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Media coverage and mass shootings connected?

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Amarillo, TX -- With shootings like this one all over the news lately, some say the media actually encourage public shootings, and I wanted to explore the relationship between mass violence and mass media.

In the past seven months, we've seen the Aurora movie theater shooting, the Sikh temple shooting, and the Newtown, Connecticut shooting, to name a few.

And we remember those incidents because the media covered them so extensively - which some say only stokes the fire further.

In the past thirty years, there have been 63 mass shootings in the U.S., which is a sharp increase from the rest of the 20th century. 

Now, there is some discrepancy over what constitutes a 'mass shooting,' which can lead to contradicting reports.  Last year, there were reports that mass shootings were decreasing, but the criteria varied.  The FBI defines a 'mass shooting' as four or more killed, so today's incident in Houston wouldn't qualify.

Col. Perry Gilmore, Ph.D, is the Assistant Police Chief at the Amarillo Police Department, a former psychology professor, and a criminal psychologist.  He says the FBI reports are generally the most widely accepted.

"I've looked at two studies recently," says Gilmore, "one from the NYPD, one from the FBI - that would indicate over the last ten years or so, the number of mass shootings, or 'active shooter' incidents, where you may not have five deaths, have increased."

And in the last ten years, media saturation has expanded immensely, leading some to wonder if the lure of the spotlight is a driving force behind the shootings. But experts say the motives are much too wide and varied to assume any sort of causal relationship.

"If publicity, notoriety, fame, is important to them, the publicity from one incident may embolden them to carry out their violence," says Gilmore.  "In other people, it might not have an effect."

If you'd like to see the FBI's most recent breakdown of crime statistics or get a few more perspectives on the issue, follow the links attached to this story.

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