Uploaded by Kelvin Kong

Literature Review

Mass Murder refers to “multiple homicide incidents in which at least three or more victims
are murdered within a single incident at one or more locations in a closely related geography
proximity” (Krouse, and Richardson 2015). Mass Shootings is a subcategory of Mass Murder.
Mass shooting involves with four or more victims being murdered specifically with firearms.
Unlike other forms of mass violence, the offenders often do not associate themselves with a
particular group to commit violence against other groups for political, economic, or social reasons.
The social pressures imposed by the society or individuals are used to justify their killings as the
last stand. They have no intentions to engage future crimes once they commit their mass shootings.
Krouse, and Richardson (2015) found the active shooters usually commit suicide afterwards.
“Mass shootings” are distinct events that have been discuss frequently in social media,
especially on the news ever since the occurrence of Columbine shootings. Even though there are
already studies conducted on mass shootings, this area is still relatively new and understudied. One
of the controversial topics that often revolve around mass shootings is gun control laws. Gun
control advocacies propose stricter gun control laws to prevent mass shootings. Kleck (2009)
found specific gun control measures proposed in their aftermath were largely irrelevant and almost
certainly could not have prevented the incidents or reduced their death tolls. Furthermore, pro-gun
individuals insist easy access to firearm has no effects on mass shootings. Fredric (2014) argued
states with high gun ownership rates have more mass shootings. This literature review will
examine the correlation between gun ownership and mass shooting. It will also scrutinize the lack
of impact popular federal gun control laws have on mass shootings. The federal gun control laws
will consist of assault weapon ban, background checks, selective weapon ban, locking up firearms,
concealed carry and large capacity magazine ban. There will be a few studies on state laws as well.
Mental health services are tied to gun control laws. There will be discussion on the relation
between mental health services and background checks.
Possible Correlation between Gun Ownership and Mass shooting
The states with easy access to weapons have higher numbers of mass shootings.
“Consistent with a higher number of homicides in general (see F.B.I. UCR, 2012), the South has
higher numbers of mass shootings, attempted mass shootings, and attempted mass killings than any
other regions” (Agnich, 2014). Frederic found similar results. The states with more restrictive
regulations on guns tend to have lower rates of death by guns as well as a lower percentage of gun
ownership in the population. The reverse is also true in that states having more permissive gun
regulations tend to show higher rates of deaths by gun as well as higher percentages of gun
ownership in the population. However, Frederic (2014) found a contradiction in his research. The
results show that states having restrictive gun laws have experience more shootings and more
victims of mass shootings.
Federal and State Firearm Regulations
Large Capacity Magazine Ban
Base on the school shootings from October 1997 to May 1999, Kleck (2009) finds that
active shooters use multiple guns in five of the seven school shootings. This finding suggest the
current law of banning high capacity magazines is irrelevant to the number of victims shot. “In the
decade before the expired AW ban, there were 15 mass shootings incidents in which more than 6
victims were killed, or more than 12 were killed or wounded” (Kovandzic, and Kleck). Out of the
15 cases, there are 14 of them consisted of the shooter possessed multiple guns, which made it
unnecessary for him to reload once gun was empty, or the shooter did, in fact, reloaded. The
Virginia Tech shooter had 17 magazine for his handgun. The Newtown shooter brought three guns
to school. The active shooters do not need large-capacity magazines to produce more deaths
without reloading. They simply drop each gun once they run of ammunition and fire the next
available gun. The restrictions that limit magazine capacity can also limit the number of rounds
available to law-abiding citizens for self-protection.
Assault Weapon Ban
Fox and Delateur (2014) created statistic charts to show the ban of assault weapons have
no impact on extreme violence, such as mass shootings. The poisson regression model that they
used to measure deaths by firearms indicated “only a quarter of public mass shootings between
1982 and 2012 were committed using assault weapons” (Fox, and Delateur 2014). The ten-year
Federal Assault Weapon Ban (AWB) was passed by Congress in 1994. The average incidences
and victimization levels during federal prohibition of assault weapons were not especially different
in the years before or after the law was in force. Assault weapons are no more lethal than most
legal firearms. A semiautomatic gun might shoot slightly faster than an ordinary revolver, but the
real limiting factor on effective rate of fire is the shooter’s ability to fire the gun accurately. “Even if
active shooters can fire traditional double-action revolvers in 2 or 3 seconds, they will have to be
the most expert shooters to fire accurately at such high rate” (Kleck, 2009).
In the aftermath of 1989 Cleveland elementary school shooting, President George Bush
signed a temporary freeze on important foreign-made assault weapons to counter mass shootings.
“As a result, this law only benefit domestic manufacturers by eliminating foreign competition”
(Fox, and Delateur 2014). In California, the legislation only identify prohibited guns by name and
model, not by type. It fails to prohibit gun owners from acquiring assault weapons. The firearm
markets can reintroduce the assault weapons or other banned guns by merely changing the design
and model number.
Selective Weapon Ban
“Selective bans on less lethal varieties of guns encourage the substitution of more lethal
types of gun” (Kleck, 2009). If handgun bans are successful, an offender will substitute less lethal,
banned handguns for more lethal weapons. Kleck (2009) argued the gun bans should be
implement on more lethal types of guns instead of handguns. Large caliber weapons are more
reliable and less likely to jam than handguns.
Locking up firearms
“The Child Access Prevention (CAP) laws require gun owners to keep their guns locked
and/or hold adult gun owners responsible if a youth accesses a poorly secured gun and harm
someone with it” (Kleck, 2009). Those in support of CAP laws ignored two facts: Gun owners
who store their guns loaded and unloaded do so to keep themselves ready from potential attacks.
The use of guns for defense is effective in preventing injury and property loss. The CAP laws that
made guns less accessible to unauthorized young people can also make them less accessible to
crime victims. Hepburn, Azrael, Miller, and Hemenway (2006) examined the impact of CAP laws
on fatal gun accidents among people younger than age 15, in each of 15 states where they had
been implemented, they found that CAP laws have no impact in any state except Florida.
Background Checks
“Federal restrictions on gun transfers, including the background checks required for
prospective gun buyers under the Brady law, are intended apply only to transfers involving
federally licensed dealers” (U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, and Firearms [ATF] 2005). There
are no laws regulating private transfers of firearms, so the shooters could have acquired firearms
easily from private sources. Fox and Delateur (2014) scrutinized the flaws of background checks.
They explained that background checks fail to prevent active shooters from acquiring guns since
“most mass murderers do not have criminal records or a history of psychiatric hospitalization”
(Fox, and Delateur 2014). According to a recent examination conducted by Mayors against Illegal
Guns, “none of the assailants were prohibited by existing federal law from possessing firearms
because they had been adjudicated mentally ill, or involuntarily committed for treatment” (Fox, and
Delateur 2014). It is difficult to identify who should be disqualified from owning firearms. Fox,
and Delateur (2014) stated that there is no consistent and feasible profile of an active shooter in
spite of psychological guesswork on active shootings in the aftermath of mass shootings.
In the aftermath of Columbine shootings, various reforms were introduced to improve the
background checks. “In the year following the Columbine shootings, over 800 bills relating to
firearms were introduced, including those discussed here. However, only about 10% of these laws
were passed” (Soraghan, 2000; Schildkraut, and Hernandez 2013). Virginia Tech’s mass shooting
once again revealing the loopholes in background checks. The active shooter, named Seung-Hui
Cho was diagnosed as being mentally ill by psychologists and admitted for treatment. Temporary
detention order and court-ordered outpatient treatment failed to report to the Central Criminal
Records Exchange (CCRE) and National Instant Criminal Background Check System (NICS).
After the Virginia Tech shooting, “Bush tried to improve NCIS by speeding reports, updating
frequently, and improve coordination between State and Federal agencies” (H.R. 2640, 2007).
Even though states had funded around $50 million and a million records were added to NICS, “the
total numbers of mental health records submitted by multiple states to NICS are less than a
hundred” (Schildkraut, and Hernandez 2013).
Concealed Carry
Concealed carry was called by pro-gun groups to give people the ability to defend
themselves from the perpetrators. “Apparently, few of these alarmed (and now armed) citizens fully
consider how people react under such unanticipated and suddenly chaotic situations” (Fox and
Delateur 2014). Poor judgements by armed citizens can cause additional death rather than saving
the day. Even well-trained owners might have difficult time to identify the perpetrators or react to a
mass shooting. The public argued the James Holmes’s mass shooting at the premiere showing of
“The Dark Knight” could had been prevented if members of the audience were allowed to carry
guns. The anxiety-provoking crisis in a darkened auditorium would have made the killer
indistinguishable from the innocent victims.
A determined gunman might able to secure additional weapons from the victims who are
carrying their own firearms. For example, Aaron Alexis who killed twelve people at Washington
D.C. Navy yard in September 2013, obtained a couple of semi-automatic 9mm pistols and
ammunition from two of his fallen victims. Even though most employees at the Navy yard were
carrying authorized firearms, but their presence in large number did not discourage Aron to commit
a mass shooting.
Some politicians argue arming more teachers, students and security guards will prevent
mass shootings. “Columbine was a fairly large campus with nearly 2000 students enrolled, and the
officer could not be everywhere at once” (Fox and Delateur 2014). Teachers are not police officers
and might create more chaos as the result of being armed. Even if only properly licensed and
trained students are allowed to carry guns to class, the high prevalence of substance abuse and
depression among college students might result in more mass shootings.
Mental Health Services
The background checks lead to concern on individuals with mental illnesses. One of the
common myths the public believe in, is assuming that expanding mental health services will
prevent mass shootings. Swanson emphasized the stigmatizing assumption that the public and
politicians have for people with mental illnesses is false. He was skeptical of the methods used by
the government to identify who should have guns or not. “Swanson and colleagues estimate that
nearly 1 in 10 adults in the United States has access to firearms and also has a problem with anger
and impulsive aggressive behavior” (Swanson, and Felthous, 2015). However, only a small
proportion of individuals with such behavior were hospitalized for a mental health problem.
California’s 5150 law allows “the police to seize all firearms from a respondent if the
petition records any threatening, aggressive, violent, or self-injurious behavior in the respondent”
(Swanson, and Felthous, 2015). This law fails to identify people that are actually dangerous,
because they fail to meet the criteria for mental illness upon evaluation. Martinelli, Binney, and
Kaye (2014) refer each state has its own procedures and standards on evaluating a person’s mental
health and involuntarily committing people to psychiatric facilities. These inconsistent mechanisms
cause ineffectiveness on prohibiting dangerous people from access to firearms. The federal law
does not prohibit people convicted of violent misdemeanors and alcohol abuse from access to
firearms. “Representative Davis Linsky proposed House Bill 3253, which require applicants for a
gun licensure to sign waivers to allow licensing authorities to access the applicant's health records
from the past twenty years”(Martinelli, Binney, and Kaye 2014). It can potentially discourage
people from seeking treatment, since it is an invasion of privacy.
The existed researches found most gun control laws and policies having little to no effects
on preventing mass shootings. However, researchers find moderate to strict gun control laws and
policies can reduce overall gun violence. Gun ownership is highly correlated with death by
firearms. Most of the literature focus mostly on major federal laws, but they rarely ever mention
other gun violence interventions or state laws. There are only two articles which conducted
comparative analysis on each state’s laws. Social programs, community interventions, policing
strategies, courts, prosecution and other strategies are often overlooked by researchers. These
factors might have potential impact on mass shootings. Another area that has little prior research on
is other types of public mass shootings, besides school shootings. Researchers mainly measure
school mass shootings, but they rarely ever conduct in-depth analysis on other types of mass
shootings. There is urgent need of research for public mass shootings, since the recent major mass
shootings took place in locations other than schools.
Agnich, L. E. (2014). A Comparative Analysis of Attempted and Completed School-Based
Mass Murder Attacks. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 40(1), 1–22. Retrieved from
Fox, J. A., & Delateur, M. J. (2013). Mass Shootings In America: Moving Beyond Newtown.
Homicide Studies, 18(1), 125–145. http://journals.sagepub.com/ doi:
Fox, J. A., & Delateur, M. J. (2014). Weapons of Mass (Murder) Destruction. New
England Journal on Criminal & Civil Confinement, (40), 313-343. Retrieved from
Frederic, L. (2014). Effect of Gun Culture and Firearm Laws on Gun Violence and Mass
Shootings in the United States: A Multi-Level Quantitative Analysis. International Journal
of Criminal Justice Sciences, 9(1),74–93. Retrieved from
Kleck, G. (2009). Mass Shootings In Schools: The Worst Possible Case for Gun Control.
American Behavioral Scientist, 52(10), 1447–1464. http://journals.sagepub.com doi:
Martinelli, L. R., Binney, J. S., Mass, N., & Kaye, R. (2014). Separating Myth from Fact:
Unlinking Mental Illness and Violence and Implications for Gun Control Legislation and
Public Policy. New England Journal of Criminal and Civil Confinement, 2(40), 701–719.
Retrieved from http://namimass.org/wp-content/uploads/Separating-Myth-from-Fact.pdf
Metzl, J. M., & Macleish, K. T. (2015). Mental Illness, Mass Shootings, and the
Politics of American Firearms. Am J Public Health American Journal of Public Health,
105(2), 240–249. Retrieved from https://ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4318286/
Nedzel, N. E. (2014). Concealed Carry: The Only Way to Discourage Mass School
Shootings. Acad. Quest. Academic Questions, 27(4), 429–435. Retrieved from
Schildkraut, J., & Hernandez, T. C. (2013). Laws That Bit The Bullet: A Review Of
Legislative Responses to School Shootings. American Journal of Criminal Justice, 39(2),
358–374. Retrieved from https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s12103-013-9214-6
Swanson, J. W., & Felthous, A. R. (2015). Guns, Mental Illness, And the Law:
Introduction to This Issue. Behavioral Sciences & the Law Behav. Sci. Law, 33(23),
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