Anyone familiar with the gun debate has heard the talking points of the National Rifle Association and other gun rights advocates: "Carrying a gun for self-defense makes you safer." Or: "If only more ordinary citizens were armed, they could stop mass shootings." As we've shown in our reporting, these arguments don't stand up to scrutiny. After the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School, David Hemenway, director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, commented on another long-running assertion from the gun lobby: "There is no evidence that having more guns reduces crime," he told the New York Times.
In 1988, a group of black students at Harvard Law School compiled a report designed to recognize the growing achievements of black students on campus and share their wisdom with newcomers. The longest essay in the 50-page newsletter was written by a 24-year-old third-year student named Michelle Robinson, who devoted more than 3,000 words to an appeal for greater faculty diversity. “The faculty’s decisions to distrust and ignore non-traditional qualities in choosing and tenuring law professors,” she wrote, “merely reinforce racist and sexist stereotypes.” Harvard Law was a lofty perch, as privileged as it was competitive. It was no accident that the future Michelle Obama pressed ahead with her application after being waitlisted, or that she set out to make a difference.
In June, following gun attacks in California and Oregon, President Obama remarked that mass shootings are "becoming the norm." But some commentators claim that mass shootings are not on the rise. So which is it? Have mass shootings become more common? According to our statistical analysis of more than three decades of data, in 2011 the United States entered a new period in which mass shootings are occurring more frequently. Our analysis used data compiled by Mother Jones on attacks that took place in public, in which the shooter and the victims generally were unrelated and unknown to each other, and in which the shooter murdered four or more people.