A discussion with an ASU research professor who studies mass shootings

This week, Austin interviews ASU research professor Sherry Towers

In February, one of the deadliest school shootings in the United States took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. 

After the shooting, some Stoneman Douglas students began campaigning for gun control legislation. It has created a large debate, with protests even reaching the Capitol building in Phoenix. 

So, what’s next for the debate over guns? Sherry Towers is a research professor at ASU who studies mass shootings. She says it’s very hard to predict, particularly in today’s political environment. 

“I think that there’s been a lot of things that have happened over the past year or two that have surprised some people, that they would not have necessarily predicted,” she said.

Towers thinks it will be interesting to see how lawmakers respond in light of the 2018 midterm elections.

Through her research, Towers is trying to understand the dynamics that underly mass killings and schools shootings.

"It's a very rich field of interesting research which, unfortunately, there's not nearly enough people looking at it," she said.

Towers is an expert in predictive and qualitative analytics, but found herself at Purdue University for a meeting on the day of a 2014 school shooting. The shooter's motive for the killing was never determined.

"It occurred to me, I wonder if there's some kind of contagion effect perhaps taking place here," she said.

Contagion is not a sickness in this case. Towers found significant evidence that mass killings involving firearms are incited by similar events in the immediate past. 

Listen to the full episode above.


Previous episodes:

After Hour: Getting to know ASU's student government presidents: the Polytechnic campus

After Hour: Getting to know ASU's student government presidents: Downtown

After Hour: Author and ASU student discusses overcoming depression


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