Here’s What We Know About The Contagion Of Mass Shootings

In the aftermath of yet another mass shooting in the U.S. — the 351st in the 336 days so far this year — a visibly weary President Barack Obama addressed the nation yet again.

“We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” he said.

This tragic, uniquely American pattern has led to cycle in which each horrific event begets more violence.

These events don’t occur in a vacuum. While the “contagion” effect is well-documented in the case of suicides, it’s been studied less in the context of mass shootings. But as shootings become an ever more commonplace occurrence, more of us are wondering about the possibility of a ripple effect.

We’re starting to better understand the epidemiology behind this tragic trend. While the research is limited, a recent Arizona State University study found strong evidence that school shootings and other acts of mass violence are contagious.

The researchers did a statistical analysis of 176 mass shooting events in the U.S. from 2006 to 2011 and 220 school shootings between 1997 and 2013. They discovered that mass shootings were significantly more likely to occur if another shooting that received national media coverage took place in the previous 13 days — a finding that suggests that mass shootings tend to cluster together in a similar manner to suicides. This was “apparently due to the [media] coverage planting the seeds of ideation in at-risk individuals to commit similar acts,” the study said.

“People had suspected for a long time that mass killings were contagious,” Sherry Towers, a research professor at Arizona State University and the study’s lead author, told The Huffington Post. “Our study was the first to use to —> Read More