J. Spitzer, a po­lit­i­cal science pro­fes­sor at SUNY Cort­land who is part of the re­search arm of the multi-state gun group though he didn’t write this new re­port.

He added, though, that the use of ri­fles is on the rise in high-pro­file mass shoot­ings, and said they of­ten ac­count for a higher death toll in shoot­ings.

For ex­am­ple, last year’s Las Vegas shooter “would not have been able to do what he did with a cou­ple of hand­guns,” Mr. Spitzer said.

Po­lice say Stephen Pad­dock killed 58 peo­ple and in­jured hundreds of oth­ers when he opened fire from his ho­tel win­dow down onto a mu­sic festival. Au­thor­i­ties found in Pad­dock’s ho­tel room sev­eral “bump stock” de­vices used to con­vert semi­au­to­matic weapons into au­to­matic-style ones.

“So for those kinds of rea­sons, there is a le­git­i­mate pub­lic pol­icy rea­son to fo­cus on as­sault weapons, but it’s also important not to take your eye off the fact that hand­guns are in­deed more of­ten used,” Mr. Spitzer said.

Se­cond Amend­ment sup­port­ers said the find­ings should de­rail ef­forts to en­act stricter laws, such as a ban on cer­tain semi­au­to­matic ri­fles, in the wake of the last year’s worth of high-pro­file mas­sacres.

“Given that the left is on a ji­had to de­mo­nize the fic­tional ‘as­sault weapon,’ it was re­fresh­ing to see the Rock­e­feller re­port set the record straight on hand­guns,” said Erich Pratt, ex­ec­u­tive direc­tor of Gun Own­ers of Amer­ica.

The re­port was the first one from a re­gional gun vi­o­lence re­search con­sor­tium or­ga­nized ear­lier this year by the gover­nors of New York, Con­necti­cut, New Jer­sey, Mas­sachusetts, Rhode Is­land, Delaware, and Puerto Rico.

The gover­nors’ of­fices did not an­swer ques­tions about the re­port Tues­day, though New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo did pro­vide a re­cent link to it on so­cial me­dia, say­ing the group is “sup­port­ing crit­i­cal re­search to bet­ter un­der­stand mass shoot­ings and how to pre­vent them.”

Con­necti­cut Gov. Dan­nel Malloy said more re­search on the sub­ject is “des­per­ately needed” and that he looked for­ward to re­view­ing the re­port.

He said Repub­li­cans in Congress “folded to the will of the NRA” by rou­tinely in­clud­ing lan­guage in spend­ing bills that’s been in­ter­preted as an ef­fec­tive ban on gov­ern­ment re­search into gun vi­o­lence.

“By work­ing to­gether with like-minded states, we can take strides to­ward un­der­stand­ing the root causes of vi­o­lence and de­ter­mine the most ef­fec­tive strate­gies to pre­vent all forms of gun vi­o­lence — not just mass shoot­ings,” Mr. Malloy said.

The study’s au­thors cast it as an ini­tial ef­fort to com­pile ba­sic in­for­ma­tion on mass shoot­ings: how of­ten they hap­pen, who com­mits them, where they’re com­mit­ted, and trends over the past 50 years.

The au­thors de­fined “mass shoot­ing” as an in­ci­dence of “tar­geted vi­o­lence” car­ried out at a pub­lic place that re­sulted in mul­ti­ple vic­tims, oc­curred within a 24-hour pe­riod, and wasn’t gang-re­lated.

But they also ac­knowl­edged that dif­fer­ent groups use dif­fer­ent def­i­ni­tions for what they consider to be mass shoot­ings, and said that lack of uni­for­mity is an ob­sta­cle to pro­duc­ing re­li­able re­search on the sub­ject.

The study found that mass shoot­ings have steadily in­creased over the past 50 years, but are still “sta­tis­ti­cally rare.”

Of the 340 mass shoot­ings the re­port chron­i­cled over the past 50 years, 57 per­cent took place ei­ther at a work­place or a school.

Nearly all of the shoot­ers — 96 per­cent — were male, and were 33.4 years old on av­er­age. Fifty-four per­cent of the shoot­ers were white, com­pared to 27 per­cent who were black, 9 per­cent who were His­panic, and 4 per­cent who were Asian.


More than three quar­ters of mass shoot­ings from 1996 to 2016 in­volved a hand­gun.

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