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Finding solutions to prevent incidents of mass violence

January 11, 2019   /   by John Hollis

George Mason University’s Christopher Koper is part of a team that has received funding from the National Science Foundation for a project designed to study mass violence in the United States.

As part of a nearly $50,000 grant from the NSF, Koper, a professor within the Department of Criminology, Law and Society within the College of Humanities and Social Sciences, will work with Carnegie Mellon University’s Daniel Nagin to take an evidence-based look at mass violence and possible ways to counter it.

The project will include a two-day workshop in April that will bring some of the nation’s premier experts to Mason’s Arlington Campus for a closer look at the root causes of mass violence, as well as effective interventions, such as improved social services. Results of the workshop’s findings will be reported during the Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy’s annual symposium on June 27, 2019, and during a congressional briefing in fall 2019. Additionally, a special issue of “Criminology & Public Policy,” a peer-reviewed academic journal dedicated to the study of criminal justice policy, will contain a number of papers from the workshop.

“Mass violence has arguably become one of the most alarming and defining crime issues of the 21st century,” Koper said. “We hope that this workshop can provide a research and policy blueprint to guide our efforts to prevent these tragedies.”

The workshop will connect a diverse group of interdisciplinary scholars and experts to review research that has been conducted on mass violence, identify gaps in research knowledge and the policy implications and develop research recommendations to address knowledge gaps and controversies in the field. Specific topics will include patterns and measurement of mass violence in the United States, motivations, settings of mass violence and weapons used, as well as policy and prevention options.

Nagin, the primary collaborator with Koper, said that it was critical to better understand this horrifying phenomenon and identify important gaps in the research that need to be filled.

“Even as the overall homicide rate continues its two-decade long decline, shooting rampages that kill scores of innocent victims are on the rise,” he said. “Effective public policy for reversing this tragic trend must be built on solid science on the causes of mass violence.”