Along with Tara Leigh Tober, Tristan is in the process of producing a new dataset on mass shootings in the United States that builds on data collected by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA)–a non-profit started in 2013 with the aim of providing public access to accurate information regarding gun-related violence in the U.S. What makes this dataset unique is the way they have defined what qualifies as a “mass shooting.” While most research on mass shootings has relied upon a conservative definition that excludes most gun-related violence in the U.S., GVA uses a definition that is a bit more broad. Rather than classifying mass shootings (as the FBI does) by how many people are killed aside from the shooter, GVA classifies incidents by how many people are shot. Incidents related to domestic violence or gang violence are also often not included. This produces different wildly different numbers of mass shootings in different datasets and makes it less possible to examine patterns that may exist in these data if we consider mass shootings in a different way.
However, the information collected by GVA on each incident is minimal: name of shooter, location of shooting, numbers injured and killed, and basic demographic information about those involved. Tara Leigh Tober and Tristan are including a number of new variables in this dataset that will help us answer new questions about mass shootings in the United States. In addition to demographic information surrounding the shooters and victims, they are examining patterns in the types of locations in which incidents occur, motives provided by the press, as well as a qualitative analysis of the types of language used to describe shooters to the public in news media accounts of the incidents.
This project will help to identify new patterns and answer new questions surrounding mass shootings in America. Tristan and Tara Leigh Tober are particularly interested in examining the types of men who participate in different types of mass shootings, patterns in the motivations for violence, as well as patterns in media portrayals of shooters belonging to different social groups.
Since working on this project, they have also written for popular audiences as well on issues related to mass shootings (see below).
Tristan Bridges and Tara Leigh Tober. 2015. “Mass Shootings in the U.S. Are On the Rise. What Makes American Men So Dangerous?” Sociological Images. July 16. Re-posted at Pacific Standard, August 17.
Tristan Bridges, Tara Leigh Tober, and Nicole Wheeler. 2015. “What Constitutes a Mass Shooting and Why You Should Care.” Feminist Reflections. December 17.