After Mass Shooting, Public Wants Stories of ‘Heroes’, Not Shooters: Study

A series of studies of news coverage of mass shootings also found that whites involved in mass shootings are more likely to be associated with mental illness than African Americans.

Americans are more interested in reading stories that focused on courageous bystanders  after a mass shooting than on the shooters or their victims, according to a study in the American Behavioral Scientist.

Researchers who conducted an electronic survey of 212 adults, aged 35 to 44 years, to examine their interest in reading different kinds of news coverage of a school shooting, called it an example of “information-seeking behavior.”

The study “Covering Mass Murder: An Experimental Examination of the Effect of News Focus — Killer, Victim, or Hero — on Reader Interest” was part of an aggregate of studies compiled by the Jack Levin, a professor emeritus at Northeastern University, and Julie B. Wiest, a sociologist at West Chester University.

“Although all stories suggested a certain threat, those that focused on the killer and victim offered uncertain solutions … which may explain why they were less interesting to subjects.”

A second study conducted by Ohio State University researchers found that whites involved in mass shootings are more likely to be associated with mental illness in media coverage than African Americans.

Researchers concluded that “the odds that white shooters will receive the mental illness frame are roughly 19 times greater than the odds for black shooters.”

The study, “Mental Illness, the Media, and the Moral Politics of Mass Violence: The Role of Race in Mass Shootings Coverage,” was based on an analysis of news articles written about mass shootings between January 1, 2013 and December 31, 2015, in an effort to examine how journalists portray perpetrators of different ethnicities.

“The odds that a Latino shooter will receive the mental illness frame are roughly 12 times greater when compared to Blacks,” the study said.

The study was published in the Journal of Research in Crime and Delinquency. 

In a third study, researchers examined journalists’ attitudes about news coverage of mass shootings in the U.S. and found that journalists, though by a small margin, agreed that coverage is “sensational” and most agreed that the way newsrooms cover these events “is an ethical issue.”

“Most journalists were in favor of perpetrator coverage and did not believe it glamorized suspected perpetrators,” the study concluded.

“Most news workers likely do not want to believe that their work contributes to further carnage and suffering, despite evidence showing that fame-seeking mass shooters and a contagion effect do, in fact, exist.”

The study “Covering Mass Shootings: Journalists’ Perceptions of Coverage and Factors Influencing Attitudes” was published in the Journalism Practice journal.

In a fourth study, researchers examined The New York Times’ coverage of 90 mass shootings between 2000 and 2012 to see how to see how factors such as victim counts, the location of a shooting and the shooter’s race affect the newsworthiness of each event.

The researchers found that race/ethnicity and victim counts are the most salient predictor of whether or not a shooting was covered, with perpetrators of Asian and other descent and those events with higher victim counts generating more prominent coverage. The also found that incidents occurring in locations other than schools garnered less coverage.

The study, “Mass Shootings and the Media: Why All Events Are Not Created Equal,” was published in Journal of Crime and Justice.

In the final study of the compilation, researchers examined New York Times articles stretching back 50 years and found that massacres at schools, government buildings and religious institutions got more coverage than those occurring at businesses.

Also, shooters of Middle Eastern descent received more coverage than shooters of other races.

The study, “The Media’s Coverage of Mass Public shootings in America: Fifty Years of Newsworthiness,” was published in the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice.

This summary was prepared by TCR News Intern Gabriel Ware.


Could ‘Red Flag’ Laws Reduce Gun Violence Among the Elderly?

A University of Arizona researcher argues that special protection orders allowing police or family members to remove access to guns from dangerously unstable individuals, now in place in 13 states, can reduce firearm deaths among the elderly, who are most at risk for committing suicide with a firearm.

Although the recent development of red flag laws across several states is intended to prevent mass gun violence, these laws also have the potential to reduce gun violence among older adults, according to a research paper published in Arizona Legal Studies.

More than 30 states have introduced or plan to introduce red flag laws, also known as Extreme Risk Protection Orders. These laws allow law enforcement⸺and, in eight states, family or household members⸺to file a petition for a court order to temporarily remove a person’s access to guns when they show “red flags” in exhibiting dangerous behavior.

Tara Sklar, a health law professor at the University of Arizona, surveyed the 13 states that have enacted variations of red flag laws, and examined how these laws could be applied to older adults. He concluded that the most effective laws in regard to protecting older adults are those that allow family members and health professionals to file court orders rather than giving law enforcement and state attorneys sole authority.

“The red flag laws that limit petitioners to law enforcement only, or in Vermont’s case the state’s attorney or the office of the attorney general, may be too restrictive for families and household members of elderly gun owners who are much closer to observing a pattern of violent behavior,” Sklar wrote.

Sklar argued a key positive element in the passage of state red flag laws was that they encouraged family members and health professionals to have a conversation about aging and the escalated risk of violence when elderly people suffering from associated health or behavioral problems had access to guns.

Suicide in late life is a growing issue across America.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention finds that older adults commit suicide at a disproportionately higher rate compared to the general population. Men aged 65 and over are more likely to commit suicide than Americans of all other age groups, and three-quarters of them use a gun.

This year, a study found red flag laws in Connecticut and Indiana have been effective for preventing gun violence among older adults when they may be at risk of committing harm to themselves. The authors found a nearly 14 percent reduction in suicides with a gun in Connecticut since 2007.

Indiana’s red flag law was associated with 7.5 fewer suicides following the law’s passage in 2005.

The number of states with red flag laws has doubled since the mass school shooting in Parkland, Fl., in February 2018. Over a quarter of states have enacted such laws.

Aside from red flag laws, there is no clear legal process to restrict access to guns, even temporarily, for non-mentally ill people displaying dangerous behavior.

“Until there is federal action, states will likely continue to draft and pass red flag laws or similar variations,” Sklar writes.

A copy of the report can be downloaded here.

J. Gabriel Ware is a TCR news intern. Readers’  comments are welcome.


CA Bar Killer Posted on Social Media Before, During Attack

“I hope people call me insane,” said Ian Long on Facebook before he killed 12 people at a California bar last week. Facebook and Instagram, where Long also posted, deleted his accounts.

Ian Long, the gunman who killed 12 people at a California bar, posted on Facebook and Instagram immediately before and during the massacre, the Wall Street Journal reports. Investigators are trying to determine why Long, 28, opened fire Wednesday night at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, Ca., during its weekly country-music dance party for college students. A Facebook post published to his account around the time of the attack said, “I hope people call me insane… (laughing emojis).. wouldn’t that just be a big ball of irony? Yeah.. I’m insane, but the only thing you people do after these shootings is ‘hopes and prayers’.. or ‘keep you in my thoughts’… every time… and wonder why these keep happening…”

Long’s profiles on Facebook and Instagram, which the social-media giant owns, were deleted after the attack because Facebook doesn’t allow mass killers to have a presence on its platforms. Those who served in the military with Long recalled him on Facebook as a “great marine.” Some posted their phone numbers and implored fellow soldiers to call them if they are having any mental-health issues. The Ventura County Sheriff said Long may have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder. After leaving the military in 2013, Long made an effort to enroll in the Department of Veterans Affairs system, but quit the process before receiving any health-care benefits. It wasn’t clear why  Long didn’t complete the VA application process. The agency has made an effort to promote health care, especially mental health services. “Almost no one gets turned away for mental health,” said Lou Celli of the American Legion.


Pittsburgh Shooter: From Conservatism to White Nationalism

The case of synagogue shooter Robert Bowers may illustrate how the Internet and social media have created new pathways from strident ideology to radicalism.

Back in the 1990s, Robert Bowers, who killed 11 mostly-elderly worshipers at a Pittsburgh synagogue, was known as a guy who liked beer, Hooters, action films and guns, with a bit of an anti-government streak. There were, however, hints of paranoid theories and violent thoughts, reports the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Accounts from Bowers’ coworkers of two decades ago, and an analysis of his social media posts before the massacre, suggest that staunch conservatism metastasized into white nationalism. First fascinated with conservative radio host Jim Quinn, he later became a follower of aggressive online provocateurs of the right wing’s fringe.

According to experts who study extremism, the Internet and social media have created new pathways from strident ideology to radicalism. Efforts to address that by shutting down social media sites can backfire, some experts said. “For the last several years, analysts have warned that these kinds of conditions would lead to these kinds of actions,” said Prof. John Horgan of Georgia State University’s Global Studies Institute and author of The Psychology of Terrorism, published in 2014. “I genuinely fear that we are seeing the culmination of something that has been boiling over for some time now. … And I fear that we’re not prepared for it.” Because online advertising and social media feeds respond to the person’s web searches, clicks and posts, the Internet can slowly draw a person from a strident ideology toward full-blown radical thinking, said Mary Beth Altier of New York University’s Center for Global Affairs, who is writing a book about political violence in democracies. If a person’s background is such “that this ideology is resonating with you, it can take you further and further down that path.” One expert calls for a politically neutral entity that audits online communications, letting social media platforms know when they’re hosting speech that advocates violence.


Do Armed Guards Stop Mass Shootings? Evidence is Slim

“A very high percentage of these attackers are suicidal, said criminologist Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama. “The idea that he is going to be scared away by an armed security guard just doesn’t compute.”

The mass shooting at a California country-music bar  that left 12 dead Wednesday has became a grim test case in a persistent debate about how places such as schools, nightclubs and houses of worship should steel themselves against shooters and how police should respond. The gunman began his rampage by shooting an unarmed security guard outside the bar. The massacre, and others like it in recent months, show how difficult devising an effective strategy to head off an attack can be and the high cost it can exact on those on the front lines, reports the Washington Post. The debate has gained urgency as President Trump and others say armed security guards could have prevented mass shootings; Trump supports arming teachers.

More police departments are aggressively confronting active shooters as incidents unfold. Both strategies have pitfalls. An armed security guard and armed school resource officer were ineffective at stopping the Pulse nightclub and Parkland High School mass shootings in Florida, and experts say there is little evidence that armed security guards curtail mass shootings. “A very high percentage of these attackers are suicidal, so sometimes when they are shot and killed, that’s their desired outcome,” said criminologist Adam Lankford of the University of Alabama. “The idea that he is going to be scared away by an armed security guard just doesn’t compute.” Jaclyn Schildkraut of the State University of New York at Oswego said taking down a shooter with a firearm is more difficult than many realize. A RAND Center of Quality Policing study found New York City police officers hit their target in gunfights just 18 percent of the time.


13 Dead, Including Shooter, in CA Bar College Night

A hooded gunman dressed in black opened fire at a country dance bar holding a weekly “college night” in Southern California, killing 12 people and sending hundreds fleeing, including some who used barstools to break windows and escape. The gunman was found dead at the scene.

A hooded gunman dressed in black opened fire at a country dance bar holding a weekly “college night” in Southern California, killing 12 people and sending hundreds fleeing, including some who used barstools to break windows and escape. The gunman was later found dead at the scene, the Associated Press reports. The dead from the shooting Wednesday night included 11 people inside the bar and a sheriff’s sergeant who was the first officer inside the door, Ventura County Sheriff Geoff Dean said. “It’s a horrific scene in there,” Dean said. “There’s blood everywhere.” It was the deadliest mass shooting in the U.S. since 17 classmates and teachers were gunned down at a Parkland, Fl., school nine months ago.

The gunman at the dance bar was tall and wearing all black with a hood over his head and his face partly covered, witnesses said. He first fired on a person working the door, then appeared to open fire at random at the people inside. Sheriff’s Sgt. Ron Helus and a passing highway patrolman arrived at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks at about 11:20 p.m., the sheriff said. They heard gunfire and went inside. Helus was immediately hit with multiple gunshots. He died early Thursday. It’s not yet clear how the gunman died, and authorities do not yet know his name or have any idea of a motive. The bar, which includes a large dance hall with a stage and a pool room along with several smaller areas for eating and drinking, is a popular hangout for students from nearby California Lutheran University who enjoy country music. Shootings of any kind are rare in Thousand Oaks, a city of 130,000 people 40 miles west of Los Angeles.


Eleven Killed, Police Hurt in Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting

Police said a suspect with a history of antisemitic statements online was in custody after multiple casualties at a shooting Saturday in a baby naming ceremony at a Pittsburgh synagogue. Four police officers were shot in the attack at the Tree of Life Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood.

A gunman yelling “all Jews must die” killed 11 people and injured at least six, including four police officers, in an attack during a baby naming ceremony at a Pittsburgh synagogue on Saturday, the Washington Post reports. A suspect, Robert Bowers, 46, who has a history of making anti-Semitic statements online, surrendered and was charged with hate crimes.

The Anti-Defamation League called it “likely the deadliest attack on the Jewish community in the history of the United States.”

The attack occurred at the Tree of Life Congregation in the Squirrel Hill neighborhood. Squirrel Hill, about 10 minutes from downtown Pittsburgh, is the hub of the city’s Jewish community.

Jeff Finkelstein of the Jewish Federation of Greater Pittsburgh said all synagogues in the city were on a “modified lockdown.” He said local synagogues have done “lots of training on things like active shooters, and we’ve looked at hardening facilities as much as possible.” “This should not be happening, period,” he told reporters at the scene. “This should not be happening in a synagogue.”

President Trump spoke about the shooting, saying, “It’s a terrible, terrible thing what’s going on with hate in our country, frankly, and all over the world. And something has to be done.”


A Year After Vegas Massacre, Was Infamy The Motive?

One year after Stephen Paddock killed 58 Las Vegas concertgoers, experts still lack evidence of a motive. One says that in such cases, “some people kill for notoriety and infamy, and that’s what he did.”

One year after Stephen Paddock killed 58 Las Vegas concertgoers, criminal psychologists and threat-assessment experts still are puzzled over why a wealthy, 64-year-old gambler committed the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. Several hypotheses on the gunman’s possible psychopathy and desire for infamy have begun to emerge, but they are based on limited evidence, a troubling outcome for people whose job it is to look for clues that could help prevent such a deadly incident in the future, reports the Wall Street Journal“People are bewildered by the case—there’s a bewilderment, and there’s a horror,” said J. Reid Meloy, a forensic psychologist and clinical professor of psychiatry at the University of California San Diego.

A 10-month Las Vegas police probe found no evidence of Paddock’s motives after interviews with his relatives, girlfriend, ex-wife, doctor and casino hosts, as well as searches of his computers, phones and internet history. He left no manifesto or suicide note, wasn’t affiliated with a terror group and had no mental-health diagnosisLas Vegas Sheriff Joseph Lombardo said Paddock’s gambling losses may have been a factor; his bank accounts dwindled from $2.1 million to $530,000 in the two years before the attack. FBI profilers soon will release their own report on Paddock. Russell Palarea of the threat-assessment firm Operational Psychology Services said that in mass shootings when there is no grievance, the motive is often infamy. “Some people kill for notoriety and infamy, and that’s what he did,” said Dr. Palarea. Dr. Meloy, noting that Paddock’s father was declared a psychopath, says that family history may be the key.


Suits Allege Hotel Negligence in 2017 Las Vegas Mass Shooting

In 2014, a man smuggled six high-powered weapons into the same casino hotel that Stephen Paddock used as a venue for the most deadly mass shooting in US history. Victims argue in lawsuits against the casino owner that the earlier case shows that the hotel did not do enough to prevent guests from bringing in an arsenal.

Three years before Stephen Paddock used a suite at the Mandalay Bay casino in Las Vegas to kill 58 and injure hundreds of other, another man stocked a room there with six high-powered rifles he had brought upstairs in baggage, just like Paddock. The 2014 case involving Kye Aaron Dunbar, which attracted little public attention at the time, is now being raised by lawyers for victims of last year’s massacre who are suing MGM Resorts International, owner of the Mandalay Bay, for negligence. For Paddock’s victims, the Dunbar case shows that the hotel did not do enough to prevent guests from bringing an arsenal of weapons to the hotel, and that the tragedy that unfolded one year ago was foreseeable.

Dunbar never used the firearms at the hotel. But the Las Vegas police, the F.B.I. and the ATF investigated the case after a housekeeper discovered the weapons. Mandalay Bay argues that the Dunbar case is irrelevant to the Paddock attack. The company says it could not have prevented Paddock’s actions. Confronted by lawsuits, MGM has adopted a hardball legal approach to try to block the victims from recovering any money from the company. The cornerstone of MGM’s argument is that a little-known federal law passed in the wake of the Sept. 11 attacks shields companies from liability for casualties from acts of terrorism if they employed antiterrorism technologies and services that carry a special designation from the Department of Homeland Security. Paddock had no known political motive, but MGM argues that the massacre qualifies as an act of terrorism.


Three Killed, Three Wounded by Shooter Near Baltimore

Snocia Moseley, 26, a temporary employee of a Rite Aide distribution center near Baltimore, opened fire, apparently indiscriminately, killing three and wounding three others before killing herself. Authorities did not immediately find a motive.

A suicidal assailant with a gun opened fire, apparently indiscriminately, at a Rite Aid distribution center in Aberdeen, Md., about 30 miles northeast of Baltimore, killing three and wounding three others before killing herself, the Washington Post reports. Snochia Moseley, 26, a temporary Rite Aid employee, used a 9mm Glock semiautomatic pistol, authorities said. Moseley, from Baltimore County, “had reported for her workday as usual” Thursday morning, said Harford County Sheriff Jeffrey Gahler. “And around 9 a.m., the shooting began, striking victims both outside the business and inside the facility.”

The three victims who survived were hospitalized with wounds that are not believed to be life-threatening. As for why Moseley opened fire, Gahler said, “We are still trying to work on any kind of motive for it.” Moseley had “two, perhaps three” extra clips of ammunition, Gahler said, adding that the Glock belonged to her and was legally registered. Several Rite Aid employees spoke about Moseley. “Normally, she was a nice person, but she came in in a bad mood,” said one, recounting what other workers told him. They said “she wanted to pick a fight. And then she started shooting.” The Aberdeen attack was the second workplace shooting in the U.S. in a 24-hour span. On Wednesday morning, a 43-year-old man opened fire on fellow employees of a software company in a suburb of Madison, Wi., seriously wounding three people before killing himself. Another victim was grazed by a bullet.