Mass shootings in the United States
There is no fixed definition of a mass shooting, but a common definition is an act of violence—excluding gang killings, domestic violence, or terrorist acts sponsored by an organization—in which a gunman kills at least four victims. Using this definition, one study found that nearly one-third of the world's public mass shootings between 1966 and 2012 (90 of 292 incidents) occurred in the United States. Using the same definition, Gun Violence Archive (external link) records 152 mass shootings in the United States between 1967 and May 2018, averaging eight fatalities per incident when the perpetrator's death is included.
The United States has had more mass shootings than any other country. The majority of perpetrators are white males who act alone, and they generally either die by suicide afterwards or are restrained or killed by law enforcement officers or civilians.
There is no fixed definition of a mass shooting in the United States. The Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012, signed into law by Congress in January 2013, defines a "mass killing" as one resulting in at least 3 victims, excluding the perpetrator. In 2015, the Congressional Research Service defined a mass shooting as "a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms, within one event, and in one or more locations in close proximity". A broader definition, as used by the Gun Violence Archive, is that of "4 or more shot or killed, not including the shooter". This definition, of four people shot regardless of whether or not that results in injury or death, is often used by the press and non-profit organizations.
Studies indicate that the rate at which public mass shootings occur has tripled since 2011. Between 1982 and 2011, a mass shooting occurred roughly once every 200 days. However, between 2011 and 2014 that rate has accelerated greatly with at least one mass shooting occurring every 64 days in the United States.
In recent years, the number of public mass shootings has increased substantially, although there has been an approximately 50% decrease in firearm homicides in the nation overall since 1993. The decrease in firearm homicides has been attributed to better policing, a better economy and environmental factors such as the removal of lead from gasoline.
A comprehensive report by USA Today tracked all mass killings from 2006 through 2017 in which the perpetrator willfully killed 4 or more people. For mass killings by firearm for instance, it found 271 incidents with a total of 1,358 victims. Mother Jones listed seven mass shootings, defined as indiscriminate rampages in public places resulting in four or more victims killed, in the U.S. for 2015. An analysis by Michael Bloomberg's gun violence prevention group, Everytown for Gun Safety, identified 110 mass shootings, defined as shootings in which at least four people were murdered with a firearm, between January 2009 and July 2014; at least 57% were related to domestic or family violence.
Other media outlets have reported that hundreds of mass shootings take place in the United States in a single calendar year, citing a crowd-funded website known as Shooting Tracker which defines a mass shooting as having four or more people injured or killed. In December 2015, The Washington Post reported that there had been 355 mass shootings in the United States so far that year. In August 2015, The Washington Post reported that the United States was averaging one mass shooting per day. An earlier report had indicated that in 2015 alone, there had been 294 mass shootings that killed or injured 1,464 people. Shooting Tracker and Mass Shooting Tracker, the two sites that the media have been citing, have been criticized for using a broader criteria – counting four victims injured as a mass shooting – thus producing much higher figures.
- Higher accessibility and ownership of guns. The US has the highest per-capita gun ownership in the world with 120.5 firearms per 100 people; the second highest is Yemen with 52.8 firearms per 100 people.
- Mental illness and its treatment (or the lack thereof) with psychiatric drugs. This is controversial. Many of the mass shooters in the U.S. suffered from mental illness, but the estimated number of mental illness cases has not increased as significantly as the number of mass shootings.
- The desire to seek revenge for a long history of being bullied.
- The widespread chronic gap between people's expectations for themselves and their actual achievement, and individualistic culture.
- Desire for fame and notoriety. Also, mass shooters learn from one another through "media contagion", that is, "the mass media coverage of them and the proliferation of social media sites that tend to glorify the shooters and downplay the victims".
- The copycat phenomenon.
- Failure of government background checks due to incomplete databases and/or staff shortages.
Several types of guns have been used in mass shootings in the United States, including rifles, handguns, and shotguns. A 2014 study of 142 shootings by Dr. James Fox found 88 (62%) were committed with handguns of all types, 68 (48%) with semi-automatic handguns, 20 (14%) with revolvers), 35 (25%) with military style semi-automatic rifles, and 19 (13%) with shotguns. The study was conducted using the Mother Jones database of mass shootings from 1982–2018. High capacity magazines were used in approximately half of mass shootings. Semi-automatic rifles such as the AR-15 or similar have been used in six of the ten deadliest mass shooting events.
Deadliest mass shootings since 1949
The following mass shootings are the deadliest to have occurred in modern U.S. history (1949 to present). Only incidents with ten or more fatalities are included.
- Was previously the deadliest mass shooting
|Incident||Year||Deaths||Injuries||Type of firearm(s) used||Ref(s)|
|1||Las Vegas shooting||2017||59 (inc. the perp.)||851 (422 from gunfire)||Semi-automatic rifles and revolver|||
|2||Orlando nightclub shooting||2016||50 (inc. the perp.)||53||Semi-automatic rifle and pistol|||
|3||Virginia Tech shooting||2007||33 (inc. the perp.)||23||Semi-automatic pistols|||
|4||Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting||2012||28 (inc. the perp.)||2||Semi-automatic rifle and pistol|||
|5||Sutherland Springs church shooting||2017||27 (inc. the perp.)[fn 1]||20||Semi-automatic rifle|||
|6||Luby's shooting||1991||24 (inc. the perp.)||27||Semi-automatic pistols|||
|7||San Ysidro McDonald's massacre||1984||22 (inc. the perp.)||19||Semi-automatic rifle, pistol, and shotgun|||
|8||University of Texas tower shooting||1966||18 (inc. the perp.)[fn 1]||31||Rifles, revolver, pistols, and shotgun|||
|9||Stoneman Douglas High School shooting||2018||17||17||Semi-automatic rifle|||
|10||San Bernardino attack||2015||16 (inc. both perps.)||24||Semi-automatic rifles|||
|11||Edmond post office shooting||1986||15 (inc. the perp.)||6||Semi-automatic pistols|||
|Columbine High School massacre||1999||15 (inc. both perps.)||24||Semi-automatic rifle, semi-automatic pistol, shotguns|||
|13||Binghamton shootings||2009||14 (inc. the perp.)||4||Semi-automatic pistols|||
|Fort Hood shooting||2009||14 [fn 1]||33 (inc. the perp.)||Semi-automatic pistol and revolver|||
|15||Camden shootings||1949||13||3||Semi-automatic pistol|||
|Wilkes-Barre shootings||1982||13||1||Semi-automatic rifle|||
|Wah Mee massacre||1983||13||1||Semi-automatic pistol(s) and/or revolver(s)[fn 2]|||
|Washington Navy Yard shooting||2013||13 (inc. the perp.)||8||Semi-automatic pistol and shotgun|||
|Thousand Oaks shooting||2018||13 (inc. the perp.)||25||Semi-automatic pistol|||
|20||Aurora shooting||2012||12||70||Semi-automatic rifle, pistol, and shotgun|||
|21||Easter Sunday massacre||1975||11||0||Semi-automatic pistols and revolver|||
|Geneva County massacre||2009||11 (inc. the perp.)||6||Semi-automatic rifles, revolver, and shotgun|||
|Pittsburgh synagogue shooting||2018||11||7 (inc. the perp.)||Semi-automatic rifle, semi-automatic pistols|||
|24||Palm Sunday massacre||1984||10||0||Semi-automatic pistols|||
|GMAC shootings||1990||10 (inc. the perp.)||6||Semi-automatic rifle|||
|Atlanta shootings||1999||10 (inc. the perp.)||13||Semi-automatic pistols and revolver|||
|Red Lake shootings||2005||10 (inc. the perp.)||5||Semi-automatic pistols and shotgun|||
|Umpqua Community College shooting||2015||10 (inc. the perp.)||8||Semi-automatic pistols and revolver|||
|Santa Fe High School shooting||2018||10||14||Shotgun and revolver|||
- Gun laws in the United States
- Gun laws in the United States by state
- Gun violence in the United States
- List of rampage killers (Americas)
- School shootings in the United States
- Spree killer
- The fatality total includes an unborn child.
- During the massacre, the perpetrators used three .22 caliber handguns of an unknown type which were never recovered by the authorities.
- "US Mass Shootings, 1982–2017: Data From Mother Jones' Investigation".
- Greenberg, Jacobson & Valverde, Jon, Louis & Miriam (February 14, 2018). "What we know about mass shootings". Politifact. Tampa Bay Times. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
As noted above, there is no widely accepted definition of mass shootings. People use either broad or restrictive definitions of mass shootings to reinforce their stance on gun control. After the 2012 Sandy Hook school shooting, Congress defined "mass killings" as three or more homicides in a single incident. The definition was intended to clarify when the U.S. Attorney General could assist state and local authorities in investigations of violent acts and shootings in places of public use.
- Christensen, Jen (October 5, 2017). "Why the US has the most mass shootings". CNN. Retrieved November 6, 2017.
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- "H.R. 2076 (112th): Investigative Assistance for Violent Crimes Act of 2012". govtrack.us. United States Congress. Retrieved February 20, 2018.
(I)the term mass killings means 3 or more killings in a single incident;
- Ingraham, Christopher (December 3, 2015). "What makes a 'mass shooting' in America". Washington Post. Retrieved November 5, 2017.
But starting in 2013, federal statutes defined "mass killing" as three or more people killed, regardless of weapons.
- Follman, Mark. "What Exactly Is A Mass Shooting". Mother Jones. Retrieved August 9, 2015.
In January 2013, a mandate for federal investigation of mass shootings authorized by President Barack Obama lowered that baseline to three or more victims killed.
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...high-capacity magazines have been used in more than half of mass shootings over four decades, according to several studies.
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Howard B. Unruh, 28 years old, a mild, soft-spoken veteran of many armored artillery battles in Italy, France, Austria, Belgium and Germany, killed twelve persons with a war souvenir Luger pistol in his home block in East Camden this morning. He wounded four others.
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He went into his apartment, uncased his German Luger P08, a 9mm pistol he’d purchased at a sporting goods store in Philadelphia for $37.50, and secured it with two clips and 33 loose cartridges.
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He had purchased equipment and materials of the kind advertised and promoted in these magazines, including a Colt AR-15 semi-automatic rifle...
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