On the Significance of Mass Shooters

Over at Reason, Nick Gillespie takes a look at spree-killer (and ex-cop) Christopher Dorner’s “manifesto” and pronounces it useless:

If there is a message buried deep within Dorner’s incoherent litany of recriminations, anger, and random name-checks, it’s this: People who go on shooting sprees typically tell us very little about society at large. They are by definition far, far beyond the range of normal (or even abnormal) behavior and, as such, shouldn’t be used to generalize about larger social forces at work.

That sounds right to me, but let’s put some numbers to it:

Mother Jones magazine (unlikely to downplay shooting statistics) counts 29 people who committed mass shootings in this country in the last decade. In that same period, the United States had 50 Nobel prize winners.

Using an average of 3 shootings per year, and making the unrealistic assumption that each shooter lives out his full U.S. life expectancy of almost 80 years, that works out to a total of 240 mass shooters among us, many in jail (and many only among us in theory by my unrealistic assumption) in a population of over 313 million. That’s less than one in a million of us, even by the most generous assumptions. By comparison, we have over 400 billionaires.

These killers do not represent us. They are nothing like us.

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