Updated information on Mass Public Shootings from 1998 through October 2023

Jan 12, 2024 | Mass Public Shootings, Original Research

When another shooting happens at a place such as a school or a mall, politicians and the media are apt to claim that many hundreds of mass shootings occur each year. “Over the last year since Uvalde, our country has experienced a staggering 650 mass shootings,” President Joe Biden claimed last year. After a shooting in Lewiston, Maine in late October, CNN said that there had already been “586 mass shootings” that year.

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These statements give an incorrect impression that there are massacres every day, like the infamous 2022 Uvalde shooting, which claimed the lives of nineteen students and two teachers, or the one in Lewiston, which claimed eighteen lives. 

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The numbers cited by Biden and CNN come from the Gun Violence Archive, which broadly defines mass shootings to include any case with four or more people shot or injured. The injuries could occur in the course of running away, and not from actually being shot. However, the GVA has also included cases with only three injured people (e.g., a July 22, 2023 attack at a residence at 10700 Rosehaven Dr, Houston, Texas). It is also useful to note that the GVA is a gun control group. Mark Bryant, who runs the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), lobbied the CDC to remove data on defensive gun uses from their website on the rate of defensive gun uses because that information “has been used so often to stop [gun control] legislation.”

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There is a reason that Uvalde got the news coverage it did, and you don’t hear about these other 600 cases. What makes these attacks newsworthy is that the shooter tries to kill as many people as possible in a public place. The FBI active shooting reports concentrate on shootings that occur in public and do not involve some other crime such as robbery. Traditionally, the FBI has classified “mass as four or more people being murdered. Academic studies have used a similar definition. This is the definition that we are using.

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Between January 1st, 1998, and October 25th, 2023, 52.5% of attacks used solely handguns, and 16.8% used only rifles of any type—thirty-five percent of attacks used solely rifles or rifles in conjunction with another type of gun. Given the debate over pistol-stabilizing braces, the Excel file we provide lists the guns used in each attack, and two of the attacks used AR-15-type handguns with a pistol-stabilizing brace. (More information is available here.)

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59.3% of the US population was non-Hispanic white in 2022, with 4% being Middle Eastern, so about 55.3% are non-Middle Eastern whites. With 55% of the murderers and victims being non-Middle Eastern whites, whites are slightly below their share of those involved in these attacks. 

With all the discussions about the racial motives of shooters, blacks are underrepresented as a share of the victims. Blacks comprise 16.7% of the murderers but only 9.9% of the victims. That 9.9% is less than their 13.6% of the general population. 

Hispanics are underrepresented as a share of mass murderers. 10.8% of these mass murderers are Hispanic compared to Hispanics, making up 18.9% of the general population. But their 17.1% share of the victims is close to Hispanics’ share of the general population.

Compared to Middle Easterners at 4% of the general population, they are overrepresented as a share of mass murderers (6.9%) and underrepresented in terms of victims (0.9%).

Asians make up 6.1% of the population, but they are overrepresented in both mass murderers (7.8%) and even more overrepresented as victims (9.7%). Interestingly, 44% of the Asians murdered in these attacks were murdered by other Asians.

Trans individuals are well over-represented in terms of attacks. There are three estimates of the percentage of adults who are trans (CDC’s Behavior Risk Factor Surveillance System (BRFSS) and Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) finds 0.5% between 2017 to 2020, Gallup shows 0.7% in 2021, and the Census puts it at 1% in 2023). These numbers are clearly increasing over time, so an average for 2018 to 2023 years would probably overestimate the rate, but the average is 0.73%. Trans share of mass public shootings over the 2018 to 2023 period is 7.4 times their share of the population.

From January 1st, 1998, to October 25th, 2023, 51% of mass murderers have seen mental health care professionals before their attacks.

In 2022, about 6% of the US were veterans, but almost 20% of mass public shooters over the 1998 through 2023 period were veterans.

Between 1998 and 2023, the number of mass public shootings averaged 3.9 attacks, 33.1 murdered per year, and the number murdered per attack was 7.9. The number of attacks is increasing at an increasing rate, while the number of people murdered and the number murdered per attack is declining. In five-year intervals, the number of mass public shootings varied this way: 2.6 (1999-2003), 3.4 (2004-2008), 3.6 (2009-2013), 4.2 (2014-2018), and 6.0 (2019-2023). In five-year intervals, the number of people murdered in mass public shootings varied this way: 16 (1999-2003), 24.4 (2004-2008), 30 (2009-2013), 53.2 (2014-2018), and 46.8 (2019-2023).

Eighty-two percent of the attacks since 1998 and 94 percent since 1950 have occurred in places where guns are banned. For those who read these murderers’ diaries or manifestos, these numbers aren’t too surprising.

The final set of figures shows how California’s per capita rate of Mass Public Shootings is much higher than the rate for the rest of the country. Since 2000, California’s rate is 0.33 per million, and for the rest of the US, it was 0.25. Since 2010, California’s rate is 0.28 per million and 0.15 for the rest of the US. Since 2020, it has been 0.13 for California and 0.05 for the rest of the US.

johnrlott

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