Open Thread: Sad Probabilities

nra high five

(Mike Luckovich via


Philip Bump, at the AtlanticWire:

The next mass shooting will take place on February 12, 2014, in Spokane, Washington. It will be committed by an emotionally disturbed, 38 year-old white man who will kill seven people and wound six more at a place he used to work using a semi-automatic handgun he purchased legally in the state.

That, at least, is what a look at the data on past such shootings might indicate. We’ll say at the outset: Every assertion in the first paragraph is a function of probability, not fact. The next mass shooting — which will happen somewhere, sometime — will almost certainly not be in that place at that time. But a look at the historic data on such killings, compiled and shared by Mother Jones magazine, makes each of those predictions defensible….

Our sincere hope is that every prediction we made is wrong because no mass killings should happen again. The probability of that happening is not statistically significant.

75 replies
  1. 1
    Yatsuno says:

    Spocompton is dirt ass poor and stupidly redneck. Nothing in that analysis surprises me except the shooting has a higher probability of being racially motivated.

  2. 2
    MikeJ says:

    The chance of 75% of the audience watching Un Chien Andalou on TCM tonight saying “what the fuck?” are approximately 99%.

  3. 3
    YellowJournalism says:

    Watching the remake of “Red Dawn” right now. Spokane is getting a rep for man-made disaster.

  4. 4
    lamh36 says:

    Welp, Loki and Cookie Monster! That’s it! My night is complete. Night ya’ll.

    Cookie Monster Learns a Lesson from Tom Hiddleston

    I’m telling ya, Tom Hiddleston has suddenly become my latest British hottie crush.

    I mean, I’ma still be google stalking Idris Elba, but damn if I may not just have to add Tom H too…lol

  5. 5
    Hawes says:

    I was teaching my students about government capability vs autonomy and how the lack of governmental autonomy can impact capacity and used the gun control debate as a yard stick. I told them there would be another mass shooting before they graduated. Some of them looked aghast.

    We live 20 minutes from Newtown.

  6. 6
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @MikeJ: I can’t watch it. The eye. ::shudder::

  7. 7
    Tommy says:

    Yo go teacher!

    I live in a very rural area. No violence of any kind. I don’t even think of locking my front door. It pains me when I see a folk go mass kill folks for a lot ot reasons. At the top of the list is I wish somebody would have reached out to them.

  8. 8
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @MikeJ: Holy crap, that’s on? I had no idea.

  9. 9
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Gin & Tonic: At 12:30 AM EDT.

  10. 10
    MikeJ says:

    @Gin & Tonic: 9:30. Why they’re not doing it back to back with l’Age d’Or I don’t know.

  11. 11
    Tommy says:

    @Hawes: The best class I never had, next to tying, was civics. Back in the 80s but the coolest class ever. I learned, was taught, now government was supposed to work.How a bill becomes law.

  12. 12

    I was kind of interested in a new book about Hollywood and the Nazis that someone here recommended, but film historians are saying that there’s not really much there there:


  13. 13
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Tommy School House Rock. It helped fill the void. So did a BA in Government.

  14. 14


    In other news, I’m probably getting the Impreza. I didn’t like anything else on my list nearly as much, though the latent hippie in me wonders if I should have gone with the Prius C.

  15. 15
    Gin & Tonic says:

    Here’s a fun one. Express Scripts, the largest mail-order pharmacy company, commissioned a survey which found that over half of Medicare recipients blamed Obamacare for increases in their medication costs. 20 percent thought they will be able to buy insurance on the exchanges. One-third believe that the ACA raises the Medicare eligibility age.

    Wonder where this misinformation comes from.

  16. 16
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Good flick to fall asleep to.

  17. 17
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): Hey, when did the Production Code come into effect? Also too, nice blog.

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): Do you have any hills? A fulltime AWD where you have no major hills or snow can be a fuel waster.

  18. 18
    Tommy says:

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): It is what you do with it. I drive a V6 VW Passat.I get in my car like once in a blue moon. Like maybe once in the last year. Again it is what you do ……

  19. 19
    Gin & Tonic says:

    My thoughtful and carefully-crafted post about this story seems to have vanished. FYWP. Or maybe it’s in moderation for some unknown reason and will appear later, not looking as carefully-crafted as it had looked at the time.

  20. 20
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Tommy: You drive your car once a year? Not very cost-effective from an insurance perspective, huh?

  21. 21

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Thanks! Breen took over in mid-1934, so it’s usually dated to June or July of that year. There’s some overlap because of production schedules, but the Breen censorship regime was all in place by January of 1935.

    My next post will cover some definitions/dates and should be up this weekend.

  22. 22

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    We have some hills, but no snow. Subaru managed to engineer an AWD car with a PZEV engine and 36/27 MPG, so I’m not too worried.

  23. 23
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): Cool, because TCM has been doing an number of 31-34 films that seemed a bit racy, e.g. This Modern Age in which Joan Crawford’s mother was a kept woman.

    ETA: A kept woman who ended up well.

  24. 24
    billgerat says:

    On my Forum page,, one of the board conservatives sarcastically said that the GOP must somehow be to blame for the Navy Yard shooting. I replied:

    Let’s see…

    Shooter – rage-fueled blackouts

    GOP – rage-fueled

    Shooter – has been hearing voices

    GOP – has been hearing voices telling it to shut down government if the ACA isn’t repealed

    Shooter – has had problems with the law

    GOP – has had problems with lots of laws

    Shooter – was a military contractor

    GOP – wants to hire a lot more military contractors

    Shooter – fascinated with guns

    GOP – fascinated with guns

    Shooter – traumatized by 9/11

    GOP – traumatized by 9/11

    Nope, I don’t see a connection there. I think the GOP is safe on this one.

    Yeah, I can see Spokane as the next one. Them Eastsiders are pretty crazy.

  25. 25
    Ted & Hellen says:

    I based this portrait of the Frankenstein Monster on Mnemosyne’s description as provided by her husband.

    Happy Halloween.

  26. 26
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Also, Crawford seems to have a fivehead.

  27. 27

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Extremely short version: prior to mid-1934, studios would make their films and the submit them to each state’s censor board. After mid-1934, all scripts had to be submitted to the Breen Office for pre-censoring before even a foot of film could be shot. So a LOT more stuff could be talked about onscreen before mid-1934.

  28. 28
    Pogonip says:

    This is a test because FYWP ate my last remark.

    So many people have occasion to type FYWP that the I phone recognizes the phrase.

  29. 29
    Tommy says:

    @Gin & Tonic: Only a few times a year. I often thought I’d never drive my car. You know I say this or that. Hippie liberal. Easier then you might think.

  30. 30

    @Ted & Hellen:

    Well, at least you went with the Karloff monster. Way too many artists go with Glenn Strange, for some reason.

  31. 31
    Pogonip says:

    @Hawes: As I was trying to say before I was attacked by FYWP, I predict that there will be another mass murder before Halloween. We could probably squeeze in at least 5 mass murders before graduation season rolls around again.

  32. 32
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): I knew the general principle, but was too lazy too google the date. For some reason 1932 was stuck in my mind – probably because the the political things that happened.

  33. 33
  34. 34
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    Is there a place where you can bet where the next mass shooting will occur? I suppose there is, in some dark corner of the internet. I wonder what city gets the highest odds?

    What I find interesting, although there’s not enough examples to form any sort of thesis, is that Newtown and Aurora aren’t particularly likely candidates if you’re going by violence, gun prevalence, economic desperation, a radicalized population, etc. as likely contributing factors. But all it takes is one fucked-up person.

  35. 35
    Suzanne says:

    If they had said Seattle instead of Spokane, I could identify the shooter right now.

    A former coworker who lamented the company policy prohibiting bringing weapons into the office? Yes. Really.

  36. 36
    mai naem(mobile) says:

    I was watching CNBC yesterday. They had former Virginia gov Jim Gilmore. Maria bartiromo asked him about background checks on contractors and if anything could have prevented the shooting. Gilmore babbled on about freedumb and free society blah blah blah. Anyhow, I looked up Gilmore and he’s on the board of the NRA something that was not disclosed in the interview. Why the hell not?

  37. 37
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @mai naem(mobile):

    he’s on the board of the NRA something that was not disclosed in the interview.

    I call for a blogger ethics panel. Or something.

  38. 38
    Spaghetti Lee says:


    This cartoon is the best take on that I can remember seeing: http://deep-hurting.deviantart.....-194775635

    No, the Tea Party did not “pull the trigger” as they say. And mental problems that lead to violence have been around longer than they have. But, having all these right-wing politicians and newspeople go on TV and the internet rave about the collapse of the country and Obama’s secret plans to exterminate white people and enforce communism and the gun-grabbers and the FEMA camps and the blah-blah, well, it’s not a good environment.

  39. 39
    Yatsuno says:

    @mai naem(mobile): How cute. You expect “journalists” to actually o journalism. Maria’s job is to relay approved point handed to her by her paymasters. Actual research of facts is what she has unpaid interns for. As long as they’re approved by her corporate masters.

  40. 40
    mai naem(mobile) says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Texas. Floriduhh. California. My top three guesses. I’m basing it a little on population, on mental healthcare,military facilities and the economy.

  41. 41
    Fuzzy says:

    I wish the news media would give a fraction of the coverage to 12 soldiers and what caused their death….congress and the pentagon and guess what? All the warning signs were there and we could have stopped it. The media has blown it for the last 25 years not just this time.

  42. 42
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): It’s because Karloff’s monster has a gentle vulnerability that is not desirable for a generic Halloween mask or poster.

    And your blog is going to get me in trouble. Too much to read. I feel like Charlie in the candy store scene in the first act of “Willy Wonka…”

  43. 43


    Don’t even think of going to Self-Styled Siren’s blog — she’s been doing classic Hollywood (including Pre-Code) for several years, so you could be there for days. Weeks!

    She referenced a couple more books in the post I linked to above that I want to add to my reading list since I hadn’t heard of them.

  44. 44
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    To the Juicer who was slagging punk rock as artless and joyless yesterday:The Big Boys.

    Fuck EVH’s trick shots.

  45. 45
    Anne Laurie says:

    @Gin & Tonic: FYWP thinks “pharmacy” is a naughty word, is why you got moderated.

  46. 46
    YellowJournalism says:

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): Too late! I’ve been sucked in!

  47. 47
    John O says:

    TDS was quite good tonight.

    I watched the CNN coverage of our latest “event” and Stewart and Co. got it just right. You could watch it muted and it was fine. Better, really.

  48. 48
    Redshift says:

    @Fuzzy: TV news is useless, but both the WaPo and NYTimes have profiles of the victims. None of them were soldiers; it wasn’t that kind of base. One was ex-Army, and two were retired Navy, if I read correctly.

  49. 49
    Churchlady says:

    @MikeJ: I am quite familiar with Chien Andalou and SAID what the fuck and gave it a pass.

  50. 50
    Redshift says:

    @Churchlady: I read the description of it when they were showing it at college and decided I didn’t need to see that.

  51. 51
    hamletta says:

    @Mnemosyne (iPhone): Oh, Lord! That book is hackwork worthy of David Barton, and The Siren’s takedown is masterful and so very ladylike, as is The Siren’s wont.

  52. 52
    pseudonymous in nc says:

    @Gin & Tonic:

    Wonder where this misinformation comes from.

    Hard to gauge sarcasm on the internets, but I wish I could find the blog devoted to scans of wingnut junk mail that either the blogger or their grandparent received. And of course, it’s all part of a longer con.

  53. 53
    Yatsuno says:

    @pseudonymous in nc: Link no work. Please to fix.

  54. 54
    Keith P says:

    Finished a marathon Grand Theft Auto V session. Spaced…out. Great game though.

  55. 55


    I was pretty sure that was you in the comments. 😄 G reads SSS, so he emailed me the link.

  56. 56
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):

    A) It was me, and B) I gave it a listen as a gesture of goodwill. Not bad. Nice guitars. I like some punk when it doesn’t feel like I’m being assaulted.

  57. 57
    Quaker in a Basement says:

    Knock, knock.

    Who’s there?


    Owen who?

    Oh-an-two, Steelers fans!

  58. 58
    Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again) says:

    @Spaghetti Lee:

    Why am I thinking it was someone else? It was later, I think, than you were around. Did you drop Van Halen and Aerosmith in there?

  59. 59
    J.Ty says:

    I’m actually interviewing for a web dev job at Mother Jones tomorrow. If anybody feels like wishing me luck.

  60. 60
    Spaghetti Lee says:

    @Temporarily Max McGee (soon enough to be Andy K again):

    Well, I was slagging punk, but I don’t know nothin’ bout VH or Aerosmith. This is more my speed:

  61. 61
    The Pale Scot says:

    Hey, has anyone watched the the Bob Fass documentary,?. Pre-Disney NYC was an interesting place to come of age.

    @ J.TY vaya con dios amigo/a

  62. 62
    piratedan says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: that wasn’t bad, ty SL, seems kinda of like a pop version fusion of Alan Parsons Project and Rush….

  63. 63
    Alison says:

    @J.Ty: Good luck, from a former MoJo employee :P It’s a good place to work!

  64. 64
    fuckwit says:

    @Spaghetti Lee: Prog rock? Wow.

  65. 65
    hamletta says:

    @J.Ty: Break a leg!

  66. 66

    […] Balloon Juice, Philip Bump at The Atlantic […]

  67. 67
    SpaceSquid says:

    Not wanting to bypass the horrible revelations this analysis has thrown up, or anything, but I don’t know what it means to say a probability isn’t (or is) statistically significant. I assume they mean the probability of no more mass shootings is so small as to be negligible, but that’s something very different.

    /stats pedantry.

  68. 68
    Karmus says:

    @SpaceSquid: That may be pedantry, but I appreciate it. I am not very stats-smart, but that had me scratching my head.

  69. 69
    Amir Khalid says:

    Good luck with the job interview!

  70. 70
    cvstoner says:

    I think the time has come to reduce the reporting for mass shootings to the level of automobile fatalities: note sad news tidbit, shrug your shoulders, move on.

    The real tragedy is the national kabuki of tears, when we all know nothing is going to change. If the mass murder of over 20 children won’t do it, nothing will.

  71. 71
    Manyakitty says:

    This story needs some attention. Not sure where or to whom I should send it, but it happens again and again.

  72. 72
    Elizabelle says:

    Aha. Starbucks seeks to keep guns out of its coffee shops.

    Tired of being thrust onto the front lines of the nation’s debate over guns, Starbucks is asking customers to leave firearms behind when they are in its stores and its outdoor seating areas.

    … Under its previous policy … Starbucks has been unwillingly co-opted by proponents of “open carry” policies and vilified by those seeking stricter laws on gun ownership. …

    “Pro-gun activists have used our stores as a political stage for media events misleadingly called ‘Starbucks Appreciation Days’ that disingenuously portray Starbucks as a champion of open carry,” Mr. Schultz wrote in an open letter to be published in ads in major newspapers.

    Last month, Starbucks closed a store in Newtown early after gun rights supporters wearing camouflage and Connecticut Citizens Defense League T-shirts held one of the events there.

  73. 73
    StringOnAStick says:

    @Manyakitty: That was an excellent story; post it on any other possible thread that comes up today because this needs more attention.

  74. 74
    Manyakitty says:

    @StringOnAStick: Thanks! I will.

  75. 75
    Ab_Normal says:

    @Yatsuno: Hey! As a resident of the Spokane area I… can’t really argue with that analysis. :S What can I say, my family & my job are here, and we were able to buy a house / raise a kid / send her to UW on a single income, so yay? (Note on the UW thing: she’s only a junior and I’m ontologically certain she’s never coming back to this town, and I can’t blame her at all.)

    Yannywhoo, as to the OP: we had the doofus try to bomb the MLK Jr parade a couple of years back, doesn’t that get us off the hook? No? Darn.

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