Study finds no spike in mass killings over last decade

Computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson and industrial and enterprise systems engineering lecturer Doug King find no spike in recent mass killings. (WICS)

In recent years we've seen shots ring out in nightclubs, concerts, and even the Las Vegas Strip. This sparked researcher at the University of Illinois to look at the number of mass killings we've seen in the U.S. over a decade.

Computer science professor Sheldon Jacobson and industrial and enterprise systems engineering lecturer Doug King conducted the study. They looked at mass shooting data between January 2006 to October 2016, which showed a total of 323 events.

"The distributions of these mass killings have not changed over the last decade over this 10 plus year period,” Jacobson said. “So although people may perceive that there are more mass killings today, the reality is just not the case."

The FBI considers a mass shooting an incident where more than four people were killed, which is the same criteria used in the study. Crime data for the analysis came from USA Today reports.

Although researchers say the rate of these killings have remained steady, what has changed is how often we hear about them through social media and news coverage.

"I mean it's good to know, to feel like you know what's going on in the world, but it's also a little frightening,” Urbana resident Michael Ambrose said. “It makes you hold your loved ones a little closer."

Researchers say many of these mass killings don’t happen in a public setting.

"We also looked at the type of mass killing, was it a public mass killing was it a family mass killing?” Jacobson said. “The fact is family killings are over three times more likely to occur than a public mass killing. So although what we recently saw in Las Vegas, which would be a public mass killing, gets a lot of attention, in reality family mass killings are actually much more prevalent."

While the rate of incidents hasn't gone up, researchers say there's still work to be done in looking at whether more people are being killed during mass killing events.

With mass killings being so random, Jacobson says there's no good way to try to guess where the next one will be, however, he says we can use the information from the study to be better prepared for these situations.

"I think it's good to be more aware of it,” Ambrose said. “Businesses can take more steps to be aware of it and try to prevent it or to minimize the impact."

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