In this commentary, we propose a unifying public mass shooting definition that captures the generally conceptualized phenomenon but also expands the inclusion to all incidents regardless of casualty count. We suggest that public mass shootings be broken down into four outcome categories – completed, attempted, failed, and foiled – which have unique incident outcomes but share a common thread of mass intent. We argue for the importance of a no-minimum casualty count definition (thus including zero casualties) that emphasizes mass intent rather than the completion of the shooting. We highlight the value of and rationale for this definition by discussing the limitations of current victim criteria, and we conclude with a proposed strategy that emphasizes objective indicators of mass intent.
Welcome to the Journal of Mass Violence Research
The Journal of Mass Violence Research (JMVR) aims to share rigorous, multidisciplinary, peer-reviewed studies related to different facets of mass violence in the U.S. and beyond. With a focus on public research and accessibility, JMVR seeks to promote high-quality scholarship and authors, disseminate findings via articles, videos, and infographics, and generate academic and public interest in this important research area.
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As defined back in the 1980s, the term “mass shooting” has long been understood to mean the intentional killing of four or more victims with gunfire in a single incident. However, recent efforts to examine this rare and tragic crime have employed alternate definitional criteria. In order to facilitate cross-study comparisons and curb rampant public fear, it is imperative that scholars, politicians, and the media avoid using the same terminology to describe very different phenomena. In this article, we advocate for the traditional definition in view of a variety of theoretical and methodological considerations.
The definitions and terms used to describe single-incident mass casualty events vary widely and remain contested. To allow for the inclusion of more incidents, larger and more representative samples, and more comprehensive analyses, we argue in favor of using the broad term “rampage” and propose a new model, the Rampage Violence Status Model (RVSM), which provides additional context on completion status and can subsume previous terminology. Additionally, by expanding upon previous researchers’ distinctions and definitions of various stages and completion statuses, we suggest adopting the following terms as stages in the progression of rampage violence, per the RVSM: researched, planned, prepared, initiated, interrupted, attempted, and completed.
Mass violence is a growing concern across the United States and around the world, and it affects millions of lives. The editors and the editorial board understand the importance of using a multidisciplinary, research-focused approach to define and measure the problem, identify and evaluate prevention and intervention efforts, and expand the body of knowledge to ultimately inform policies and programs related to mass violence.
The editors and editorial board of JMVR recognize that the issue of mass violence is one that spans many disciplines, including criminology and criminal justice, public health, sociology, psychology, and more. By offering a variety of perspectives and methodological approaches, we envision the journal to be one that provides a comprehensive framework through which to understand the problem of the mass violence. The journal is unique in that it addresses the many facets of mass violence in addition to perpetration, such as the victimization perspective, individual or societal effects, law enforcement responses, prevention efforts, and more.
To do this, JMVR also aims to address current conditions and practices that often stifle the sharing of information and research findings. Rather than paywalling research that has meaningful implications for practice, the journal provides full open-access free of charge to authors and readers. Additionally, the focus on public research encourages authors to produce easily digestible summaries of the studies in the form of infographics or short videos. This allows for the open sharing of research with the public, the media, policymakers, and practitioners to generate conversation and interest with the common goal of reducing and preventing instances of mass violence.
Driven by our Guiding Principles, the journal intends to re-envision the submission and production process, offering productive reviews, providing timely decisions to authors, and ensuring linguistic and intellectual access to findings all while still ensuring that all research is vetted through a rigorous review process. Additionally, we aim to create a culture of inclusivity and diversity, especially supporting and promoting early career researchers and authors, LGBTQ+ scholars, women, and scholars of color. We believe that these practices and principles will allow for the promotion of science in a time when it is desperately needed and address one of the most profound, tragic problems in our society.