ASU Professor claims mass shootings are contagious

Instructors have returned to the scene of a shooting at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. Students and staff were also able to pick up items left behind during the incident.

Nine people were killed; several others were injured before police say the gunman took his own life.

What if these mass shootings were contagious like a disease? It's a theory of one ASU researcher who this summer suggested there is evidence to support this.

ASU Professor Sherry Towers led the study. One of its' goals, to look at data on mass killings; defined as killing 4 or more people, in the United States between 2006-2013.

"In recent years it's become realized that social things like ideas can be contagious like you infect someone with the idea to do something," said Professor Sherry Towers.

The study team found that the shootings incidents were bunched together in time, in an unusual way.

Some conclude that a school shooting is contagious for an average of 13 days, and can incite new incidents. What also played a major role says Towers, is the media attention of the event.

"Where they get national, or international media attention, that is playing a role of putting the ideas in the head of people who are vulnerable," said Towers.

On ASU's downtown Phoenix campus, students pondered the idea of mass shootings being contagious.

"I can see in a dark way if you see another person becoming famous that you would like, oh I should look after them," said one student.

"If you're going to go into a place and have the intent to kill a bunch of people, obviously your thought processed are not normal, I think people like that are going to do something horrible either way," said another student.

"If they can't become famous, then they would rather be infamous if they see people getting notoriety off of doing something they can get the idea, maybe I should do something like this too," said a student.