Expert Commentary

Orlando gay nightclub shooting: Resources, research for journalists

2016 collection of academic research, statistical data and other resources to help journalists who are covering the Orlando nightclub shooting from various angles.

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Journalists across the globe are scrambling to cover the deadliest massacre in U.S. history – a shooting at a gay nightclub in Orlando that left 50 people dead and another 53 injured on June 12, 2016. News organizations are hurrying to piece together what happened before and during the massacre and to confirm whether gunman Omar Mir Seddique Mateen had ties to Islamic State. In the coming weeks and months, as investigating agencies release more details, media professionals will examine the new information from a multitude of angles to try to help the public understand the implications of this tragedy, both short term and long term.

To help with this important work, Journalist’s Resource has pulled together academic research, statistical data and other resources that reporters may find useful. Below, you’ll find research on topics such as active shooters, Latinos in the LGBT (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender) community, violence against LGBT people and blood donation restrictions on gay men. We also have included reports from the Federal Bureau of Investigation on gun background checks and a report from the Williams Institute, a think tank at UCLA’s Law School, that suggests that many LGBT individuals have had negative experiences with police.



National anti-gay sentiment


The Size of the LGBT Population and the Magnitude of Anti-Gay Sentiment are Substantially Underestimated
Coffman, Katherine B.; Coffman, Lucas C.; Ericson, Keith M. Marzilli. Working paper for the National Bureau of Economic Research, No. 19508, 2013.

Abstract: “Measuring sexual orientation, behavior, and related opinions is difficult because responses are biased towards socially acceptable answers. We test whether measurements are biased even when responses are private and anonymous and use our results to identify sexuality-related norms and how they vary. We run an experiment on 2,516 U.S. participants. Participants were randomly assigned to either a ‘best practices method’ that was computer-based and provides privacy and anonymity, or to a ‘veiled elicitation method’ that further conceals individual responses. Answers in the veiled method preclude inference about any particular individual, but can be used to accurately estimate statistics about the population. Comparing the two methods shows sexuality-related questions receive biased responses even under current best practices, and, for many questions, the bias is substantial. The veiled method increased self-reports of non-heterosexual identity by 65 percent (p<0.05) and same-sex sexual experiences by 59 percent (p<0.01). The veiled method also increased the rates of anti-gay sentiment. Respondents were 67 percent more likely to express disapproval of an openly gay manager at work (p<0.01) and 71 percent more likely to say it is okay to discriminate against lesbian, gay, or bisexual individuals (p<0.01). The results show non-heterosexuality and anti-gay sentiment are substantially underestimated in existing surveys, and the privacy afforded by current best practices is not always sufficient to eliminate bias. Finally, our results identify two social norms: it is perceived as socially undesirable both to be open about being gay, and to be unaccepting of gay individuals.”


Victimization, violence against LGBT individuals


Victimization Experiences of Lesbian, Gay, and Bisexual Individuals: A Meta-Analysis
Katz-Wise, Sabra L.; Hyde, Janet S. The Journal of Sex Research, 2012. doi: 10.1080/00224499.2011.637247.

Abstract: “This meta-analysis quantitatively compiled the results of studies from 1992 to 2009 to determine the prevalence and types of victimization experienced by lesbian, gay, and bisexual (LGB) individuals. Based on the results of three searches, 386 studies were retrieved and coded. Comparisons were made across all LGB individuals (138 studies), between LGB and heterosexual individuals (65 studies), and between LGB females and males (53 studies), with over 500,000 participants. Multiple types of victimization were coded, including discrimination, physical assault, and school victimization. Findings revealed that for LGB individuals, reports of victimization experiences were substantial (e.g., 55% experienced verbal harassment, and 41% experienced discrimination) and some types have increased since a 1992 review, while others have decreased. LGB individuals experienced greater rates of victimization than heterosexual individuals (range: d = .04–.58). LGB males experienced some types of victimization more than LGB females (e.g., weapon assault and being robbed) but, overall, the gender differences were small. It can be concluded that LGB individuals still experience a substantial amount of victimization. Implications for research methods are discussed, including recommendations for sampling and measurement of victimization.”


“Are Anti-LGBT Homicides in the United States Unique?”
Gruenewald, Jeff. Journal of Interpersonal Violence, 2012, Vol. 27. doi: 10.1177/0886260512462301.

Abstract: “An integral issue to the study of bias crimes is how violence targeting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) victims is different from other more common forms of violent crimes. Limitations in official bias crimes data have inhibited our understanding of the relative nature of anti-LGBT crimes. The purpose of this study is to examine the similarities and differences in anti-LGBT homicides and average homicides in the United States between 1990 and 2008. The current study addresses methodological issues by relying on an open-source database of anti-LGBT homicides. This study found that the nature of these homicides is both similar and significantly different from the average homicide. Implications for the ongoing bias crimes discourse are discussed.”


“Mental Health in Violent Crime Victims: Does Sexual Orientation Matter?”
Cramer, Robert J.; McNiel, Dale E.; Holley, Sarah R.; Shumway, Martha; Boccellari, Alicia. Law and Human Behavior, 2012, Vol. 36. doi: 10.1037/h0093954.

Abstract: “The present study investigates victim sexual orientation in a sample of 641 violent crime victims seeking emergency medical treatment at a public-sector hospital. Victim sexual orientation was examined as it: (a) varies by type of violent crime and demographic characteristics, (b) directly relates to psychological symptoms, and (c) moderates the relationship between victim and crime characteristics (i.e., victim gender, victim trauma history, and type of crime) and psychological symptoms (i.e., symptoms of acute stress, depression, panic, and general anxiety). Results showed that lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) victims were more likely to be victims of sexual assault. Heterosexual victims were more likely to be victims of general assault and shootings. LGBT victims demonstrated significantly higher levels of acute stress and general anxiety. Moreover, victim sexual orientation moderated the association of type of crime with experience of panic symptoms. Also, victim sexual orientation moderated the relation of victim trauma history and general anxiety symptoms. Results are discussed in relation to victimization prevalence rates, sexual prejudice theory, and assessment and treatment of violent crime victims.”


LGBT Latinos


Community Connectedness, Challenges, and Resilience Among Gay Latino Immigrants
Gray, Nicole N.; Mendelsohn, David M.; Omoto, Allen M. American Journal of Community Psychology, 2015. Doi: 10.1007/s10464-014-9697-4.

Abstract: “To date, relatively little psychological research has focused on the experiences of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) Latino/a immigrants to the United States. This qualitative study used face-to-face semi-structured interviews to explore the unique sources of stress, challenges, as well as opportunities and factors related to resilience among 13 gay Latino first- and second-generation immigrants. Iterative coding of interview transcripts revealed four key themes, each of which is illustrated with verbatim quotes: (1) feelings of connectedness to the LGBT community, (2) feelings of connectedness to the Latino/a community, (3) intersectional challenges and strategies, and (4) well-being, strength, and resilience. As suggested by these themes, gay Latino immigrants have distinct sources of stress and conflict, many of them associated with community memberships, but also draw on unique sources of support and adaptive thoughts and behaviors in facing stressors. Implications for studying risk and resilience factors among stigmatized populations, including LGBT individuals and immigrants, are discussed.”


Being Out to Others: The Relative Importance of Family Support, Identity and Religion for LGBT Latina/os
Pastrana Jr., Antonio. Latino Studies, 2015, Vol. 13. doi: 10.1057/lst.2014.69.

Abstract: “Contemporary accounts emphasize that family often plays a deleterious role in the lives of Latina/os who identify as lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT). Though there is a vast literature on the importance of family for Latina/os, little research examines how this may affect this LGBT population. Quantitative data analysis from a nationwide sample of LGBT Latina/os (N=1159) assesses the importance of family support in understanding how many people a person chooses to be ‘out’ to, or ‘outness.’ It also examines how a selection of demographic characteristics, attitudinal measures of identity and religion are related to being an out LGBT Latina/o today. Findings reveal that, when controlling for a variety of characteristics and measures, family support is the strongest, positive predictor of outness for LGBT Latina/os. Two other predictors include the belief that one’s sexual orientation is an important part of one’s identity and having a connection to the LGBT community. Interestingly, when compared to their adult counterparts, youth were not likely to be out to as many people in their lives; and being born outside of the United States was found to be a consistent, negative predictor of being out to others. The significance of these findings is discussed regarding future research and social movement organizing with LGBT Latina/o populations.”


Public policy responses


“The Impact of Mass Shootings on Gun Policy”
Luca, Michael; Malhotra, Deepak K.; Poliquin, Christopher. Harvard Business School working paper, May 2016. SSN:

Abstract: “There have been dozens of high-profile mass shootings in recent decades. This paper presents three main findings about the impact of mass shootings on gun policy. First, mass shootings evoke large policy responses. A single mass shooting leads to a 15 percent increase in the number of firearm bills introduced within a state in the year after a mass shooting. This effect increases with the number of fatalities. Second, mass shootings account for only 0.3 percent of all gun deaths, but have an outsized influence relative to other homicides. Our estimates suggest that the per-death impact of mass shootings on bills introduced is about 66 times as large as the impact of individual gun homicides in non-mass shooting incidents. Third, when looking at enacted laws, the impact of mass shootings depends on the party in power. A mass shooting increases the number of enacted laws that loosen gun restrictions by 75 percent in states with Republican-controlled legislatures. We find no significant effect of mass shootings on laws enacted when there is a Democrat-controlled legislature.”


Characteristics of perpetrators of targeted violence


The Concept of Identification in Threat Assessment
Meloy, J. R.; Mohandie, K.; Knoll, J.L.; Hoffmann, J. Behavioral Sciences and the Law, 2015, Vol. 33. doi: 10.1002/bsl.2166.

Abstract: “Identification is one of eight warning behaviors — superordinate patterns of accelerating risk — that are theorized to correlate with targeted violence, and have some empirical validation. It is characterized by one or more of five characteristics: pseudo-commando behavior, evidence of a warrior mentality, a close association with weapons or other military or law enforcement paraphernalia, wanting to imitate and often surmount previous attackers or assassins, or believing oneself to be an agent to advance a particular cause or belief system. The authors briefly explore the history of the psychology of identification, its current usage, and its application to threat assessment. Four cases are used to illustrate identification as both a process and a product, and a likely motive for targeted violence in some subjects. Its operational relevance for threat assessment is suggested.”


Firearm background checks, homicide rates


Firearm Legislation and Firearm Mortality in the U.S.A.: A Cross-sectional, State-level Study
Kalesan, Bindu; Mobily, Matthew E.; Keiser, Olivia; Fagan, Jeffrey A.; Galea, Sandro. The Lancet, 2016, Vol. 387. doi: 10.1016/S0140-6736(15)01026-0.

Background: “In an effort to reduce firearm mortality rates in the U.S.A., U.S. states have enacted a range of firearm laws to either strengthen or deregulate the existing main federal gun control law, the Brady Law. We set out to determine the independent association of different firearm laws with overall firearm mortality, homicide firearm mortality, and suicide firearm mortality across all U.S. states. We also projected the potential reduction of firearm mortality if the three most strongly associated firearm laws were enacted at the federal level.”


The Relationship Between Gun Ownership and Stranger and Nonstranger Firearm Homicide Rates in the United States, 1981–2010
Siegel, Michael; et al. American Journal of Public Health, 2014, Vol. 104. doi: 10.2105/AJPH.2014.302042.

Results: “We found no robust, statistically significant correlation between gun ownership and stranger firearm homicide rates. However, we found a positive and significant association between gun ownership and nonstranger firearm homicide rates. The incidence rate ratio for nonstranger firearm homicide rate associated with gun ownership was 1.014 (95 percent confidence interval = 1.009, 1.019).”


Active shooter incidents


A Study of Active Shooter Incidents in the United States Between 2000 and 2013
Report from the U.S. Department of Justice and Federal Bureau of Investigation, 2014.

Summary: This study examines the 160 “active shooter” incidents that occurred between 2000 and 2013. The analysis found that, among other things, nearly half occurred in a commercial environment and that active shooter incidents are on the rise.


Blood donor restrictions


“Revised Recommendations for Reducing the Risk of Human Immunodeficiency Virus Transmission by Blood and Blood Products – Questions and Answers”
Report from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, updated December 2015.

Summary: The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) makes recommendations on who should be restricted from donating their blood. The agency offers some historical context for its recommendation to put limits on men who have had sex with other men.


Blood Donor Deferral for Men who have Sex with Men: The Blood Donation Rules Opinion Study (Blood DROPS)
Custer, Brain; et al. Transfusion, 2015, Vol. 55. doi: 10.1111/trf.13247.

Summary: A study was conducted to determine whether men who have sex with other men comply with a national rule that restricts them from donating blood. “Of 3183 completed surveys, 2.6 percent of respondents (95 percent confidence interval, 2.1 percent-3.2 percent) reported donation after male–male sex.”


Other key resources


Hate crime statistics

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) tracks crime that is motivated by biases based on gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, ethnicity, religion and disability.

Firearm background checks by state

This collection of FBI reports looks at firearm background checks by year and state.

GLAAD Media Reference Guide – 9th Edition

GLAAD, an LGBT media advocacy organization, offers journalists guidance on covering LGBT issues, including hate crimes.

LGBT and the police

A 2015 report from the Williams Institute at UCLA School of Law suggests that many LGBT individuals encounter hostility and discrimination during interactions with law enforcement.

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