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Let’s Talk About Mass Shootings in America

25 September 2017 Articles News & Analysis


Most mass shootings in America are committed by non-Whites, though the media refuses to cover it. On Sunday, a Black man opened fire on a church while the media discussed activist football players.

by Ash Brighton 


Largely overshadowed in the hubbub over kneeling negroes at sportsball games was a horrific incident which happened Sunday in the Nashville suburb of Antioch. A Sudanese man, Emanuel Samson, entered a church and shot at the parishioners, killing one and wounding six others at last count. It could have been much worse if not for the heroics of Robert Engle, who subdued the bodybuilder shooter with his bare hands. Don’t expect to hear much in the media about Robert and his selfless bravery. The murder victim, Melanie Smith, was a White mother of four. The other victims are mostly, if not all, White. Incidentally,  based on the header of his facebook page, the shooter supported the aforementioned kneeling negroes’ disrespect of his host country’s anthem. Cue the honking. But as you’ll find out, Black mass shooters are the norm despite what the popular media would have you believe.

About a year ago I became curious about mass shootings. I had run across a few incidents in the news with high numbers of casualties, but little attention was paid to them. A good example is Christopher Harper-Mercer, a Black shooter who murdered 10 students at a community college in Oregon and wounded 9 others. Most of his victims were White. The story barely cracked the headlines. Quick, name the Virginia Tech shooter! Yes, Korean Seung-Hui Cho committed the deadliest mass-shooting in US history before Afghani Omar Mateen overtook him by a huge margin in the Orlando nightclub massacre.

In the Vice Special “Charlottesville: Race and Terror,” Elle Reeve brought up the specter of White mass murderers. She quickly ran out of examples, having to dredge up the Asian shooter Elliot Rodger and the infamous Dylann Roof, who doesn’t even crack the top 10 of interracial mass-murderers. In fact, by any measure the new face of the American mass murderer is not White. In the last decade, Whites were at least one of the shooters in only four out of the top ten incidents by number of casualties. When the incidents are counted by number of deaths, Whites were among the shooters in only three out of ten of the incidents. Sure you have James Holmes and Adam Lanza, but when’s the last time you heard about Nidal Hassan (the Fort Hood shooter) or the Arab shooters responsible for the 16 deaths and 22 injuries in San Bernardino, California in December 2015?

The disparity becomes far more pronounced when large numbers of mass shooting incidents are studied. There are sites tracking mass shooting incidents, mostly from an anti-gun perspective. What these sites neglect to tell the reader, of course, is the racial demographics of the shooters. Out of curiosity I created my own mass shootings database and built in some crowdsourcing functionality. Over a hundred volunteers put in a huge effort to assign correct racial information to thousands of incidents.

The results are interesting in their own right, and a few other surprising patterns popped out of the data. Let’s start with the basics:

Mass Shooters are Mostly Non-White

2013 is when the thorough data collection of mass shooting incidents begins. The plot below breaks down the number of casualties based on the race of the mass shooter for those incidents where the shooter has been identified:

It’s immediately clear that mass shootings are not a White phenomenon. Whites are underrepresented. You can make your own figure here.

Slightly more surprising was the revelation that:

Most Mass Shootings Lack Even a Suspect Description

Let’s take this same figure and include the incidents where no race has been established for the shooting suspect(s):

I’ve only filled in racial information for those incidents where the suspect had an official description available. Neither I nor the people assisting in the project made any assumptions. If that gray area could magically be filled in correctly, it would be mostly Black shooters, with Latinos making up the lion’s share of the remaining portion and White shooters taking a sliver. I can say this confidentially because the shootings happen in Black and Latino neighborhoods and the victims are Black and Latino. Gang members are heavily represented amongst the victims, and plenty of shootings happen at ethnic nightclubs and bars after an argument or brawl escalates. However, since nobody gives useful information to the police, no race can be officially assigned.

An Outgrowth of Decline

Through this project I’ve taken a virtual nationwide tour of hundreds of media outlets. Among the countless depressing stories emerged another grim pattern: local media is dead and law enforcement in towns of all sizes is phoning it in. Shootings with multiple dead or even double-digit casualties get a few paragraphs in the local paper and are never mentioned again. Spend some time browsing the local news website of a mid-size town and you’ll see a small cadre of reporters lightly covering every beat in town. Most articles, especially ones involving homicide, are a tiny island of sparse information surrounded by an ocean of advertisements and auto-play videos, all done in the homogenized template of a corporate mass media giant like Gannett.

At this point there are well over a thousand mass-shooting incidents with not even a suspect description available. This year alone there are two quadruple murders that will likely never be solved. How about 8 injured, one killed at a gender reveal party? 25 were shot at a Little Rock nightclub, after a week where “about a dozen” drive-by shootings occurred in the town.  Chicago? Where to begin? Mass-shootings at memorials for murder victims are not unusual. These are clear depictions of an undeniable decay on our society. Digging through the stories, more patterns emerge in the unsolved cases: they’re almost always in Black or Latino neighborhoods, and nobody, even the victims, talk to the police. This is the norm. Sites like HeyJackass, which tracks homicides in Chicago, do a phenomenal job of crunching the data and telling the story of the incredible number of unsolved murders:

source: heyjackass.com

Combine the figure above with the number of unsolved mass shootings and think about how many murderers are out there on the streets right now around the country. But if we just come together, dammit, it will all be fixed.

In conclusion, Whites, who are still the majority population in the United States and own an overwhelming percentage of the registered firearms, are highly underrepresented as mass shooters. Latinos and, to a much larger extent, Blacks are responsible for the great majority of incidents. The next time mass shootings are brought up, point out these facts. Many are unaware, because we are the only ones pointing out these inconvienient facts. This research would never be funded or supported by any university or mainstream think-tank.

I encourage you to visit Who’s Shooting, do your own research, make your own figures, and draw your own conclusions. There is tons of data there and it’s easy to make your own visualizations.