Mass shootings in the US

We hear of mass shootings that occur periodically where a gunman (it is almost always a man with a gun) goes on some kind of rampage and slaughters a number of people. NPR interviewed Jodi Upton, a member of a team of reporters at USA Today that decided to find out how many mass murders had occurred since 2006, because the federal government does not keep track of such statistics. A mass murder was defined as one in which at least four people other than the killer died.

It turns out that they are far more frequent than the big news stories might suggest. Since the beginning of 2006, there have been 284 such incidents in which almost 1,400 people have died, an average of 2.5 events and 12 people per month. That is an astounding number, showing that many of these stories stay local and don’t permeate into the national consciousness. About 70% involved the use of firearms. 94% of the killers are men and they tend to use guns more than women while women are more likely to use other methods like strangulation or drowning or arson.

The reason we don’t hear about so many may be that the media tends to highlight only those in which the victims were random people, and ignores the many in which they were family members or otherwise known to the killer, which constitutes 57% of the events. But that still leaves a lot of mass random murders, about one event per month. Random killings seem more dangerous because while we may feel confident that we do not harbor homicidal people among our family and friends and acquaintances, no one feels safe from killers who can strike anyone, anywhere, at any time.

Another really depressing statistic is that 30% of the victims are children. They are often not simply caught in the crossfire but deliberately targeted, the tragic victims of custody disputes where the killers decide that if they can’t have their children, then their estranged partners won’t get them either. It is impossible for me to fathom such thinking.


  1. DonDueed says

    I heard this story. One aspect they didn’t go into was why some of the random (non-domestic) mass killings became big news stories while others did not.

    Some, I believe, were simply due to scale (Oklahoma City) or the type of victims (the Sandy Hook school murders). But another aspect may be the motivation of the killer.

    We certainly hear a lot about the mass murders performed by Islamists, don’t we? But what percentage of the incidents was politically or religiously motivated? I don’t know the statistics but I’ll bet it’s far less than half.

  2. Glenn says

    “They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today: my own government.”

    “A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.”

    Sometimes you do get what you pay for.

    Martin Luther King, Jr. was killed a year after making these observations.

    Don’t expect utopia to break out when the armed forces of the military and police use their guns to remove guns from civilians control. The Guardian counts over 560 murders in the U.S. by police this year.

    Counting all of the violence of its involvement in continual wars, the U.S. gets off easy. If you don’t like it here try living in a country where the U.S. supplied guns are killing you and your neighbors.

  3. Glenn says

    If you don’t like it here, try living in a country where the U.S. government supplied guns are killing you and your neighbors.

    “1,400 people have died, an average of 2.5 events and 12 people month.”

    These mass murderers have a long way to go to catch up with 657 police shootings deaths in 7 months of 2015 alone.

    This is about 94 police killings per month in the U.S.

  4. says

    A mass murder was defined as one in which at least four people other than the killer died.

    I wonder how much higher the numbers would be if they looked at mass shootings period. Going by the guidelines above the Lafayette shooting doesn’t count because the gunman only murdered two innocent people but nine others were also shot.

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