The bedrock of reliable information on mass murder in the United States
As claimed by James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University and one of the nation’s leading researchers on mass murder, the AP/USATODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killing database is the most comprehensive and most up-to-date depository of information on US mass killings. Evidence supporting his statement is the fact that news coverage in the days following the mass shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, relied upon a common source for context: The AP/USATODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killing database.
Mass murder, as defined by Fox, is an incident in which four or more people, excluding the killer, are killed within a span of 24 hours. This database includes information on every mass murder from 2006 onwards as it’s difficult to find reliable information prior to 2006 due to lack of comprehensive sources.
“For example, cases in which someone kills at least four members of their own family represent about half of all the mass murders since 2006. And 22 percent of all mass murders are carried out with a weapon other than a gun, he says. These kinds of cases just don’t get as much attention,” as public mass killings by a gunman, Fox says. “It’s important for journalism’s sake, and for legislation’s sake, that the statistics be accurate,” Fox says. “Legislation should be grounded in valid statistics, not flawed ones.”
Currently, this database is accessible to journalists and researchers at Associated Press and USA Today only. It will soon be available to the public as well in the hope that the more frequently the AP/USATODAY/Northeastern database is utilised to contextualise news coverage of mass murders, the more informed our reaction to such events will be.
“There’s a lot of misinformation floating around when it comes to mass murder,” Fox says. “My hope is that this database will be a standard place where people can get the most valid information.”