The Slatest

The Thirteen Stories You’ll Read After Every Mass Shooting

A candlelight vigil in Sutherland Springs, Texas on Sunday.

Suzanne Cordeiro/AFP/Getty Images

1. Inaccurate initial reports are corrected as accounts converge and death tolls rise. Breaking reports of multiple shooters, for instance, almost never turn out to be true. In the case of the Oct. 31 vehicle attack in lower Manhattan that happened to take place near a school, an event that wasn’t a mass shooting at all was initially described as one. Eventually, though, law enforcement officials release confirmed details, including gradually increasing official death counts.

2. Details about the shooter trickle out. The profile that’s discovered is almost always one of a socially isolated male whose background involves domestic violence.

3. There’s controversy over whether the incident constitutes “terrorism” and whether the “terrorism” label is racially reductive. Here’s a discussion of the issue in the New Yorker.

4. Conservatives say they are “sending thoughts and prayers” to the victims and are subsequently criticized by liberals for prioritizing prayer over public policy as a response to gun violence. House Speaker Paul Ryan launched Sunday’s version of this mini-cycle.

5. Elected Democrats make emotional cases for passing gun control laws. Connecticut Sen. Chris Murphy, who represented the House district that included Sandy Hook Elementary, is one such figure who’s made a point of being willing to immediately “politicize” mass shootings by advocating for legislative action in their aftermath.

6. The city/town where the shooting took place holds a vigil as heartbreaking details about the victims are reported. Here, for example, is a gut-wrenching Washington Post story about two strangers who met at the Route 91 festival in Las Vegas before shots broke out.

7. Reporters and law-enforcement officials find out where and how the shooter got his weapons. The details of these cases typically invite further scrutiny of gun-control measures. The Trace, for example, found that Sunday’s Texas shooter should have been prohibited from buying a gun because he was convicted by court martial of domestic violence while serving in the military—but that his conviction was never entered into the National Criminal Instant Background Check System.

8. Gun manufacturers’ stocks rise in price. The idea is that sales spike after shootings, making gun manufacturers a more appealing investment, because of buyers’ fears of impending gun control legislation. However, recent reporting indicates that sales are slow under our current president, who often disparages the idea of gun control. (Which therefore suggests we might also stop seeing stock-price surges.)

9. It’s observed that countries which are otherwise comparable to the United States have much lower rates of gun violence. Here are some very striking illustrations of the phenomenon in Vox.

10. Experts explain why new gun control legislation never passes Congress even though polls find that the public generally supports it. The version of the explanation that the Atlantic wrote in 2012 still seems to hold true: That gun-rights supporters, though outnumbered, are well-organized single-issue voters who will punish/reward candidates for their stances on gun issues in a way that gun-control supporters don’t.

11. The idea that better mental health treatment could help prevent mass violence is considered. As another Atlantic piece points out, though, the anecdotal/common-sense notion that mass killers must suffer from diagnosable mental illness is not necessarily borne out by the data. An examination of the issues in Slate, meanwhile, echoes that caveat but also suggests that the mental health community could help address mass violence by developing a deeper understanding of anger and promoting methods for its management.

12. The notion that a “good guy with a gun” can help limit shootings is raised. In the case of the Sunday Texas shooting this concept was cited by Donald Trump, who alluded to the efforts of a man named Stephen Willeford to confront shooter Devin Patrick Kelley. (Willeford, however, was only able to intervene after 26 victims had already been fatally wounded.)

13. Someone points out that mass shootings have begun to seem numbingly repetitive and that there’s no reason to believe another one won’t happen again soon. And here we are.