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Mayors’ report on mass shootings is grim but essential reading

There have been 43 mass shootings in 25 states over the past four years, which equates to almost one per month.

Mayor R.T. Rybak is briefed by police after the shooting at Accent Signage in Minneapolis.

Nationally, there have been 43 mass shootings in 25 states over the past four years (January 2009 – January 2013), which tragically equates to almost one per month, according to a report released Friday by Mayors Against Illegal Guns.

The details about those shootings — the number of people killed and injured as well as information about the shooter, the guns and ammunition used, and where the gun was purchased — reveal, as the report notes, “a different portrait of mass shootings in America than conventional wisdom might suggest.”

Mayors Against Illegal Guns is a gun-control advocacy group composed of more than 850 mayors, including four from Minnesota: Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak, St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman, Duluth Mayor Don Ness and Falcon Heights Mayor Peter Lindstrom. On Sunday, the group ran a short Super Bowl ad calling for background checks for all gun purchases.

For the report released Friday, the group examined FBI data and media reports on all mass shootings over the past four years. The FBI definition of “mass shooting” is a shooting in which four or more people are murdered. Here is what the report found:

  • Mass shootings represent a small share of total U.S. firearm homicides. Less than one percent of gun murder victims recorded by the FBI in 2010 were killed in incidents with four or more victims.
  • Assault weapons or high-capacity magazines were used in at least 12 of the incidents (28%). These incidents resulted in an average of 15.6 total people shot — 123% more people shot than in other incidents (7.0) and 8.3 deaths — 54% more deaths than in other incidents (5.4).
  • There was a noteworthy connection between mass shooting incidents and domestic violence. In at least 17 of the cases (40%), the shooter killed a current or former spouse or intimate partner, and at least 6 of those shooters had a prior domestic violence charge.
  • We did not find evidence that any of the shooters were prohibited from possessing guns by federal law because they had been adjudicated mentally ill or involuntarily committed for treatment. In 4 of the 43 incidents (9%), we found evidence that concerns about the mental health of the shooter had been brought to the attention of a medical practitioner, school official or legal authority prior to the shooting.
  • Certain categories of people, including felons, certain domestic abusers, and people adjudicated mentally ill are prohibited by federal law from possessing guns. We had sufficient evidence to judge whether the shooter was a prohibited gun possessor in 29 of the 43 incidents (67%). Of those 29 incidents, 11 (38%) involved a prohibited possessor, and 16 (62%) did not.
  • Nineteen of the 43 incidents (44%) took place in private residences. Of the 23 incidents in public spaces, at least 9 took place where concealed guns could be lawfully carried. All told, no more than 14 of the shootings (33%) took place in public spaces that were so-called “gun-free zones.”
  • Four of the 43 shooting incidents (9%) took place in schools, including primary, secondary, and college campuses.
  • In 5 of the 43 shootings (12%), law enforcement or military officers were targeted by the shooting or killed or injured responding to it.
  • Two of the 43 shootings (6%) occurred at the shooter’s current or former work place.

Those workplace shootings include the one that occurred at Accent Signage in Minneapolis last Sept. 27, in which six people were killed and two injured by a disgruntled former employee. The man committed the murders with a Glock 9 mm semiautomatic handgun, which he had purchased at a Minneapolis gun store after passing a background check. His family had suspected he had a mental illness, but he had never pursued treatment.

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Details about all 42 of the other shootings can also be found in the report [PDF]. It’s grim but essential reading as the nation struggles over the issue of gun control.