What Research Can Tell Us About the Newtown Shootings

The Atlantic
What Research Can Tell Us About the Newtown Shootings
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What Research Can Tell Us About the Newtown Shootings

Discovered: Recent research findings about gun control, autism, mass violence, and PTSD to help put the Newtown shootings in context.

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Strict gun control laws absolutely have led to fewer deaths in other countries. Researchers under the supervision of Joan Ozanne-Smith of Monash University studied firearm-related deaths over a 22-year period in Australia, finding a notable drop in deaths (especially suicides) after the country implemented strict gun control laws in the late '80s and mid-'90s. The Medical University of Vienna's Nestor D. Kapusta and colleagues noticed similar trends when Austria got tough on gun control in 1997. A number of variables make the U.S. different than these nations—but in Austria and Australia, research shows that deaths have been prevented by gun control. [via BoingBoing]

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The link between autism and mass violence isn't clear. Already, we're hearing speculation that Adam Lanza may have suffered from Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism that was recently removed from the DSM-5. Research tells us that if that's true, Lanza's mental illness is merely an interesting detail—not a decisive factor in the violence. Research led by the University of Edinburgh's Louise Robinson found that amongst violent offenders in prison, only 4 percent scored above the cut-off on autism spectrum disorder quotients. Considering the question of whether autistic people are more prone to violence, a team of University of Michigan Medical Center researchers found that only approximately 2.27 percent of autistic people exhibit a history of violence.

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Bullying and lack of mental healthcare access are common in such shooters. Michigan State University's Hyunkag Cho studies risk factors that make shooters like the one involved in the Virginia Tech massacre prone to violence. Cho and his colleagues found that bullying, parental neglect, and lack of accessibility to mental healthcare are common to these types of gunmen, but that researchers have a long way to go in understanding this topic. "Despite the numerous explanations by the media, politicians, organizations and researchers about the potential cause of the school shootings, we are not united in our understanding of the risk factors, particularly those relevant to racial minorities and immigrants," Cho says. [Michigan State University

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Many of the survivors in Newtown will likely develop PTSD. According to data from Virginia Tech researchers who studied the survivors of a shooting on their own campus, 15.4 percent of the student body exhibited signs of PTSD three to four months after the incident. 

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