James Alan Fox, a longtime Northeastern professor, is the record-keeper of American mass murder.
It is because of his daily efforts to scour and synthesize police and media reports that we know 2,944 people have died in 567 mass killings since 2006. That was before a man shot and killed at least 16 people at a restaurant and a bowling alley in Lewiston, Maine, on Wednesday night. Fox presides over the Associated Press/USA TODAY/Northeastern University Mass Killings Database, the longest-running and most extensive data source on the subject.
For all it does to deepen understanding of American gun violence, the award-winning database serves as merely the chalk outline of a four-decade career that has partnered Fox with a U.S. president, an array of law enforcement investigators and TV shows of all kinds. Fox’s predilection for the worst crimes can be traced back to an exploratory question raised in the late 1970s by his close friend and Northeastern colleague Jack Levin.