Monday, December 7, 2015

How Many Mass Shootings?

By Matthew Schafer
Copyright 2015, All Rights Reserved

Context is a funny thing, without it anything can mean anything.  Mass shootings are, of course, horrible and this should be an area where people strive particularly to provide context but unfortunately this isn’t the case.  Instead people use these situations to further their own agendas.

There is this statistic going around, I’ve seen it in a few articles and all over Facebook, that so far in 2015 there have been 355 mass shootings.  That number was even given in an article ran in the Washington Post.  While most people read that and freaked out I, and others, read that and thought “bullshit.”  There have not been 355 mass shootings in the US this year; that is ridiculous.

Luckily others thought so too and found out where this statistic came from.  This statistic comes from a website run by, you guessed it, gun control advocates.  How did this group arrive at the number 355?  It seems that they did it by using their own definition of “mass shooting” to inflate the numbers.  The founder of the “shooting tracker” project, who calls himself “Billy Speed”, was quoted in an interview saying, “Three years ago I decided, all by myself, to change the United States’ definition of mass shooting.”

I have always found that whenever there is a big misunderstanding that just won’t go away often, at the core of the issue, is simple semantics.  Many people have their own definition of what a mass shooting is and this isn’t helping anyone.

The FBI defined a mass shooting as a single shooting event in which 4 or more people were killed.  In 2013 they lowered their definition to incidents where 3 or more people were killed.

Here is where context is so important; when I say “mass shooting” you naturally think of some whack job grabbing a bunch of guns and shooting up a mall, school, church, restaurant, theater, or another public place while dozens to perhaps hundreds of people hide or run for their lives.  That is what I think of too and that really is what we are all concerned about.  However, that hasn’t happened 355 times this year.

What we have to remember when looking at statics about violence is that America is actually a pretty safe place and the lion’s share of all the violence reported on in these statics is actually gang on gang violence that occurs in select small pockets of bad neighborhoods in some of our biggest cities.  If you hear a story that 5 people were killed in a shooting spree you’re probably picturing 5 innocent law abiding citizens like yourself being gunned down by a criminal, however, chances are if you looked into the story a little more chances are the shooting happened in a bad neighborhood in a big city and it was one gang shooting another gang, probably over drugs.

I’ve always liked and they been keeping a database on mass shootings that goes back to 1982.  However, theirs filters out the white noise, so to speak, so we can see the real problem. Their data base looked at instances where 4 or more people were killed but they removed cases of gang on gang violence, domestic violence situations that occurred in a private residence, and cases of armed robbery.  After these things were removed what was left was just instances of what you think a mass shooting should be: some asshole shooting up a public place.

So, how many times has some asshole shot up a public place this year?  4 times.  There have only been 73 true mass shootings in the US since 1982 (which is still too many).  In those last 33 years there has only been 502 people killed in mass shootings, a number that sounds large but when put in context it really isn’t.  Over the last 33 years 15 people have died, on average, by being caught in a mass shooting each year while 52 people die each year from lightning strikes. 

You are nearly 4 times more likely to be killed in a lightning strike than in a mass shooting.  What are your chances of dying in a lightning strike?  I looked it up and according to the National Center for Health Statistics it is: 1 in 89,930.

Below I’ve taken information from Mother Jone’s database to list every single mass shooting since 1982 that meets our criteria.

Note: Other public shooting attacks, such as the rampage at Fort Hood in April 2014, another in Isla Vista, California in May 2014, and another on a bridge in Wisconsin in May 2015, have not been included because there were fewer than four victims shot to death in each of those cases.

6/17/2015, Charleston Church Shooting, Charleston, South Carolina, 9 killed, 1 injured
7/16/2015, Attack on military sites, Chattanooga, Tennessee, 4 killed, 3 wounded
10/1/2015, Umpquah Community College shooting, Roseburg, Oregon, 9 killed, 9 injured.
12/2/2015, San Bernardino Shooting, San Bernardino, Calif, 14 killed, 21 injured

10/24/2014, Marysville-Pilchuck High Schoolshooting, Marysville, Washington, 5 killed, 1 injured
2/20/2014, Alturas tribal shooting, Alturas, California, 4 killed, 2 injured

4/21/2013, Pinewood Village Apartment shooting, Federal Way, Washington, 5 killed
6/7/2013, Santa Monica rampage, Santa Monica, California, 6 killed, 3 injured
9/16/2013, Washington Navy Yard shooting, Washington, D.C., 13 killed, 8 injured

2/22/2012, Su Jung Health Sauna shooting, Norcross, Georgia, 5 killed
7/20/2012, Aurora theater shooting, Aurora, Colorado, 12 killed, 58 injured
8/5/2012, Sikh temple shooting, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, 7 killed, 3 injured

10/14/2011, Seal Beach shooting, Seal Beach, California, 8 killed, 1 injured
9/6/2011, IHOP shooting, Carson City, Nevada, 5 killed, 7 injured
1/8/2011, Tucson shooting, Tucson, Arizona, 6 killed 13 injured

8/3/2010, Hartford Beer Distributor shooting, Manchester, Connecticut, 9 killed, 2 injured

3/29/2009, Carthage nursing home shooting, Carthage, North Carolina, 8 killed, 3 injured
4/3/2009, Binghamton shootings, Binghamton, New York, 14 killed, 4 injured
11/5/2009, Fort Hood massacre, Fort Hood, Texas, 13 killed, 30 injured
11/29/2009, Coffee shop police killings, Parkland, Washington, 4 killed, 1 injured.

2/7/2008, Kirkwood City Council shooting, Kirkwood, Missouri, 6 killed, 2 injured
 2/14/2008, Northern Illinois University shooting, DeKalb, Illinois, 6 killed, 21 injured
6/25/2008, Atlantis Plastics shooting, Henderson, Kentucky, 6 killed, 1 injured

2/12/2007, Trolley Square shooting, Salt Lake City, Utah, 6 killed, 4 injured
4/16/2007, Virginia Tech massacre, Blacksburg, Virginia, 33 killed, 23 injured
10/7/2007, Crandon shooting, Crandon, Wisconsin, 6 killed, 1 injured
12/5/2007, Westroads Mall shooting, Omaha, Nebraska, 9 killed, 4 injured

1/30/2006, Goleta postal shootings, Goleta, California, 8 killed
10/2/2006, Amish school shooting, Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, 6 killed, 5 injured

3/12/2005, Living Church of God shooting, Brookfield, Wisconsin, 7 killed, 4 injured
3/21/2005, Red Lake massacre, Red Lake, Minnesota, 10 killed, 5 injured

12/8/2004, Damageplan show shooting, Columbus, Ohio, 5 killed, 7 injured

7/8/2003, Lockheed Martin shooting, Meridian, Mississippi, 7 killed, 8 injured

2/5/2001, Navistar shooting, Melrose Park, Illinois, 5 killed, 4 injured

12/26/2000, Wakefield massacre, Wakefield, Massachusetts, 7 killed

4/20/1999, Columbine High School massacre, Littleton, Colorado, 15 killed, 24 injured
7/29/1999, Atlanta day trading spree killings, Atlanta, Georgia, 9 killed, 13 injured
9/15/1999, Wedgwood Baptist Church shooting, Fort Worth, Texas, 8 killed, 7 injured
12/30/1999, Hotel shooting, Tampa, Florida, 5 killed, 3 injured

6/20/1994: Air Force base shooting, Fairchild Air Force Base, Washington, 5 killed, 23 injured.

3/6/1998, Connecticut Lottery shooting, Newington, Connecticut, 5 killed, 1 injured
3/24/1998, Westside Middle School killings, Jonesboro, Arkansas, 5 killed, 10 injured
5/21/1998, Thurston High School shooting, Springfield, Oregon, 4 killed, 25 injured

9/15/1997, R.E. Phelon Company shooting, Aiken, South Carolina, 4 killed, 3 injured
12/18/1997, Caltrans maintenance yard shooting, Orange, California, 5 killed, 2 injured

7/1/1993, 101 California Street shootings, San Francisco, California, 9 killed, 6 injured
8/6/1993, Luigi's shooting, Fayetteville, North Carolina, 4 killed, 8 injured
12/7/1993, Long Island Rail Road massacre, Garden City, New York, 6 killed, 19 injured
12/14/1993, Chuck E. Cheese's killings, Aurora, Colorado, 4 killed, 1 injured

5/1/1992, Lindhurst High School shooting, Olivehurst, California, 4 killed, 10 injured
10/15/1992, Watkins Glen killings, Watkins Glen, New York, 5 killed

10/16/1991, Luby's massacre, Killeen, Texas, 24 killed, 20 injured
11/1/1991, University of Iowa shooting, Iowa City, Iowa, 6 killed, 1 injured
11/14/1991, ,Royal Oak postal shootings, Royal Oak, Michigan, 5 killed, 5 injured

6/18/1990, GMAC massacre, Jacksonville, Florida, 10 killed, 4 injured

1/17/1989, Stockton schoolyard shooting, Stockton, California, 6 killed, 29 injured
9/14/1989, Standard Gravure shooting, Louisville, Kentucky, 9 killed, 12 injured

2/16/1988, ESL shooting, Sunnyvale, California, 7 killed, 4 injured

4/23/1987, Shopping centers spree killings, Palm Bay, Florida, 6 killed, 14 injured

8/20/1986, United States Postal Service shooting, Edmond, Oklahoma, 15 killed, 6 injured

7/18/1984, San Ysidro McDonald's massacre, San Ysidro, California, 22 killed, 19 injured

8/20/1982, Welding shop shooting, Miami, Florida, 8 killed, 3 injured


Kate S. O'Connor said...

Why is the Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, shooting omitted from the list?

matthew schafer said...

That would be my mistake. For a complete updated list check here: