TIME Research

Why the U.S. Has 31% of the World’s Mass Shootings

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Part of it has to do with gun laws, but maybe it's because we're American

The U.S. is home to 5% of the world’s population, but has had 31% of the public mass shootings worldwide between 1966 and 2012, according to a new study presented at the American Sociological Association meeting. “That is not a coincidence,” says study author Adam Lankford, a professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, who believes his new study on the topic is the first to confirm that there’s something strongly American about public mass shootings. A lot of that, he’s found, has to do with gun ownership.

Lankford quantitatively analyzed various reports, from the New York Police Department’s 2012 active shooter report, the FBI’s 2014 active shooter report, and international sources including the United Nations and the World Health Organization. He focused on public mass shootings, defined as those that took place in a confined, populated space and resulted in the deaths of at least four people.

MORE: Homicides Are Spiking This Year After Falling For Decades

Lankford found a strong correlation between gun ownership in America and violence. The U.S. ranks first in gun ownership in the world, with surveys suggesting the rate to be 88.8 firearms for every 100 people in America, or 270 million total firearms within borders. (At a distant second is Yemen, with 54.8 firearms per 100 people; the numbers tumble after that.) There have been 292 public mass shooters who have killed a minimum of four people between 1966 and 2012. And when you narrow shootings down to just those that occur at school and work, American incidences account for 62% of global cases.

Lankford wanted to understand why Americans were so much more likely to be public mass shooters. His findings suggest a theory that points to two quintessentially American factors: gun culture and exceptionalism.

Being American, for a large swath of people, can be traced to the Second Amendment’s guarantee of a right to bear arms; 65% of Americans believe it is their right to own firearms.

But an even more significant contributor may be the very reason some experts think the U.S. has been so successful: its strong sense of exceptionalism and individualistic culture, something that American kids are taught from an early age.

MORE: Read The Transcript of Amy Schumer’s Emotional Speech On Gun Control

“There is this notion that in general, America is exceptional in a variety of ways in terms of our history: the degree to which we fought for independence, being the first and most successful country of our kind,” Lankford says. “If you teach your kids, ‘You can accomplish anything you want if you put your mind to it,’ it might be setting them up to fail.”

Achieving a sense of fame and success isn’t always a good thing. The idea of fame is a repeating motif in public shooters’ confessions and manifestos, Lankford says. “The media gives these attackers what they want, and they want fame.”

Globalization, too, has a role to play. Consider the dominance of Hollywood and entertainment in the lives of young people worldwide, which is largely American and often violent. “We’re exporting mass shootings as well, and attackers around the world are copying what’s happening here,” he says.

Lankford acknowledges there’s still a lot we don’t know about gun violence. The analysis he ran excluded other gun crimes, like homicides involving three or fewer people, and suicides. Domestic violence and gang violence often fuel these shootings and they remain largely misunderstood, though most experts agree firearm ownership is a big contributor to these crimes.

There’s a silver lining, however. Because the U.S. has a preponderance of public mass shootings, the country is more prepared than any other to deal with them, Lankford says. He points to Columbine and Sandy Hook as events that shaped enforcement procedure. “When Columbine happened, it took three hours to respond, in part because we didn’t know how to respond,” he says. “Do you prioritize helping people flee? Do you secure the perimeter? Do you go in and disable the active shooter? We now know you have to make sure the active shooter no longer is active,” he says. “At least we know how to deal with this.”

TIME Texas

Officials Release Video in Unarmed Teen’s Death

Christian Taylor, 19, was caught on camera kicking the windshield of a car at a dealership

A security company has released surveillance footage showing the moments just before an unarmed college football player was shot to death by a police officer at an Arlington, Tex. car dealership.

In the video—which has been edited—Christian Taylor, 19, is shown wandering the dealership lot, at one point climbing on the windshield of a car and kicking it.

Police were responding to a 911 call about a possible burglary and surveillance cameras picked up on Taylor’s movement.

Police said Officer Brad Miller and his training officer arriving at the scene, telling Taylor, who is black, to get on the ground. Taylor did not comply with calls to surrender, instead running away, at which point Miller fired four shots and his training officer used a Taser.

Local authorities have asked the FBI for help in determining what exactly happened. Miller is on administrative leave while investigations continue.

TIME Crime

11-Year-Old Boy Charged in Shooting Death of 3-Year-Old

“I cannot remember a time where we have charged someone so young with taking a life"

An 11-year-old boy has been charged with manslaughter in the death of a 3-year-old boy, identified as Elijah Walker, outside of Detroit.

The 11-year-old, who remains anonymous due to his age, was visiting his father in Detroit’s Eastwood neighborhood. He came upon a handgun from the bedroom closet and threw the gun out the window into the home’s backyard. After retrieving the gun, the boy jumped into a parked vehicle in the home’s backyard.

It’s here that the facts become murky: 3-year-old Elijah arrived some time later and entered the car where the 11-year-old was in and was shot in the face.

“I cannot remember a time where we have charged someone so young with taking a life,” Wayne County Prosecutor Kym Worthy said in a statement, according to the Detroit Free Press. “Very unfortunate and very tragically, the alleged facts in this case demanded it.”

At a preliminary hearing, a court referee read the charges against the boy; besides manslaughter, the boy was charged with felony firearm possesion. The boy’s attorney, Beverly Anthony Walker, addressed the courtroom, saying the 11-year-old had not been in school regularly and was not competent to stand trial.

The boy faces a pre-trial hearing on Monday. Bond in the case was set at $5,000.

TIME Crime

Homicides Are Spiking This Year After Falling for Decades

A study says homicide rates are down. But 2015 rates—especially for gun violence—are very different.

Since 1960, U.S. homicide rates have been falling—that is, until this year. Meanwhile, intimate-partner violence and child abuse affect up to 12 million and 10 million Americans, respectively, according to a survey released Tuesday in JAMA. Taken together, it paints a bleak picture for Americans’ safety, and it has violence prevention scholars trying to figure out what led to the changes—and when.

At the annual meeting of the Major Cities Chiefs Association on Monday, police chiefs grappled with the fact that some cities are seeing a 50% increase in murders compared with last year. Washington Metropolitan Police Chief Cathy Lanier pointed to the nation’s capital as an example: This time last year, D.C. had 69 homicides; this year, D.C. has seen at 87 homicides. Nearby Baltimore tallied 42 homicides in May alone, with 45 in July. And in Chicago, there have been 243 homicides this year so far—a 20% spike from last year.

Until 2012, “we saw decreases for homicide and aggravated assault,” says Dr. Debra Houry, a co-author of the JAMA study who works with the CDC’s National Center for Injury Prevention and Control. “It’s promising because it shows that violence is preventable.”

Homicide rates in 1980 stood at 10.7 per 100,000; by 2013, they’d been cut in half. Aggravated assault saw a similar halving of incidences between 1992 and 2012.

But Andrew Papachristos, a professor of sociology at Yale and a criminal justice expert who has focused much of his research on Chicago’s gang and gun violence, says that JAMA‘s findings may not offer a nuanced enough picture of what’s going on in the United States, because it looks at general trends across the country. While on average crime might have fallen until to this year, some cities, such as Chicago and Milwaukee, are still facing severe problems with violence, particularly in certain areas of the city. Indeed, within cities, “the rates of violence across neighborhoods can be exponentially higher in certain areas and almost zero in others,” he says.

Policy changes can make a difference, says Papachristos. Programs that aim to decrease unemployment, particularly among African Americans, is a critical policy adjustment, he says, since unemployment is correlated with gun violence. He also cites outdated gun laws as part of the problem.

One policy bright spot was found in a study released by the American Journal of Public Health earlier this summer, which looked at Connecticut’s permit-to-purchase handgun law as a case study. The law dates to 1994 and it requires gunowners to purchase a license prior to acquiring a handgun. The state would only allow people to buy guns if they passed a background check and gun-safety course. The result? Connecticut residents can credit the law for a 40% reduction in gun-related homicides. (Of course, in a dreary statistic that illustrates Papachristos’ point, it’s not down everywhere in the state; Hartford is experiencing a massive surge in gun violence this year.)

But even with some signs of promise, any changes to law or policy might come too late for many victims of American crime this year. Criminal justice expert Rod Wheeler told Fox that America is snowballing into the most violent summer the country has seen in decades.

“I said this back in June, that we’re going to have a long, hot, bloody summer,” he said. “And unfortunately, it’s coming to pass.”

TIME Wisconsin

Milwaukee Plane Crash Kills At Least 1

The pilot had asked to abort a landing just before the crash

At least one person is dead after a singe-engine passenger plane crashed in Milwaukee’s Lawrence J. Timmerman Airport on Wednesday, according to local news reports.

The plane burst into a fiery blaze after crashing onto the field.

The County Medical Examiner’s Office confirmed at least one person is dead, reports WITI.

The plane, registered to Trustey Management Corp. in Boston, had radioed in for a “go-around,” or a request to abort landing, just before catching fire. The aircraft was manufactured in 2009.

Details on how many passengers were onboard or the cause of fire remain unknown.

 

 

TIME Aviation

When an Army Plane Crashed Into the Empire State Building

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Keystone / Getty Images Part of a US B-25 bomber which crashed into the Empire State Building in New York City in 1945

July 28, 1945: A U.S. Army bomber crashes into the New York City skyscraper in thick fog, killing 14 people

On this day, July 28, 1945, Lt. Col. William Franklin Smith Jr. flew a B-25 bomber into the 78th floor of the Empire State Building, which was then the tallest building in the world.

It was just before 10:00 on a Saturday morning at the tail end of World War II, and Smith was flying a routine transport mission—giving a handful of servicemen a ride home, according to NPR. He himself was a decorated pilot, fresh from logging 1,000 combat hours in the war, per TIME. He’d earned the Air Medal, the Distinguished Flying Cross and the Croix de Guerre as a member of the 457th Bomb Group, where he “hammered at targets in central Germany,” per his obituary in the West Point alumni magazine.

“When Bill entered the Academy in July of 1938 he stood on the threshold of a brief but brilliant career as a soldier. To look back on that career we wonder if he knew that his time was short,” his obit concludes. “He wanted to do everything in a military manner, but fast and well.”

That sense of urgency may explain why, 70 years ago today, the 27-year-old pilot ignored an air traffic controller’s warning of low visibility en route from LaGuardia to Newark.

“We’re unable to see the top of the Empire State Building,” the controller told him, according to TIME’s 1945 report. Smith flew anyway.

In the dense fog, he maneuvered through Manhattan at about 225 m.p.h., narrowly missing a skyscraper on the corner of Fifth Avenue and 42nd Street before he pulled up and banked slightly left—and collided head-on with the Empire State Building.

“The bomber gored through the thick steel and stone of the building as if they were papier-mâché,” TIME reported. “Then, in a flash of flame, the gasoline tanks exploded. In another instant flames leaped and seeped inside & outside the building.”

Smith and his two passengers were killed instantly; 11 people in the building also died. Most of the victims, per TIME, were “women employed by the National Catholic Welfare Conference, which has offices on the 79th floor. Many were burned beyond recognition.”

Some survived against the odds—including a 19-year-old elevator operator who broke her pelvis, back and neck when the plane sliced through the elevator’s cables and she plummeted from the 79th floor to the subbasement, per NPR.

Decades later, it’s hard not to read about this history without thinking of the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001—but the skyscraper and the plane weren’t the only components these two events shared. The disaster also prompted adrenaline-fueled acts of heroism reminiscent, on a smaller scale, of those that prevailed after 9/11. To free the badly-injured young woman from the basement elevator, first responders battered a hole through the wreckage. One courageous volunteer tunneled through it to reach her. Per TIME:

Donald Malony, 17, a Coast Guard hospital apprentice, squeezed through it, brought her out, gave her morphine. Passing the building at the moment of the crash, he had run into a drug store, talked a clerk into giving him hypodermic needles, drugs, other supplies. He gave first aid to many.

Read more from 1945: New York: In the Clouds

TIME China

A Mother in China Fell to Her Death Inside an Escalator but Somehow Saved Her Toddler

A metal panel gave way as she stepped across it

A woman in China was crushed to death on Saturday after falling through a panel of flooring at the top of an escalator in a department store in Hubei province.

Xian Liujuan, 30, was carrying her young son at the time but managed to push him out of harms way as she fell, reports Agence France-Presse.

CCTV footage posted to YouTube on Sunday appears to show Xian stepping off the escalator onto a metal panel, which gives way. As she falls, Xian pushes her child away from her and a shop assistant drags him to safety.

The assistant then grabs hold of Xian’s hand but the escalator keeps rolling and she disappears into the mechanism.

According to local paper the Wuhan Evening News, maintenance work had been carried out on the escalator at the Anliang shopping mall in Jingzhou and workers had allegedly forgotten to screw the access cover into place.

Xian’s body was recovered four hours later by a team of firefighters.

The video, which contains graphic scenes that some viewers may find upsetting, can be seen here.

[AFP]

Listen to the most important stories of the day

TIME Florida

NFL Great Joe Namath Joining Search For 2 Missing Florida Teens

Missing Teen Fishermen
AP This combination made from photos provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows Perry Cohen, left, and Austin Stephanos, both 14 years old.

The boys headed off for a fishing trip on Friday. They have not been heard from since

Former NFL great Joe Namath is appealing to the public for help in finding two 14-year-old boys, who have been missing at sea since Friday.

“We’re all praying,” Namath, flanked by the boys’ families, said at a press conference on Sunday in Tequesta, Fla., according to Fox News. “We got a lot of people out on the water and in the air looking for them. We’ll stay out there until we find them.”

The boys, Austin Stephanos and Perry Cohen, embarked on a fishing trip in a 19-foot boat in the Atlantic Ocean on Friday. They were last seen buying fuel on Friday afternoon near Jupiter, Fla.

Perry is the son of Namath’s neighbor.

The boys’ families are offering a $100,000 reward for their safe return.

 

TIME Crime

U.S. Police Killed Someone in Mental or Emotional Crisis Every 36 Hours This Year, Report Says

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In most cases, police were called not because of a crime but by a concerned bystander or loved one

Reporting released by the Washington Post on June 30 depicts an apparently stark reality when it comes to confrontations between police and people with mental illness in the U.S. The article draws from the newspaper’s tracking of every fatal police shooting in the country in the first six moths of 2015 — 462 in all — to present an in-depth look at those confrontations involving disturbed or distressed individuals.

During that time, police killed someone in mental or emotional crisis every 36 hours, including three men within 10 hours on April 25, the Post reports.

In most of those cases, the paper says, officers were not called to the scene because of reports of a crime but were rather responding to concerned bystanders or loved ones. Out of the 124 shootings examined in the report, 50 involved explicitly suicidal individuals. In 45 cases, police were explicitly asked for medical assistance or called after the individual had attempted to get medical assistance elsewhere. Nearly a dozen of those killed were veterans, and several suffered from PTSD.

Many of the responsible police agencies do not train their officers adequately to deal with distressed people, the article concludes. According to the Police Executive Research Forum, officers in training spend up to 60 hours learning to handle a gun and only eight hours each learning to neutralize taut situations and interact with mentally ill individuals. In fact, many of the tactics learned in training, such as shouting commands, can worsen the situation for already fragile people.

“This a national crisis,” Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, told the Post. “We have to get American police to rethink how they handle encounters with the mentally ill. Training has to change.”

Read more at the Washington Post

TIME tragedy

Mourners Pay Respects to Clementa Pinckney at South Carolina Statehouse

Clementa Pinckney Wake State House
Win McNamee—Getty Images Visitors pay their respects during an open viewing for Rev. Clementa Pinckney at the South Carolina State House in Columbia, S.C. on June 24, 2015.

A week after he and eight others were killed in a church shooting in Charleston

Hundreds of mourners lined up to view the Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s open casket on Wednesday, under the dome of the South Carolina statehouse, a week after he and eight others were fatally shot at a historic black church in Charleston, S.C.

A horse-drawn carriage and nine state troopers delivered the casket to the statehouse floor, where mourners could file through to pay their respects, the Post and Courier reports. Those who attended were greeted by colleagues of Pinckney, who was the lead pastor of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church and a state senator, as well as his widow and two young daughters.

Pinckney is the first African American to lie in state under the statehouse dome since at least the Reconstruction era, according to the Associated Press. Though a Confederate flag still flies in front of the complex, a black drape had been placed over a second-floor window to prevent mourners from seeing it.

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