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Chicago Tallies 16 Mass Shootings This Year, Few Make National Headlines

By Joe Ward | October 8, 2015 8:47am
 Chicago has tallied 16 mass shootings this year, but none has garnered national media attention like the recent one in Oregon.
Chicago has tallied 16 mass shootings this year, but none has garnered national media attention like the recent one in Oregon.
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CHICAGO — America has averaged more than one mass shooting a day this year, with 294 mass shootings in 274 days as of last Friday, according to The Washington Post.

Chicago has accounted for 16 of those mass shootings, according to records kept by DNAinfo Chicago. There have been 48 mass shootings in Chicago since 2013, according to The Guardian.

Mass shootings, categorized by the Mass Shooting Tracker and various news sites as when four or more people are wounded in a single shooting incident, have been on the rise and have been the source of immense media attention nationwide. There is no official government database or definition of a "mass shooting," though the FBI defines a "mass murder" as four or more victims killed.

The issue has dominated the news cycle once again after a gunman opened fire at an Oregon community college Oct. 1, killing 10 people.

For the most part, mass shootings that garner widespread media attention have a few things in common: They happen in small town or suburban settings, usually inside a targeted facility and often in daylight. While the shooter may target a certain group, he usually does not personally know the victims.

About 95 percent of shooters in mass shooting incidents are men, according to "Mass Shootings In America: Moving Beyond Newtown," published in the academic journal Homicide Studies. Sixty-two percent of shooters are white, and 38 percent are in their 20s.

The shootings that don't spark national debates are the ones in inner cities, where the shootings are often categorized as gang-related and the victims are poor minorities. In other words: the ones that happen in Chicago.

Professor James Alan Fox, who co-wrote "Mass Shootings In America," said there are several key characteristics of inner-city mass shootings that distinguish them from the ones that tend to garner national attention.

For one, the shooter's profiles are different, Fox said. Their motives are different, too: In urban areas, the violence often stems from interpersonal disputes and criminal activity, Fox said.

"It's crooks killing crooks," he said of inner-city violence. "It seems like, in school shootings, the victims are more innocent."

That perception of urban violence could also explain its absence from intense media coverage, Fox said.

In Chicago, mass shootings rarely resemble the ones that have come to define the term in America. Of the 16 mass shootings in Chicago this year, 15 happened at night, 13 were confirmed to have taken place outside, and at least seven were related to gang disputes, according to data obtained by DNAinfo Chicago.

Two of the Chicago mass shootings happened at parties. At least three were drive-bys.

According to an article in Slate, there have been just over 44,000 murders in American from 2009 to 2013, but "just a fraction" of those killings stemmed from mass shootings like the one in Oregon.

"Put simply, our focus on [Oregon] style shootings—as much it makes sense — obscures the extent to which most victims of gun homicide are poor, black, and live in America’s most isolated communities," writes Jamelle Bouie in Slate.

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