Mass Shootings: Media, Myths, and Realities: Media, Myths, and Realities

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ABC-CLIO, Feb 22, 2016 - Social Science - 239 pages

When a mass shooting happens, the news media is flooded with headlines and breaking information about the shooters, victims, and acts themselves. What is notably absent in the news reporting are any concrete details that serve to inform news consumers how prevalent these mass shootings really are (or are not, when considering crime statistics as a whole), what legitimate causes for concern are, and how likely an individual is to be involved in such an incident. Instead, these events often are used as catalysts for conversations about larger issues such as gun control and mental health care reform.

What critical points are we missing when the media focuses on only what "people want to hear"? This book explores the media attention to mass shootings and helps readers understand the problem of mass shootings and public gun violence from its inception to its existence in contemporary society. It discusses how the issue is defined, its history, and its prevalence in both the United States and other countries, and provides an exploration of the responses to these events and strategies for the prevention of future violence.

The book focuses on the myths purported about these unfortunate events, their victims, and their perpetrators through typical U.S. media coverage as well as evidence-based facts to contradict such narratives. The book's authors pay primary attention to contemporary shootings in the United States but also discuss early events dating back to the 1700s and those occurring internationally. The accessible writing enables readers of varying grade levels, including laypersons, to gain a more in-depth—and accurate—understanding of the context of mass shootings in the United States. As a result, readers will be better able to contribute to meaningful discussions related to mass shooting events and the resulting responses and policies.


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This book actually makes the rudimentary mistake of labeling an accidental school shooting a mass school shooting. The shooting in question happened in 1883 at the Ponca Creek School House. This book states "On February 14, 1883, Lem Harbaugh fired shots from a needle gun toward a group of schoolchildren at the Ponca Creek schoolhouse just outside of Florence, Nebraska, killing three." ("Criminally Careless," 1883) But after closer inspection of the article 'Criminally Careless' in the Omaha Bee on February 16th, 1883, which the authors cite in the book, you find that no one actually died that day. Only one shot was fired by Lem Harbaugh which injured three students. No where in the article does it say that anyone died so how the authors concluded the someone died that day is beyond me. The article actually gives an excellent detailed description of the shooting and the names of the three young scholars the SINGLE bullet fired that day struck and where the bullet hit each of them. Harbaugh and the Shipley brothers were on their way back from chopping wood in Iowa and when passing the school they stopped and engaged in a snowball fight with the students. Upon leaving as the students rained a shower of snowballs upon them. Lem Harbaugh produced the .45 caliber needle gun and pointed it at the children and accidentally fired the gun, "which had been tampered with, and filed so that it would go off at each catch" (as the article says) and was also was "half cocked". Harbaugh later turned himself in and "expressed great regret at the unfortunate occurrence and said he did not know the gun was loaded and had no malice in pointing it at the children" and even "offered to make any reparation in his power, by work, money when he got it or otherwise." After extensively researching shooting shootings at U.S schools for more than 9 years I am not aware of any mass shootings without malice and where only one shot was fired. You do not have to take my word, simply read the article 'Criminally Careless' (it comes up easy in a Google search). The book is also filled with grammatical errors so one has to wonder how fast the book was pushed out for release! This book is indicative of the shoddy research efforts by some academics when it comes to school shootings. Our kids deserve much better!  

User Review - Flag as inappropriate

This is a good book for information. I got it for an argumentative essay I had to write for school. It has lots of information and sides to each topic. It cites the events, people in the events a lot and what happens with the media and mass shootings.


Claims Making and Agenda Setting How Myths Become Realities
What Is a Mass Shooting?
A History of Public Mass Shootings
Mass Shootings by the Numbers
The Usual Suspects as Causal Factors
Mass Shootings around the Globe
Preventing Mass Shootings
Mass Shootings in a Mediatized Society
Mass Shootings Today and Beyond
About the Authors

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About the author (2016)

Jaclyn Schildkraut, PhD, is associate professor of criminal justice at the State University of New York (SUNY) at Oswego.

H. Jaymi Elsass is a lecturer and doctoral candidate in the School of Criminal Justice at Texas State University.

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