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January 17, 2013
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Editor and Publisher Don Rogers: Mass Murder's myths

The police officer assigned to the school fired at and missed the boys shooting up Columbine.

So did the motorcycle cop who had been issuing a traffic ticket nearby as the attack began.

You know how this went down that warm April day in 1999. Fifteen died, including the two high schoolers who plotted the attack for over a year.

Columbine, in its sick way, stands as the Babe Ruth of these events. The legend lingers even through Virginia Tech, Aurora, Newtown.

We're all aflame, again, of course. Last year's sprees at the theater and the elementary school produced even more carnage than Columbine.

But if you think mass shootings like these are increasing, think again.

The cold statistics have been steady for the past 25 years: By the FBI definition of at least four deaths (not including the shooter) in one event, the United States averages 20 mass murders a year.

And overall, our homicide rate is going ... down.

The weaponry may be growing more efficient for the task, and the reporting ever more encompassing, but society is not spawning a higher percentage of sickos who commit mass murder.

Your chances of being caught in such a killing zone remain infinitely less than being hit by lightning, bitten by a shark, winning the lottery.

The killers do not appear to choose soft targets, "gun free zones." That's loose talk from people kick starting the political debate about guns again.

Assailants have fired on National Guardsmen at a restaurant in Carson City, Nev., military bases, even attacked a police station. Heavily guarded federal buildings have served as targets as well as theaters and schools.

The place has more to do with symbolizing what the shooter is attacking than anything else. The Columbine killers, typically, attacked their school - armed guard or not.

A Vail Symposium panel last week explored mass murder and the minds of the killers. The panelists: Dr. Patrick Fox, the attending psychiatrist at the Denver Detention Center; Jeff Kass, a reporter who covered Columbine and wrote the definitive book about it; and Jeff Mariotte, who writes CSI novels and the nonfiction "Criminal Minds" about the real life criminals referenced in that TV series.

Their advice for making these rare events more rare: Be alert to the almost inevitable warning signs and report them. Make the most efficient killing equipment harder to access.

And my favorite, which Mariotte expressed: Put a psychologist in every school before that armed guard.

It would be far more effective.

Editor and Publisher Don Rogers can be reached at drogers@vaildaily.com or 970-748-2920.


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The VailDaily Updated Jan 19, 2013 04:50PM Published Jan 17, 2013 07:57PM Copyright 2013 The VailDaily. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.