Mark Follman

Mark Follman

Senior Editor

Mark Follman is a senior editor at Mother Jones. He is a former editor of Salon and a cofounder of the MediaBugs project. His reporting and commentary have also appeared in Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, the Los Angeles Times, USA Today, and on Fox News, MSNBC, and NPR's All Things Considered. Since 2012, his in-depth investigations into mass shootings, child gun deaths, and other issues of gun violence have been honored with multiple journalism awards.

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7 Highlights You Missed From the Romney Video

| Thu Sep. 20, 2012 2:23 PM EDT
Romney speaking in Los Angeles on September 17

By now you've probably heard about the secret video we published exposing a bunch of real talk from Mitt Romney as he dined with rich Republican donors. But the hour-plus footage, which left the Romney campaign reeling and provoked a full-blown eruption of "chaos on Bullshit Mountain," is a real embarrassment of riches, as it were. Here are some telling moments that you may not have seen yet from Romney's unvarnished Q&A behind closed doors at the $50,000-per-plate fundraiser in Boca Raton on May 17:

  • Mocking immigration in the United States: "I'd like to staple a green card to every Ph.D. in the world and say, 'Come to America, we want you here.' Instead, we make it hard for people who get educated here or elsewhere to make this their home. Unless, of course, you have no skill or experience, in which case you're welcome to cross the border and stay here for the rest of your life."
  • Pondering how he'd exploit a pre-election foreign policy crisis: "…in the Jimmy Carter election, the fact that we have hostages in Iran, I mean, that was all we talked about. And we had the two helicopters crash in the desert, I mean that's—that was—that was the focus, and so [Reagan] solving that made all the difference in the world. I'm afraid today if you said, 'We got Iran to agree to stand down a nuclear weapon,' they'd go hold on. It's really a, but…by the way, if something of that nature presents itself, I will work to find a way to take advantage of the opportunity."
  • Falsely claiming that the Fed is buying "three-quarters" of America's debt: "Yeah, it's interesting…the former head of Goldman Sachs, John Whitehead, was also the former head of the New York Federal Reserve. And I met with him, and he said as soon as the Fed stops buying all the debt that we're issuing—which they've been doing, the Fed's buying like three-quarters of the debt that America issues. He said, once that's over, he said we're going to have a failed Treasury auction, interest rates are going to have to go up."
  • Predicting easy dividends from his anticipated election victory: "…if we win on November 6th there will be a great deal of optimism about the future of this country. We'll see capital come back, and we'll see—without actually doing anything—we'll actually get a boost in the economy."
  • Cracking jokes about Latino voters and Elizabeth Warren: "And had [my dad] been born of Mexican parents, I'd have a better shot of winning this…[Donor: "Pull an Elizabeth Warren!"]…That's right I could go out and say—for those who don't know Elizabeth Warren, she is the woman who's running for US Senate in Massachusetts who says that she is Cherokee…"
  • Making enemies on the late-night talk show circuit: "I've done the night, the evening shows. I've been on Letterman a couple of times. I've been on Leno more than a couple times, and now Letterman hates me because I've been on Leno more than him." (Untrue, says Dave.)
  • Joking about media strategy and his reputation as a "rich, rich guy": "You know that I'm as poor as a church mouse."

The GOP candidate's biggest moments, which we first exposed in our exclusive coverage:

  • On the 47 percent of Americans he regards as moochers: "There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe that government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you name it."
  • On the "almost unthinkable" prospects for Mideast peace: "And I look at the Palestinians not wanting to see peace anyway, for political purposes, committed to the destruction and elimination of Israel, and these thorny issues, and I say there's just no way."

Romney's closing line that night, with regard to campaigning and fundraising, seemed fitting. It was a veritable let-us-eat-cake moment: "One of the benefits I get is eating the world's best dessert, which I will. [Audience laughs.] Thank you. [Applause.]"

Read the full transcript here, and watch the full video here.

Update: As several readers have pointed out, also noteworthy was Romney recounting the time he traveled with Bain Capital to buy a factory in China that employed "about 20,000" young women.

What Exactly Is a Mass Shooting?

| Fri Aug. 24, 2012 5:17 PM EDT

Update, December 16, 2012: In the wake of the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, a story from the Associated Press suggested that mass shootings have not increased in the United States in recent years. But the AP cited research that uses broader criteria than the criteria we used for our investigation, which found an increase. Here is our approach, explained:

What is a mass shooting?
Broadly speaking, the term refers to an incident involving multiple victims of gun violence. But there is no official set of criteria or definition for a mass shooting, according to criminology experts and FBI officials who have spoken with Mother Jones.

Generally, there are three terms you'll see to describe a perpetrator of this type of gun violence: mass murderer, spree killer, or serial killer. An FBI crime classification report from 2005 identifies an individual as a mass murderer if he kills four or more people in a single incident (not including himself), typically in a single location. (The baseline of four fatalities is key—more on that just below.)

The primary distinction between a mass murderer and a spree killer, according to the FBI, is that the latter strikes in multiple locations, though still in a relatively short time frame. The third type, a serial killer, is distinguished by striking over a longer time frame, in multiple locations, with opportunity for what the FBI report refers to as "cooling-off periods" in between attacks.

How often do mass shootings occur? 
Beginning in July, after the movie theater slaughter in Aurora, Colorado, we documented and analyzed 62 mass shootings from the last 30 years. As we delved into the research, we realized that robust data on this subject was hard to come by, in part due to the lack of clear criteria. We were focused on the question of how many times Aurora-like events had actually happened. We honed our criteria accordingly:

  • The attack must have occurred essentially in a single incident, in a public place;
  • We excluded crimes of armed robbery, gang violence, or domestic violence in a home, focusing on cases in which the motive appeared to be indiscriminate mass murder;
  • The killer, in accordance with the FBI criterion, had to have taken the lives of at least four people.

The traumatic events included in our guide to mass shootings are the kind that tend to grab national attention—school and workplace shootings, attacks in shopping malls or government buildings—but they represent only a sliver of America's gun violence, which results in approximately 30,000 deaths annually.

Since the 1980s, the baseline of four fatalities has generally been used for studying mass murder, according to Professor James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, who has written multiple books on the subject. But as Fox agreed when we spoke, while that number may seem to make some sense intuitively, there is nonetheless something coldly arbitrary about it. Was it not a "mass shooting" in 2008, for example, when a man walked into a church in Tennessee and opened fire with a shotgun, killing two and injuring seven? Dropping the number of fatalities by just one, or including motives of armed robbery, gang violence, or domestic violence, would add many, many more cases to the list.

According to a recent report in Time magazine (available only to subscribers, and whose criteria is unclear), there've been "nearly 20 mass shootings" every year on average during the last three and a half decades.

Why didn't you include the infamous DC Beltway sniper attacks on your mass shootings map?
We've been asked this question numerous times. The man who killed 10 and wounded 3 others a decade ago (along with a young accomplice) was a serial killer: He committed multiple attacks over several weeks, in different locations. It was a particularly tense time for people living in the DC metro area—the shooter "terrorized our neighborhood," as one person wrote to me in an email—but the case did not fit the criteria described above.

Is Mother Jones focusing on this stuff as part of a conspiracy to take away Americans' gun rights?
No. One of our lead reporters on this beat, Adam Weinstein, who covered the Trayvon Martin killing and investigated how the National Rifle Association helped spread "Stand Your Ground" laws nationwide, is a Navy veteran and third-generation gun owner. We're happy for him to hang onto his guns. Multiple other Mother Jones staffers are experienced with guns.

The debate over guns in the United States is extremely contentious and polarizing, and we think that the more reporting and clear data there is available about guns, the better. That mass shootings keep happening is an undeniable fact. Why they do, and how to stop them, is a matter for further investigation.

Update, January 8, 2013: Where can I learn more about MoJo's investigation?
See our recently published America Under the Gun: a Special Report on gun laws and the rise of mass shootings, which contains interactive maps, charts, and dozens of stories from over the last year.

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