Mass shooting

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Mass shooting refers to an incident involving multiple victims of gun violence.[1] The United States' Congressional Research Service acknowledges that there is not a broadly accepted definition,[2] and uses a definition of a "public mass shooting"[3] if 4 or more people are actually killed, not including the perpetrator, echoing the FBI definition[4][5] of the term "mass murder". Another unofficial definition of a mass shooting is an event involving the shooting (not necessarily resulting in death) of four or more people with no cooling off period.[6] Related terms include school shooting and massacre. The lack of a single definition can lead to alarmism in the news media, with some reports conflating categories of crimes.[7]

A mass shooting may be committed by individuals or organizations in public or non-public places. Terrorist groups in recent times have used the tactic of mass shootings to fulfill their political aims. Individuals who commit mass shootings may fall into any of a number of categories, including killers of family, of coworkers, of students, and of random strangers. Individuals' motives for shooting vary.

Responses to mass shootings take a variety of forms, depending on the context: number of casualties, the country and political climate, among other factors. Countries such as Australia and the United Kingdom have changed their gun laws in the wake of mass shootings. The news media and other types of media cover mass shootings extensively, and the effect of that coverage has been examined.

One of the only things that are able to be done about mass shootings are threat assessment teams. Threat assessment teams mission is to assess the situation when a shooting happens. They do not arrest people, but they help people get the treatment they need.


The characterization of an event as a mass shooting depends upon definition and definitions vary.[1][8] The Federal Bureau of Investigation uses the term "mass killings", originally defined as the murder of four or more people with no cooling off period[4][8] but redefined by Congress in 2013 as including murder of three or more people.[9] According to CNN, a mass shooting is defined as having four or more fatalities, not including gang killings or slayings that involve the death of multiple family members.[10] In "Behind the Bloodshed", a report by USAToday, a mass killing is defined as any incident in which four or more were killed and also includes family killings.[11] A crowdsourced data site, Shooting Tracker, defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more are shot, regardless of whether these are injured or killed.[6]

There is debate as to when to characterize a mass shooting as terrorism. Some have argued that certain mass shootings should not be characterized as terrorism.[12] A U.S. congressional research service report excluded, from a study, mass shootings in which terrorist ideology was a motivation.[13]

Some have argued that the term mass shooting should include domestic violence killings.[14]

By region


Mass shootings have occurred on the African continent, including the 2015 Sousse attacks, the 2015 Bamako hotel attack, the 2013 Westgate shopping mall attack in Nairobi, Kenya, and the 1994 Kampala wedding massacre.


Several mass shootings have occurred in Asia, including the 1938 Tsuyama massacre, the 1983 Pashupatinath Temple shooting, the 1993 Chongqing shooting, and the 1994 Tian Mingjian incident.

Japan has as few as two gun-related homicides per year. These numbers include all homicides in the country, not just mass shootings.[15]


Several mass shootings have occurred in Europe, including the November 2015 Paris attacks, the 2012 Toulouse and Montauban shootings, the 2011 Norway attacks, the 2009 Winnenden school shooting, the 2008 Kauhajoki school shooting, the 2001 Zug massacre, the 2002 Erfurt massacre, and the 1987 Hungerford massacre.

Middle East

Several mass shootings have occurred in the Middle East. There have been several shootings with motives linked to terrorism, such as the Bat Mitzvah massacre in Israel. Other shootings include the 2013 Meet al-Attar shooting in Egypt.

North America


Notable mass shootings in Canada include the 1989 École Polytechnique massacre and the 1992 Concordia University massacre.


Notable mass shootings in Mexico include the 2010 Chihuahua shootings.

United States

It has been reported that more mass shootings occur in the United States than in other countries. Although the frequency of mass shootings varies upon their definition, it has been reported that 31% of public mass shootings occur in the U.S despite the U.S. having only 5% of the world's population,[10][16] CNN reports that "there are more public mass shootings in the United States than in any other country in the world, according to a new study."[10]

The frequency in which mass shootings occur varies upon definition. Mother Jones which ran a series of articles on mass shootings stated that as of 4 December 2015, there have been four mass shootings in that year. In contrast, in "Behind the Bloodshed", a report by USA Today, has stated that mass killings occur every two weeks and that public mass killings only account for 1 in 6 of all mass killings.[11]

Other media outlets have reported that hundreds of mass shootings happen 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.[6] In December 2015, the Washington Post reported that there had been 355 mass shootings in the United States so far that year.[17] In August 2015, the Washington Post reported that the United States was averaging one mass shooting per day.[18] An earlier report had indicated that in 2015 alone, there had been 294 mass shootings that killed or injured 1,464 people.[19] However, an article from Reddit stated that 42 percent of the incidents involved zero deaths and only one deaths in 29 percent of incidents.[20] Shooting Tracker, the site that the media has been citing has been accused of inflating statistics.[8][21] According to the Huffington Post, using the definition used by Shooting Tracker, 57% of mass shootings in the United States between 2009 and July 2015 involved a family member or intimate partner and 81 percent of the victims were women and children.[14]

See also: List of mass shootings in the United States


Notable mass shootings include the 1992 Tatarstan shooting, the 2002 Yaroslavsky shooting, the 2002 Moscow theater hostage crisis, the 2004 Beslan school siege, the 2012 Moscow shooting, the 2013 Belgorod shooting, and the 2014 Moscow school shooting, among others.

Victims and survivors

After mass shootings, some survivors have written about their experiences and their experiences have been covered by journalists. A survivor of the Knoxville Unitarian Universalist church shooting wrote about his reaction to other mass shooting incidents.[22] The father of a victim in a mass shooting at a movie theater in Aurora, Colorado, wrote about witnessing other mass shootings after the loss of his son.[23] The survivors of the 2011 Norway attacks recounted their experience to GQ.[24] In addition, one paper studied Swedish police officers' reactions to a mass shooting.[25]

Survivors of mass shootings can suffer from posttraumatic stress disorder.[26][27] One paper studied Swedish police officers' reactions to a mass shooting.[25]


Notable mass shooters from outside the United States include, among others, Anders Behring Breivik, William Unek, Richard Komakech, Omar Abdul Razeq Abdullah Rifai, Martin Bryant, and Woo Bum-kon.

Notable American perpetrators include, among others, James Oliver Huberty, George Hennard, Dylann Roof, Adam Lanza, Nidal Malik Hasan, Charles Whitman, James Eagan Holmes, Seung-Hui Cho, Tashfeen Malik and Syed Farook, Robert Lewis Dear, Aaron Alexis, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. In the United States mass shooters are overwhelmingly males.[28][29][30] And, according to a database compiled by Mother Jones, the race of the shooters is proportionate to the overall US population, although Asians are overrepresented and Latinos underrepresented.[30] Criminologist James Allen Fox points out that most mass murderers do not have a criminal record or involuntary incarceration at a mental health center.[31] Despite this an article from the New York Times showed a sizable number of perpetrators had run ins with law enforcement and mental health issues.[32]


Mass shootings can be motivated by terrorism and caused by mental illness, among many other reasons.[28] Others, however, believe that people with mental illness are scapegoated as the cause of mass shootings.[33][34]

Author Dave Cullen described killer Eric Harris as an "injustice collector" in his 2009 book Columbine.[35] He expanded on the concept in a 2015 New Republic essay on injustice collectors,[36] identifying several notorious killers as fitting the category, including Christopher Dorner, Elliot Rodger, Vester Flanagan, and Andrew Kehoe. Likewise, mass shooting expert and former FBI profiler Mary O'Toole also uses the phrase "injustice collector" in characterizing motives of some mass shooting perpetrators.[37] In relation, criminologist James Alan Fox contends that mass murderers are "enabled by social isolation" and typically experience "years of disappointment and failure that produce a mix of profound hopelessness and deep-seated resentment."[38][39]

In considering the frequency of mass shootings in the United States, one criminologist claims that the individualistic culture in the United States puts the country at greater risk for mass shootings than other countries.[40]



Some people have considered whether media attention revolving around the perpetrators of mass shootings is a factor in sparking further incidents.[41] In response to this, some in law enforcement have decided against naming mass shooting suspects in media-related events, in order to avoid giving them notoriety.[42]

The effects of messages used in the coverage of mass shootings has been studied. Researchers studied the role the coverage plays in shaping attitudes toward persons with serious mental illness and public support for gun control policies.[43]

Some media publications have weighed in on the gun control debate. After the 2015 San Bernardino attack, The New York Daily News' front-page headline, "God isn't fixing this", was accompanied by "images of tweets from leading Republicans who shared their 'thoughts' and 'prayers' for the shooting victims".[44][45]

Gun law reform

Responses to mass shootings take a variety of forms, depending on the country and political climate.


After the Port Arthur massacre in Australia, the government changed gun laws in Australia.Since the new gun laws were introduced in 1996 Australia has only had one mass shooting, which was in 2014 when a farmer shot dead 4 family members then latter killing himself.[46][47]

United Kingdom

After experiencing several deadly mass shootings, the United Kingdom enacted tough gun laws.[48]

United States

In the United States, support for gun law reform varies considerably by political party, with Democrats generally more supportive and Republicans generally more opposed. Some in the U.S. believe that tightening gun laws would prevent future mass shootings.[49] Some politicians in the U.S. introduced legislation to reform the background check system for purchasing a gun.[50] A vast majority of Americans support tighter background checks. "According to a poll [...] by Quinnipiac University in Connecticut, 93 percent of registered voters said they would support universal background checks for all gun buyers."[51] In December 2015, Irish Peace academic Jonathan Galway-Jackson suggested the means of overcoming the powerful gun lobby in USA would be to disarm the police, which many commentators see as groundbreaking.[citation needed]

Others contend that mass shootings should not be the main focus in the gun law reform debate because these shootings account for less than one percent of the U.S. homicide rate and believe that these shootings are hard to stop. They often argue that civilians with concealed guns will be able to stop shootings.[52]


As of October 2015, U.S. President Barack Obama had given speeches on eleven different mass shootings during his seven-year presidency, repeatedly calling for more gun safety laws in the United States.[53] After the Charleston church shooting, U.S. President Barack Obama said, "At some point, we as a country will have to reckon with the fact that this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries. It doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency."[54][55], however, rated Obama's claim "mostly false."[55] After the December 2015 San Bernardino attack, Obama renewed his call for reforming gun safety laws and also said that mass shootings in the United States has "no parallel in the world."[56]

See also


  1. 1.0 1.1 Weiss, Jeffrey (December 6, 2015). "Mass shootings in the U.S. this year? 353 — or 4, depending on your definition". Dallas Morning News. Retrieved December 6, 2015. 
  2. "There is no broadly agreed-to, specific conceptualization of this issue, so this report uses its own definition for public mass shootings." (Bjelopera op. cit.)
  3. Bjelopera, Jerome P. (March 18, 2013). "Public Mass Shootings in the United States: Selected Implications for Federal Public Health and Safety Policy" (PDF). CRS Report for Congress. Congressional Research Service. Retrieved December 8, 2015. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 Follman, Mark. "What Exactly Is A Mass Shooting". Mother Jones. Retrieved August 9, 2015. 
  5. Morton, Robert J. "Serial Murder". FBI Updates, Reports and Publications. Retrieved December 8, 2015. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 "Mass Shooting Tracker". Retrieved December 5, 2015. 
  7. Mark Follman (December 18, 2015). "No, There Has Not Been a Mass Shooting Every Day This Year". Mother Jones. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 8.2 Follman, Mark (December 3, 2015). "How Many Mass Shootings Are There, Really?". New York Times. Retrieved December 6, 2015. 
  9. "PUBLIC LAW 112–265" (PDF). United States Congress. January 14, 2013. Retrieved December 6, 2015. 
  10. 10.0 10.1 10.2 Christensen, Jen (August 28, 2015). "Why the U.S. has the most mass shootings". CNN. 
  11. 11.0 11.1 "Behind the Bloodshed". USA Today. Retrieved December 3, 2015. 
  12. "Why We Shouldn't Call Recent Mass Shootings Terrorism". Esquire. July 30, 2015. Retrieved October 8, 2015. 
  13. Goldfarb, Zachary (June 18, 2015). "11 essential facts about guns and mass shootings in the United States". The Washington Post. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
  14. 14.0 14.1 Starr, Terrell (September 5, 2015). "The under-reported truth behind most mass shootings". AlterNet. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  15. Fisher, Max (July 23, 2012). "A Land Without Guns: How Japan Has Virtually Eliminated Shooting Deaths". The Atlantic. Retrieved December 16, 2015. 
  16. Becker, Kyle. "If You Look at This Chart of Top 10 Nations in the World for Mass Shootings – One Thing Jumps Out". IJReview. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
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  18. Ingraham, Christopher (August 26, 2015). "We’re now averaging more than one mass shooting per day in 2015". Washington Post. Retrieved September 6, 2015. 
  19. "More than one mass shooting happens per day in the U.S., data shows". PBS NewsHour. Retrieved 2015-10-08. 
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  21. Stuart, Elizabeth (December 7, 2015). "NUMBER OF U.S. MASS SHOOTINGS GREATLY EXAGGERATED IN MEDIA, ACCLAIMED RESEARCHER STATES". Phoenix New Times. Retrieved December 10, 2015. 
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  29. Kluger, Jeffrey (May 25, 2014). "Why Mass Killers Are Always Male". Time. Retrieved August 11, 2015. 
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