Who's shooting?

As one might guess, different news organizations and other groups that compile data use different criteria for listing mass shootings.  I'll go with that of the Congressional Research Service ("four or more shot and killed in one incident, excluding the perpetrators, at a public place, excluding gang-related killings and those done with a profit-motive").

Okay, here are the mass shootings so far this year, using CRS criteria:

Date

Place

Dead

Perpetrator

Race/Ethnicity

January 9

Chicago, IL

6

Jason Nightengale

Black

January 24

Indianapolis, IN

6

Raymond Childs III

Black

February 2

Muskogee, OK

6

Jarron Deajon Pridgeon

Black

March 13

Indianapolis, IN

4

Malik Halfacre

Black

March 16

Atlanta, GA

8

Robert Aaron Long

White, Christian

March 16

Phoenix, AZ

4

Gilbert Gonzalez

Hispanic

March 22

Boulder, CO

10

Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa

Arab, Muslim

Total

 

44

   

The most notorious of these are the shootings in Atlanta and Boulder.  How many times were we told that Robert Aaron Long is a Christian?  This NYT article makes it clear, as do this and this in the Washington Post.

As for Ahmad Al Aliwi Alissa's religion or ethnicity, nothing so far.  The L.A. Times is silent about both.  One must dive into alternative media to discover what he believed.  Heavy.com has many quotes from his Facebook page, now deleted.  He hated Donald Trump, was homophobic ("God created Adam and Eve not Adam and Steve just saying"), and opposed abortion ("Abortion is disgusting").  Wait, does that make him pro-life?

As for religion, consider this post from 2018: "Muslims may not be perfect but Islam is."  I suppose that if the major media ever get around to these details of Alissa's life, they'll say he was "complicated" or that his posts require a "nuanced" reading.  And when they consider his analysis of the origins of Christianity, we'll no doubt discover that he was a subtle exegete: "So Mary wears a hijab and Jesus doesn't eat pork and prays on his knees and hands.  There [sic] both Muslims it's obvious."

I have assumed for years that mass shooters are overwhelmingly white males, because I keep reading that.  If we look at the seven mass shootings so far this year, 57% of the perpetrators were black.  But small datasets lead to misleading percentages: add just a few more white shooters, and the percentages change drastically.

Longer timelines must be considered.  Statista reports that between 1982 and March 2021, 54% of mass shooters were white, 17% black, and 8% Latino.  Wait a minute — Latinos can be any race.  Nevertheless, whites are 73% of the U.S. population, and blacks 12.7%, so whites are very under-represented while blacks are over-represented.  See also the series of excellent articles from the Center for Inquiry.

Here is an egregious example of the misuse of statistics, an article published in Newsweek on October 2, 2017, after the Las Vegas shootings, which declared that "white men have committed more mass shootings than any other group."  PolitiFact did an analysis:

Mother Jones found that non-Hispanic white men have been responsible for 54 percent of mass shootings since August 1982.

Another tally, with a longer timeline and a different definition of mass shooting, found non-Hispanic white men make up 63 percent of these attacks.

Nevertheless, PolitiFact concluded, "We rate this Mostly True."  There are more whites in the USA than any other ethnic group!  Even allowing the higher figure from the unnamed other "tally," white males are under-represented among mass killers.  But it does not matter, it's "Mostly True."

Henry Percy is the nom de guerre of a writer in Arizona.  He may be reached at saler.50d[at]gmail.com.

Image: Snappygoat.