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The Role of Social Capital in Preventing Mass Public Shootings

The Role of Social Capital in Preventing Mass Public Shootings

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The United States is unique in our Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms. This right and the resulting hundreds of millions of guns already in circulation in the U.S. necessitate a more nuanced dialog that appreciates the role of social capital in mass public shootings—particularly the effects of community, family, and work. A mass public shooting—four or more victims, not the result of an underlying crime—is an attack on the public places where Americans gather for worship, education, and work.  

Key Points

  • Mass public shootings are relatively rare, accounting for approximately 1 in 200 homicides in 2017, the deadliest year on record for mass public shootings. In 2020, they accounted for 1 in 2,500 homicides. 

  • Individuals who commit mass public shootings tend to be disconnected from their communities, not employed, and suffer from trauma during difficult childhoods, which each make coping with stressful situations more challenging. 

  • Violence Project data show that 72 percent of mass shooters are suicidal either immediately before the attack or intended to die as part of the attack. 

  • Almost all the increase in mass public shootings since 1990 can be attributed to increased suicidality among shooters, a trend that is also present in the general population.

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