Mass shootings in the United States

incidents involving multiple victims of firearm-related violence

A mass shooting is an incident of gun violence in which a gunman kills multiple victims; the United States has more mass shootings than any other country.

Deaths in US mass shootings have increased since 1982


Mass shootings are only inexplicable if we let them be. ~ Monika Bauerle, Mother Jones






  • These results indicate that fatalities due to mass shootings were lower during both the federal and state assault weapons ban periods. Although some prior research has shown either that assault weapons bans did not reduce crime or that they actually increased gun-related murder rates, the present study’s focus on mass shootings shows the effectiveness of these gun control measures in reducing murders due to mass shootings. Regarding the injury regression, state-level assault weapons bans had no statistically-significant effects, but the federal ban had a significant and negative effect on mass shooting injuries....the present study’s focus on mass shootings shows the effectiveness of these gun control measures in reducing murders due to mass shootings...In 2012, for example, there were 72 fatalities due to mass public shootings. Of those 72, at least 30 were committed using a rifle. In the same year, there were 12,765 murders, of which only 322 were committed using a rifle. Rifles (assault weapons) are used much more frequently in mass shootings than they are in murders in general. Hence, any law that restricts access to rifles is likely to be much more effective in reducing mass shootings than it is in reducing murders in general.


  • By now, the pattern of public response is tragically familiar. Cable news covers the atrocities around the clock. Victims’ relatives and political leaders express horror, outrage, and resolve. Editorials call for new laws to limit access to the tools of mass murder. Gun rights advocates respond that the answer lies in getting more guns into the right hands, not in gun bans that will prove ineffectual in a nation that already boasts approximately 300 million guns, or eighty-eight for every hundred people....
    A few isolated states may strengthen their gun laws, but at least an equal number will do the opposite.
  • Recent research done by Everytown for Gun Safety has found that of the mass shootings in the United States between 2009 and 2015, 57 percent included victims who were a family member, spouse, or former spouse of the shooter. Sixteen percent of attackers had been previously charged with domestic violence. A recent piece in the New York Times suggested that the impulse toward domestic, gendered violence may be the thing that draws a few terrorists toward the Islamic State, since ISIS’s practices include sexual slavery and a fidelity to traditional gender norms as recruiting tools for young men.
    But that doesn’t make any religion — whether it’s Mohamed Lahouaiej Bouhlel’s Islam or Robert Lewis Dear’s evangelical Christianity — the defining factor in mass shootings. Perhaps these disturbed men — and 98 percent of mass killers are men — are drawn to the patriarchal traditions upheld by some religions to make sense of or justify their anger and resentment toward women. But we might do better to examine the patterns of violence toward women themselves.
  • What do James Holmes, Adam Lanza, and Omar Mateen have in common? Besides being the perpetrators of three of the deadliest mass shootings in U.S. history, they all share a preference for the AR-15 assault rifle. The AR-15 assault rifle was used at the Aurora, Colo. shooting, the Newtown, Conn. shooting, and now the mass shooting in Orlando, Fla. that killed 50 and is officially the deadliest such massacre in U.S. history...While Colt alone makes the official AR-15, variants and knock-offs are made by a huge number of gun manufactures, including Bushmaster, Les Baer, Remington, Smith & Wesson (swhc, +0.00%), and Sturm & Ruger (rgr, -2.04%), just to name a few. TacticalRetailer claims that from 2000 to 2015 the AR manufacturing sector expanded from 29 AR makers to about 500, “a stunning 1,700% increase.”
  • So why is the AR-15 so appealing to mass shooters?
    To answer that question, it’s best to look at why the AR-15 is so popular in general...
    Essentially, the AR-15 is a versatile civilian-grade firearm that boasts ease of use, sheer firepower, and a certain cultural and aesthetic cache...
    Relatively inexpensive, readily available, highly customizable, and easily modified (whether legally or into a fully automatic weapon), the reasons for the AR-15’s popularity are apparent.


  • For full disclosure, I own 12 guns and have always been an avid wapiti hunter. But I have also experienced the Columbine School and Aurora Theater shootings and I do not own an AR-15.

    An astounding fact is that gun homicide rates in the United States are 25 times higher than any other high-income country in the world. The objective of this Committee on Trauma survey was to identify areas of consensus to develop action plans.

    Although laudable, this process carries a risk of merely supporting the bandwagons already in motion. In that light, I would like to focus on the conspicuous area of disagreement, specifically, civilian access to assault rifles. These weapons are designed to permit the shooter to deliver sequentially, as fast as the trigger can be pulled, life-threatening moderate energy missiles, resulting in multiple deaths at short distance over a short time period.

    The debate is not about ammunition. These same bullets are used for small game hunting, but at a longer distance. The fundamental issue is the magazine capacity of rifles, housing 30 or more bullets, enabling rapid shooting. Mass shootings, defined as greater than or equal to five victims, are currently an epidemic in our country, reported as literally occurring every week. The volatile issue in controlling gun violence is eliminating assault rifles to reduce mass shootings and fundamentally distills into the interpretation of the Second Amendment "to keep and bear Arms." I do not believe a randomized, prospective trial is necessary to establish the fact that mass shootings are only feasible because irresponsible individuals have access to these weapons, designed by the military to accomplish this mission.

  • No outer trauma or inner demon can justify the worst mass killing in northeast Pennsylvania — one of the deadliest sprees of violence in American history.
    Banks sits alone in his cell at the State Correctional Institution at Graterford for days at a time, occupied by the fantasies and delusions that have played in his psyche since before the Sept. 25, 1982, shooting spree that left 13 people dead in Wilkes Barre and Jenkins Township, including five of his own children....
    Banks wore military-style fatigues and a T-shirt that read, “Kill ‘em all and let God sort ‘em out,” as he used an M-16 rifle and an AR-15 automatic rifle to end the lives of girlfriends Regina Clemens, 29, Dorothy Lyons, 29, Sharon Mazzillo, 24, and Susan Yuhas, 23; sons Kissmayu, 5, Boende, 4, and Forarode, 1; daughters Montanzima, 6, and Maritanya, 1; and four others: Lyons’ daughter, Nancy, 11; Mazzillo’s nephew, Scott, 7, and mother, Alice, 47; and Raymond Hall, 24, a guest at a party across the street from the Schoolhouse Lane crime scene.
  • While nearly anything, including human hands, may be used to kill, the gun is created for the specific purpose of killing a living creature.
    Gun-love can be akin to non-chemical addictions like gambling or hoarding, either of which can have devastating effects, mainly economic, but murder, suicide, accidental death, and mass shootings result only from guns....
    Although each of these mass killings is idiosyncratic, they often share many features, including but not limited to the most obvious, which bears repeating – their use of guns....
    Indeed, the history of public mass shootings by a lone gunman killing or wounding strangers parallels the rise of the gun rights movement and the United States’ ramped-up militarism, suggesting that it is not only the sheer number of guns in the hands of private citizens or the lack of regulation and licensing, but also a gun culture at work, along with a military culture, a more difficult matter to resolve than imposing regulations on firearms.
  • Here is a look at other shooting sprees in the U.S.:
    * June 12, 2016: Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, kills 49 people and wounds 58 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando that was hosting a Latin night. Mateen was killed by police. It was the deadliest terror attack in the U.S. since 9/11, and at the time was the worst mass shooting in the nation by a single gunman.
    * April 16, 2007: Seung Hui Cho, a 23-year-old student, went on a shooting spree at Virginia Tech in Blacksburg, Va., killing 32 people, before killing himself.
    * Dec. 14, 2012: Adam Lanza, 20, gunned down 20 children and six adults at Sandy Hook Elementary School before killing himself.
    * Oct. 16, 1991: George Hennard, 35, crashed his pickup through the wall of Luby's Cafeteria in Killeen, Texas. He shot and killed 23 people before committing suicide.
    * July 18, 1984: James Huberty, 41, gunned down 21 adults and children at a McDonald's in San Ysidro, Calif., before being killed by police.
    * Aug. 1, 1966: Charles Joseph Whitman, a former U.S. Marine, shot and killed 16 people from a university tower at the University of Texas in Austin before being shot by police.
    * Aug. 20, 1986: A part-time mail carrier, Patrick Henry Sherrill, shot and killed 14 postal workers in Edmund, Okla., before killing himself.
    * Dec. 2, 2015: Syed Farook and Tashfeen Malik, a married couple living in Redlands, Calif., opened fire at a San Bernardino County Department of Public Health training event and holiday party, killing 14 people and injuring 22 in a matter of minutes. Farook, an American-born U.S. citizen of Pakistani descent, worked at the health department. Malik had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State in a Facebook post before the shooting.
    * Nov. 5, 2009: U.S. Army Maj. Nidal Hasan fatally shot 13 people and injured 30 others at Fort Hood near Killeen, Texas. Hasan, a psychiatrist, appeared to have been radicalized by an Islamic cleric. He was convicted and sentenced to death.
    * Sept. 16, 2013: Gunman Aaron Alexis, 34, fatally shot 12 people and injured three others at the headquarters of the Naval Sea Systems Command in Washington, D.C. He was later killed by police.
    * July 20, 2012: James Holmes gunned down 12 people in an Aurora, Colo., movie theater. Last year he was convicted of first-degree murder and attempted murder and sentenced to 12 consecutive life sentences plus 3,318 years without parole.
    * Oct. 1, 2015: Christopher Harper-Mercer, a 26-year-old student at Umpqua Community College near Roseburg, Ore., shot an assistant professor and eight students in a classroom. After a shootout with police, he committed suicide.
    * June 18, 2015: A gunman opened fire at a weekly Bible study at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in Charleston, S.C. Nine people were killed, including the pastor Clementa Pinckney; a 10th victim survived. The morning after the attack police arrested a suspect, Dylann Roof, 21, who said he wanted to start a race war. In December 2016 Roof was convicted of 33 federal hate crimes charges, and in January he was sentenced to death.
    * July 16, 2015: Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on two military installations in Chattanooga, Tenn. The first was a drive-by shooting at a recruiting center; the second was at a U.S. Navy Reserve center. Four Marines and a Navy sailor died; a Marine recruit officer and a police officer were wounded. Abdulazeez was killed by police in a gunfight.
    * Nov. 27, 2015: A gunman attacked a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado Springs, Colo., killing a police officer and two civilians and injuring nine others. Robert Lewis Dear was taken into custody after a five-hour standoff and charged with first-degree murder.
  • These are the things you can count on like clockwork after each of the mass murders that have become a grimly familiar American trope: The National Rifle Association’s Twitter account goes silent. The Onion’s painfully on-point satire, “‘No Way to Prevent This,’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens,” makes the rounds again. And there’s a chorus of outrage against “politicizing the tragedy.”... Perhaps the single most terrifying thing we’ve discovered in five years of in-depth reporting on gun violence is how little is actually known about what is now an undeniable public health crisis. This ignorance is not happenstance. It is willful and politically motivated, the direct result of concerted efforts to suppress research and reporting on this topic. And it deprives all of us of the information we need to stop these tragedies and save lives...
  • Mass shootings are only “inexplicable” if we let them be... Surely, there must be data out there somewhere. We’d go find it... No one in academia, media, or government had compiled a basic study of how often someone heads to a public place with a gun and murders strangers. Nor had anyone investigated the context to these killings: How did shooters get their weapons? What kind did they use? How many had symptoms of mental illness or psychopathy? We also found out the reason... Much like the tobacco industry in its day, the gun lobby sees data as its enemy. Thanks to gun industry advocates in Congress, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have been prohibited from using government funds to investigate gun violence since 1996.... We spent two years working with outside researchers to discover the staggering total (cost of gun violence in the U.S.): $229 billion, more than $700 for every American. Per year.
    ..The more we, as a society, confront the facts on this issue, the more reaction after tragedies... can shift from wonderment about “inexplicable” violence to insight and action. Mass shootings are only inexplicable if we let them be.
  • Because an AR-15, or a variant, was reportedly used in several mass shootings — including Aurora, Colorado; Newtown, Connecticut; San Bernardino,California; Sutherland Springs, Texas; Las Vegas and Parkland, Florida, in which a total of 154 people were killed — this civilian sibling of a military assault rifle is an exceptionally polarizing product of modern American industry. The AR-15 and its semiautomatic cousins — they shoot one round for each pull of the trigger ─ incite repulsion among those who see them as excessive, grotesque and having no place on the civilian market.
    It is the focus of multiple attempts at prohibition, which in turn has prompted people to run out and buy more. Such “panic buying” drove sales of AR-15s to record levels during the presidency of Barack Obama and the 2016 presidential campaign.


  • Turn on your television right now. You're going to see scenes of children running for their lives. What looks to be the nineteenth school shooting in this country, and we have not even hit March ... This happens nowhere else other than the United States of America. This epidemic of mass slaughter, this scourge of school shooting after school shooting, it only happens here not because of coincidence, not because of bad luck, but as a consequence of our inaction. We are responsible for a level of mass atrocity that happens in this country with zero parallel anywhere else.
  • The AR-15, the civilian version of the military assault rifle (M16 or M4), has become the most commonly used rifle in US mass shootings; the recent shootings in Parkland and Las Vegas, for instance, testify to the effectiveness of this weapon’s design. It was made for the military, to allow members of the armed forces to better dispatch multiple enemies in short order; in the hands of civilians, it not only clearly serves the same purpose for some individuals, but it’s unclear what other purpose it could serve, given how and why it was made.
    ...a typical 9mm handgun wound to the liver will produce a pathway of tissue destruction in the order of 1-2 inches. In comparison, an AR-15 round to the liver will literally pulverize it, much like dropping a watermelon onto concrete results in the destruction of the watermelon. Wounds like this, as one sees in school shootings like Sandy Hook and Parkland where AR-15s were used, have high fatality rates....
    The efficiency of the AR-15 is further compounded by large capacity ammunition magazines that permit feeding 30 or more bullets into the rifle without reloading.
    Mass shootings with high fatalities are fundamentally the result of the combination of a deranged individual who wants to end the lives of a large number of random humans and his or her ability to access an assault rifle.
  • On the civilian market, the AR-15 didn’t sell terribly well for years, in part because of its connection with the Vietnam conflict, which was no one’s idea of a model of American greatness. Many gun enthusiasts didn’t like the AR-15 because it was so light; some dismissed it as feeling like a toy.
    But the AR-15 found new life in 2004 when President George W. Bush allowed the ban on assault weapons that had been enacted under President Bill Clinton in 1994 to die.
    And in 2005, Bush signed into law a measure protecting arms makers and dealers from liability for crimes committed with their products. The NRA called it “the most significant piece of pro-gun legislation in twenty years.”
    AR-15s flew off the shelves. Sales spiked again during the Obama administration, when the country suffered a flurry of mass shootings, which in turn led to calls by Democrats to reinstate the ban on assault weapons. Persistent campaigns by the NRA and many Republican supporters of gun rights spread the idea that President Barack Obama intended to ban and confiscate Americans’ firearms, leading to a massive surge in sales. Obama never launched any such initiative.
  • Even though it’s illegal for the CDC to study gun violence and how to prevent it, there are still some data. One fact is that the AR-15 has emerged as a gun of choice for mass shootings—used in Parkland this week as well as Las Vegas, Sandy Hook, Orlando, and many other places now synonymous with tragedy. Meanwhile, in Kansas, a Republican congressional candidate is giving away an AR-15 as part of his campaign.
    Unlike pornography, the AR-15 was not a product designed for pleasure or fantasy, but for maximizing harm, a triumph of “wound ballistics.”
  • Stocks were up Thursday for American Outdoor Brands, the company that makes the AR-15 rifle used in the Florida school shooting that claimed 17 lives.
    The company’s shares closed up 1.49%, netting the company an additional $8.8 million on the day.
    The Associated Press reported that accused gunman Nikolas Cruz used a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle – a variant of the AR-15 – during his allegedly shooting spree at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on Wednesday.
    Smith & Wesson, which was founded in 1852, is a Springfield, Mass.-based holding of American Outdoor Brands....
    Shares of American Outdoor Brands closed 5.6% higher on Wednesday, the day of the shooting. It’s not uncommon for gun maker shares to rise following a mass shooting as people are likely to stock up fearing potential gun control measures.
    This is the third time an M&P15 has been used in a mass shooting in the United States.
    James E. Holmes, who was convicted of killing 12 and wounding 70 in the 2012 Aurora, Colorado movie theater shooting, used a Smith & Wesson M&P15 rifle. An illegally modified Smith & Wesson M&P15 Sport rifle was recovered by law enforcement officials after the 2015 San Bernardino shooting, where 14 people were killed.
  • Indeed, the AR-15 is also inextricably linked to tragedy. Mass shootings are central to the gun’s narrative, and its popularity....
    It is unclear when and how the rifle worked its way into the United States’ lexicon of violent crimes. In 1982, George E. Banks shot to death 13 people with the weapon, and in 1997, an AR-15, among other semiautomatic military-style rifles, was used in the North Hollywood shootout, a daytime robbery in California that devolved into a nearly hourlong firefight and was televised live across the country. During the gun battle, police officers were forced to run to a local gun store and take rifles to try to contend with the robbers’ firepower and body armor. Afterward, police departments around the country started making AR-15s standard issue for officers.
  • Parkland, Florida.
    Las Vegas, Nevada.
    Sutherland Springs, Texas.
    Now, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Recent deadly mass shootings in these US cities have at least one thing in common: the AR-15....
    This weapon has become increasingly popular in the US, especially since the 1994 federal weapons ban expired in 2004, and has been used in many other mass shootings around the country. Not just the three listed above.
    To understand how and why this has happened, we put together a historical overview of the weapon and spoke with David Chipman, a senior policy analyst at Giffords and former special agent with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives....
    Chipman said that he believes AR-15s have been so frequently used in mass shootings for two reasons: popularity and lethality.
    "It's a two-fold thing: the AR-15 is like the 4-door sedan of assault rifles," Chipman said. "It was America's weapon ... there's an Americana aspect."
    But so many mass shootings become mass shootings "because the AR-15 was used," he said, adding that the damage the weapon does to the human body pales in comparison to a handgun.
    "I've talked to ER physicians," Chipman said. "Rifle rounds are so devastating to the human body."
  • To get a perspective on how an AR-15 bullet differs from a 9-millimeter bullet, the 60 Minutes team spoke to Don Deyo, a former paramedic and Green Beret who witnessed mass casualties up close on the battlefield. He demonstrated the difference in bullets by shooting rounds into a cut of pork that's similar in size to an average adult human thigh. At first glance, the two rounds looked similar, both leaving an entry wound that's nothing more than a tiny hole in the flesh.
    But flip the pork over, and the difference is stunning. The 9-millimeter exit wound was small, without much damage to the surrounding area. The AR-15 exit wound left an enormous, gaping hole and shattered the surrounding bone. Those bone fragments, Deyo explained, become projectiles that create further tissue damage....
    After an AR-15 style rifle bullet blasts a large cavity through soft tissue, blood pressure then pumps that cavity with blood, causing many victims of AR-15 shots to bleed out before rescue workers can reach them.
  • Domestic and family violence is a driving factor in mass shootings
    The majority of mass shootings in the U.S. are related to domestic or family violence. In at least 54 percent of mass shootings (94 incidents), the perpetrator also shot a current or former intimate partner or family member. Between 2009 and 2017, at least 491 people were shot and killed as a result of mass shootings related to domestic or family violence.
    When American children die by gun homicide, they often die in incidents connected to domestic or family violence.40 Mass shootings are no exception—86 percent of the 224 children killed in mass shootings in the past nine years have died in an incident connected to domestic or family violence....
    The connection between mass shootings and domestic violence may be explained, in part, by the role guns play in domestic violence generally.


  • Mass-shooting related homicides in the United States were reduced during the years of the federal assault weapons ban of 1994 to 2004....
    Recently, 75% of members of the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma endorsed restrictions to “civilian access to assault rifles (magazine fed, semiautomatic, i.e., AR-15),” and 76% of the Board of Governors were in favor of a limit to “… civilian access to ammunition designed for military or law enforcement use (that is, armor piercing, large magazine capacity).” In 2015, the American College of Surgeons joined seven of the largest most prestigious professional health organizations in the United States and the American Bar Association to call for “restricting the manufacture and sale of military-style assault weapons and large-capacity magazines for civilian use.” This analysis adds evidence to support these recommendations....
    Our results add to the documentation that mass shooting–related homicides are indeed increasing, most rapidly in the postban period, and that these incidents are frequently associated with weapons characterized as assault rifles by the language of the 1994 AWB.
    ...taken in the context of the increase in mass shootings in the United States, these results support the conclusion that the federal AWB of 1994 to 2004 was effective in reducing mass shooting–related homicides in the United States, and we believe our results support a re-institution of the 1994 federal assault weapons ban as a way to prevent and control mass shooting fatalities in the United States.
  • Since December 2015, there have been 10 incidents that killed 10 or more people. That’s more than there was in 30 years between 1982 and 2011. And five of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern American history have all happened in the last five years.


  • Despite hundreds of mass shootings unfolding in America every year, Congress has repeatedly failed to pass major gun-control legislation. The hurdles to enacting stricter gun laws in the US are numerous and significant, but activists say they will not give up until change is made... This year, 213 mass shootings, defined as incidents in which at least four people were shot or killed, have already occurred in America, according to the Gun Violence Archive. In 2021, 692 mass shootings were recorded, in comparison to 610 over the course of 2020.
    • Why can’t America do anything to stop mass shootings?, Joan E Greve, The Guardian, 25 May 2022
  • There is one thing that not enough people are saying: Just because this is happening again, and again, doesn’t mean it will forever. I know that’s a hard thought to hold on to right now, amid all the familiar responses that add up to nothing—the shock, the public prayers, the speeches. But change so often seems impossible up until it happens. It’s only been 18 years since assault weapons were made legal (again) all over the country, and 14 years since the Supreme Court ruled that the Constitution protects an individual right to bear arms. It may take decades until America (like Australia) takes action to protect children and others from high-powered weapons. But it took hundreds of years to end chattel slavery, for women to gain the right to vote, for people to be able to marry whom they love. So this is a time to keep our eye on that longer arc of history, and not get lost in the despair of the moment.

See also