LAST UPDATED: January 30, 2017; April 29, 2016 (originally posted on June 28, 2015) (Detailed discussion on Europe and the rest of the world can be found in Dr. Lott’s new book, The War on Guns. Some other information on Europe is available here):
After the Charleston massacre, President Obama made this comment: “the unique mayhem that gun violence afflicts upon this nation.” Of course, regarding mass public shootings, Obama doesn’t need to look any further than France, which last year suffered 532 casualties (killings and woundings) versus 396 in the US during the first seven full years of the Obama administration from 2009 through 2015.
But this isn’t a problem limited to France and the US. While most numbers look at shootings where 4 or more people have been killed, smaller attacks are very hard to track in places such as Africa or Southern Asia or parts of South America, which have murder rates 8 or 10 times higher than the rate in the US. Even some of these large mass shootings in Africa only received a couple news stories.
Our list of the worst mass public shootings collected cases where at least 15 were killed has been updated through January 15, 2017. Since 1970, all of the 20 worst mass public shootings occurred outside the US. Muslims also committed 18 of the worst 20 mass public shootings in the world. All 20 of the worst mass public shootings occurred outside the US, and that was also true for 40 of the worst 44. It is possible that we are still missing even some of these large mass public shootings prior to 2000, but any of the ones being missed are outside of the US, Canada, the Commonwealth countries, and Europe.
The FBI definition of mass public shootings excludes “shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence” or that were part of some other crime. The FBI also defines “public” places as “includ[ing] commercial areas (divided into malls, businesses open to pedestrian traffic, and businesses closed to pedestrian traffic), educational environments (divided into schools [pre-kindergarten through 12th grade] and IHEs), open spaces, government properties (divided into military and other government properties), houses of worship, and health care facilities.” A report by the New York Police Department has a very similar definition. The 33 worst mass public shootings all have at least 15 people who were shot to death.
The terrorist attacks by Al-Shabaab in Kenya, Boko Haram in Nigeria, Lashkar-e-Taiba in India, and Lashkar-e-Jhangvi in Pakistan are the same as the ISIS attacks in France. They are the same regarding the weapons used, the number of attackers, and the choice of targets. All of those countries define these as Islamic terrorist attacks, not battles over national sovereignty. Thus far the US has been lucky that the San Bernardino, Fort Hood, Chattanooga, Tennessee terrorists simply haven’t yet been on the same scale nor have any of them used the machine guns used in these attacks abroad.
Mass shootings were excluded if they were part of a war over sovereignty or ones done by the government. If one were to include these cases, the list would include many more attacks in such places as the UK, Israel, the Phillippines, and Russia. In the case of Russia, I excluded five shootings that were part of the Russian-Chechen conflict. The most deadly was the Beslan School siege of September 1, 2004, which left 385 dead and another 783 wounded. The other cases for Russia are listed at the end.
Deaths from mass public shootings where at least 15 people have been killed (1970 through January 30, 2017)
Africa, Australia, Europe, and Israel all have much higher per capita death rates from these large mass public shooters than the US. Indeed, even Europe’s rate for all countries whose borders are primarily in Europe is 65% higher than the US’s. By contrast, the per capita rates in India and Pakistan are fairly similar to that in the US. Indeed the death rate in the US is only about 7% higher than in India and Pakistan. The US makes up about 4.4% of the world of the population (322.8m/7.411b) and accounts for 4.1% of the deaths from these attacks.
The attacks have apparently been increasing over time, though part of that is the explosion in Africa from 2012 on. Since 2012, 83% of all the mass public shoot where at least 15 people have died have occurred in Africa. Prior to 2012, such attacks in Africa reportedly made up zero percent of the attacks. Given the little news coverage given to recent mass shootings in Africa, it raises the possibility that we are simply missing earlier attacks in Africa.
As the bombings in Brussels or Pakistan over the last week have illustrated, there are many ways to kill people. More people died in either of those attacks (Brussels 35 dead, Pakistan over 70) than have died in the most deadly mass public shooting in the US (32 dead).
The worst public mass shooting is as follows:
2) Borno massacre, in Konduga, Borno State, on May 7, 2014: Boko Haram Islamic militants killed at least 200 Christian villagers. Several others were injured.
5) Paris, France, November 14, 2015: Three teams of extremists carried out the coordinated gun-and-suicide bombing attacks across Paris that left 130 people dead and 352 injured, a French prosecutor said Saturday. ISIS attack.
6) Konduga, Borno State, Nigeria on February 14, 2014: Boko Haram Islamic militants killed at least 121 Christian villagers.
7) Izghe, Borno State, Nigeria, February 15, 2014: Boko Haram Islamic militants killed 105 men and 1 elderly woman
10) Utoya, Norway, July 22, 2011: Anders Behring Breivik used a gun to kill 67 people and wound 110 others. Still, others were killed by bombs that Breivik detonated.
12) Yobe State, Nigeria, February 25, 2014: 59 boys were killed by Boko Haram Islamists at the Federal Government College of Buni Yadi. The boys were separated from the girls and the young girls were told to get married at a very early age.
13) Maguindanao, Mindanao, Philippines, November 23, 2009: Andal Ampatuan, Jr. and his clan (a “leading Muslim political clan“) attacked Esmael Mangudadatu’s family members and supporters, and accompanying journalists. 57 killed (34 were journalists) and at least 4 wounded. The victims were on their way to file a certificate of candidacy for Esmael Mangudadatu, vice mayor of Buluan town, they were kidnapped and killed. The Philippines classifies this as a terrorist attack.
15) Gujba, Yobe State, Nigeria, September 29, 2013: gunmen from the Islamic group Boko Haram entered the male dormitory in the College of Agriculture and killed “as many as 50 dead.” Most of the dead were Muslim college students.
17) Karachi, Pakistan, May 13, 2015: The Islamic terrorist group called Jundallah attacked a bus full of local citizens who were on their way to work, school and shopping. The Jundallah are associated with the Pakistan Taliban. More than 45 people were killed and several dozen were wounded.
18) Mamudo, Yobe State, Nigeria, July 6, 2013: Islamic group Boko Haram killed 42 children and teachers at a boarding school.
19) Parade Lane, Rawalpindi, Pakistan, December 4, 2009: At least Muslim gunmen stormed a Mosque, killing at least 40 and wounding 80.
20) Istanbul, Turkey, January 1, 2017: Shortly after midnight at Istanbul’s Reina nightclub at least 39 killed, 68 wounded. First person killed in the attack was the police officer who was guarding the club. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
21) Sousse, Tunisia, June 26, 2015: Seifeddine Rezgui, a college student, used a gun to kill 39 people at a crowded tourist beach resort at the Imperial Marhaba Hotel. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack.
22) Kobin, Nigeria, June 23, 2014: Gunmen from the Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group group killed 38 people in an evening attack on civilians in the village.
23) Kaduna State, Nigeria, during a four-hour period starting at 10 PM on Monday, June 23, 2014: The group Boko Haram attacked civilians in two neighboring villages, killing 38 people.
25) Kabamu, Nigeria, June 23, 2014: Gunmen from the Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group killed 36 people in an evening attack on civilians in the village.
26) Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia, April 28 and 29, 1996: Martin Bryant killed 35 people and wounded another 23 at a popular tourist site, the historic Port Arthur former prison colony.
28) Blacksburg, Virginia, USA, April 16, 2007: Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and wounded 17 by gun fire at Virginia Tech University.
29) Gujarat, India, September 24 and 25 2002: Two terrorists attacked the Akshardham temple complex and killed 31 people and wounded 80 others by using automatic weapons and hand grenades
30) Hebron, Israel, February 25, 1994: Baruch Goldstein killed 29 and wounded 125 Muslim worshippers in an attack on the Cave of the Patriarchs.
31) Jammu, India, July 22, 2002: Islamic militants killed 27 Hindus and injured at least 30 others, some critically
32) Lod Airport outside Tel Aviv, Israel, May 30, 1972: three members of the Japanese Red Army attacked Lod airport (now Ben Gurion International Airport) near Tel Aviv, killing 26 people and injuring 80 others. “The operation was planned and supported by the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine.” In this case, Muslims didn’t pull the triggers, but they were involved in committing this attack. Indeed, the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine recruited the Japanese Red Army to do the attack and when a prisoner swap was eventually done it was worked out between Israel and the PFLP.
33) Ganjidori, Pakistan, September 20, 2011: The Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a Sunni extremist group, designated as a terrorist group by the Pakistan government, stopped a passenger bus carrying 45 people. Only those who were Hazaras, a group of people who are primarily Shia, were asked to step out of the bus. 26 people were killed and three were wounded.
34) Newtown, Connecticut, USA, December 14, 2012: 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 26 people at the Sandy Hook Elementary School.
35) Killeen, Texas, USA, October 16, 1991: George Hennard crashed his pickup truck into the plate glass windows of the Luby Cafeteria and then shot 23 people to death. 27 wounded.
36) Dogon-Daji, Nigeria, June 23, 2014: Gunmen from the Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group killed 21 people in an evening attack on civilians in the village.
37) San Ysidro, California, USA July 18, 1984: James Huberty shot and killed 21 people and wounded another 19 at a McDonald’s restaurant.
38) Talipao, Sulu, Philippines, July 28, 2014: 21 people killed in an attack by terrorists on a convoy traveling to a feast to mark the end of Ramadan. An unknown number of people were wounded. The attack was conducted by the Abu Sayyaf, one of the smallest and most violent jihadist groups in the southern Philippines.
39) Bamako, Mali, November 20, 2015: Siege at the Radisson hotel, a luxury hotel, in the capital Bamako that left 20 people dead
40) Uri, Baramulla district, Jammu and Kashmir, India, September 18, 2016: Four heavily armed terrorists attacked a town of Uri in the Indian state of Jammu and Kashmir. It was “the deadliest attack on security forces in Kashmir in two decades.” 19 victims and at least 30 wounded.
41) Otite, Kogi State, Nigeria, August 7, 2012: Three Islamic terrorists attacked the Deeper Life Bible Church killing 19 people and wounding an unknown number of others.
42) Erfurt, Germany, April 26, 2002: Robert Steinhäuser, a recent graduate of the Gutenberg-Gymnasium in Erfurt, Germany, killed 18 people.
43) Near Stirling, Scotland, UK, March 13, 1996: Thomas Hamilton killed 17 people at the Dunblane Primary School.
44) Rome, Italy, December 27, 1985: 16 killed and 99 injured. Abu Nidal Organization attacked the ticket counter for Israel’s El Al Airlines.
47) Hungerford, UK, August 19, 1987: Michael Robert Ryan killed 16 people, but they occurred at several locations.
48) Naidu, Nigeria, June 23, 2014: Gunmen from the Boko Haram Islamic terrorist group killed 16 people in an evening attack on civilians in the village.
49) São Gonçalo do Amarante, Natal, Brazil, May 21, 1997: Genildo Ferreira Do Francais killed 15 people in a small northern Brazilian town.
50) Winnenden, Germany, March 11, 2009: 17-year-old Tim Kretschmer 15 killed at the Winnenden School.
Other cases: Montreal, Quebec, Canada had 14 people killed and another 14 injured in a shooting at the École Polytechnique on December 6, 1989. San Bernardino, California on December 2, 2015 had 14 killed and 22 wounded in a terrorist attack at the Inland Regional Center (Islamic related). The Zug Switzerland shooting left 14 people killed on September 27, 2001. The 1966 University of Texas shooting left 14 people dead (wife and mother were killed through other means). Edmond, Oklahoma shooting at a post office left 14 people killed on August 20, 1986. Honduras, November 25, 2015: “Two massacres that killed 15 people in less than 12 hours rocked Honduras and left the country’s top cop in tears on Wednesday. Police say seven were shot in the capital of Tegucigalpa early Wednesday, while eight bus drivers were killed in the northern city of San Pedro Sula late Tuesday.”
Cases to include in the next UPDATE:
Here are some other very recent attacks that didn’t involve shootings.
Nice, France, July 14, 2016: 86 people killed by Mohamed Lahouaiej-Bouhlel, a Tunisian resident of France, who deliberately drove a 19-tonne cargo truck into crowds.
Istanbul, Turkey, December 11, 2016, at 11 PM: at twin bombings at a heavily attended soccer game at Besiktas Vodafone Arena in Istanbul that killed at least 44 people, mostly police officers, and wounded 155 others.
Berlin, Germany, December 19, 2016: A truck was deliberately driven into the Christmas market beside Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin. 12 people were killed and another 56 others injured. The perpetrator was Anis Amri, a Tunisian, who was an Islamic extremist.
UPDATE: Woo Bum-kon killed 56 people over two days in South Korea (April 26-27, 1982). It is hard to include him in the above list because there was no large number of people killed in any one single public place, but instead, he would kill one or two people in a lot of different public places. He also used grenades to kill people.
Other cases: The Zug Switzerland shooting left 14 people killed on September 27, 2001. The 1966 University of Texas shooting left 14 people dead (wife and mother were killed through other means). Edmond, Oklahoma shooting at a post office left 14 people killed on August 20, 1986.
Nigeria. Given that these were attacks by Islamic militants purely against civilians, they are classified as terrorist attacks.
Philippines. Unclear cases.
Digos, Davao Del Sur, Philippines, June 25, 1989: 39 people, many of them children, were mercilessly gunned-down by the communist New People’s Army (CPP-NPA) rebels while they were attending a Sunday mass. This appears to be a battle over sovereignty.
Israel. Given that most of these attacks were conducted by Palestinians, one could argue that these were attacks over sovereignty. Above we have only included one attack by the Red Japanese Army against Israel.
Netiv Meir School in Ma’a lot, Israel, May 15, 1974: Terrorists from the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine opened fire at an elementary school in a series of attacks that killed 25 people at the school and wounded 70 others (see also).
Solomon Islands. An interesting case since the country had a very strict gun ban. 10 people were shot to death by the Guadalcanal Liberation Front (GLF), an Islamic organization, on June 8, 2002.
In April 2002, six Melanesian Brothers, who were Christian and working with the Catholic church, murdered by the Islamic Guadalcanal Liberation Front.
November 12, 2000: four people were shot and killed by Bougainvilleans at the Gizo Hotel.
These cases were only possible to obtain because of a history of the period put together by the Solomon Islands “Truth and Reconciliation Commission” that looked at events in the islands from 1998 to 2003. Even assuming that these were the only mass public shootings over the years from 1998 through 2015, with a population that averages 490,000 over this period comes to an annual rate of deaths from mass public shootings of 2.27 per million people.
Russian cases: Besides the Beslan School siege, the other four cases all involved the Chechen wars (1995 Samashki Massacre, 2000 Novye Aidi massacre, 1999 Staropromyslovski massacre, 1999 Grozny refugee convoy). Three of these cases allegedly involved Russian police doing the killings. See “Russia Condemned for Chechnya Killings,” Human Rights Watch, October 12, 2006; “Civilian Killings in Staropromyslovski District of Grozny,” Human Rights Watch, February 1, 2000; Major Gregory Celestan, “Wounded Bear: The Ongoing Russian Military Operation in Chechnyas,” Global Security.org, August 1996; Michael Wines, “New Reports Back Claims of Attack on Chechen Refugee Convoy,” New York Times, December 5, 1999.
UPDATE: Woo Bum-kon killed 56 people a over two days in South Korea (April 26-27, 1982). It is hard to include him in the above list because there was no large number of people killed in any one single public place, but instead he would kill one or two people in a lot of different public places. He also used grenades to kill people.