“But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn’t happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close. And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal.” –President Obama, announcing his new executive orders on guns, January 7, 2016 (Emphasis added.)
This claim is simply not true. Between January 2009 and December 2015, the period that President Obama has been in office, there are 11 European countries with a higher frequency of these mass public shootings than the US, and 10 European countries with a higher rate of deaths from these attacks.
Indeed, over that same period of time, the European Union (EU) suffered 303 deaths from mass public shootings, while the US had 199. In terms of injuries from these attacks the gap was even much greater, with EU countries facing 680 versus just 197 for the US. However, given the EU’s larger population, the per million people fatality rate for the US and the EU as a whole are virtually identical (0.62 for the US and 0.60 for the EU). By contrast, the injury rate in the EU is much higher (0.61 for the US and 1.34 for the EU).
This past year was a particularly bad one for Europe, with 8 Mass Public Shootings versus only 4 for the United States. Indeed, these 8 Mass Public Shootings for Europe in 2015 count for one-third of all their attacks over the entire seven year period of time. These attacks have dramatically worsened the rankings for European countries in terms of both the rate fatalities and their frequency of attacks. Compared to our last ranking of the US and Europe in June 2015, the US has dropped from 8th to 11th in terms of per capita fatalities from Mass Public Shootings and from 9th to 12th in terms of the frequency of these attacks.
Mass public shootings – defined as four or more people killed in a public place, and not in the course of committing another crime, and not involving struggles over sovereignty. The focus on excluding shootings that do not involve other crimes (e.g., gang fights or robberies) has been used from the original research by Lott and Landes to more recently the FBI) from 2009 to December 31, 2015 (this matches the starting period for another recent study we did on US shootings and we chose that because that was the starting point that Bloomberg’s group had picked). The cases were complied doing a news search. The starting year was picked simply because it matched a report the time frame from a recent Bloomberg report and when we evaluated that report it was the last year we looked at Mass Public Shootings in the US starting in 2009.
Even if one puts it in terms of frequency, the president’s statement is still false, with the US ranking 12th compared to European countries.
Click on tables to enlarge them.
The CPRC has also collected data on the worst mass public shootings, those cases where at least 15 people were killed in the attack.
UPDATE: We limited our discussion to the Obama administration simply out of convenience and the difficulty in going through foreign language media. Not all mass public shootings in foreign countries get news coverage in English papers. Still some claim that Mass Public Shootings simply didn’t occur in Europe before 2009. So here are some of the mass pubic shootings for four European countries from 2001 to 2008. This list is not meant to be exhaustive for these four countries.
Zug, Switzerland, Sept. 27, 2001: A man whose lawsuits had been denied murdered 14 members of a cantonal parliament.
Tours, France, Oct. 29, 2001: Four people were killed and ten wounded when a French railway worker started shooting at a busy intersection.
Nanterre, France, March 27, 2002: A man killed eight city-council members after a council meeting.
Erfurt, Germany, April 26, 2002: A former student killed 18 at a secondary school.
Freising, Germany, Feb. 19, 2002: Three people killed and one wounded.
Emsdetten, Germany, Nov. 20, 2006: A former student murdered eleven people at a high school.
Tuusula, Finland, Nov. 7, 2007: Seven students and the principal killed at a high school.
Kauhajoki, Finland, Sept. 23, 2008: Ten people shot to death at a college.