How many mass shootings have there been in America? US gun statistics explained in charts

The number of mass shootings in the US has been steadily rising over the past decade, figures show. (Image: NationalWorld/Mark Hall/Getty/Adobe Stock)The number of mass shootings in the US has been steadily rising over the past decade, figures show. (Image: NationalWorld/Mark Hall/Getty/Adobe Stock)
The number of mass shootings in the US has been steadily rising over the past decade, figures show. (Image: NationalWorld/Mark Hall/Getty/Adobe Stock) | NationalWorld/Mark Hall/Getty/Adobe Stock
Hundreds of mass shootings take place across the US every year

The massacre of eight people at a shopping centre in Texas was the 198th mass shooting to take place on US soil in 2023 so far, according to a database tracking the atrocities.

Ten mass shootings have taken place across the States in the days since 33-year-old Mauricio Martinez Garcia gunned down three children and five adults in the outlet mall on 6 May, the data shows.

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Statistics about mass shootings in America make for sobering reading. This series of charts explains what we know about such attacks.

Various bodies collect data on mass shootings across the US, including the not-for-profit organisations the Gun Violence Archive and The Violence Project

There is no one definition of a mass shooting. Some databases count any shooting where at least four victims were shot and injured. Others have stricter definitions, perhaps that the shooting had to happen in a public place or that there were a certain number of fatalities.

How many mass shootings are there in the US?

The number of mass shootings has been steadily rising over the past decade, reaching a high of 690 in 2021, according to research by the Gun Violence Archive. This archive, which began in 2014, counts a mass shooting as any with four or more people shot and killed or injured, not including the perpetrator. It has counted more than 200 mass shootings in 2023 so far.

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Analysis of this data by NationalWorld shows the areas of the US worst affected by mass shootings from 2014 to date. Places with higher populations are likely to have more crime, so we calculated the rate of mass shootings per 100,000 residents for every state. 

This shows that the US capital Washington, DC - officially a federal district without a state - has the highest rate, at 10.2 mass shootings per 100,000 people. This is followed by the state of Louisiana, at 4.3 mass shootings per 100,000 and then Illinois, at 3.4 per 100,000.

Hundreds of people are killed and thousands injured in mass shootings each year, the data shows. The deadliest year in the Gun Violence Archive records was 2021, when 665 people lost their lives and a further 2,788 were injured.

Is the US the worst country for mass shootings?

It is difficult to make international comparisons with mass shootings because different countries define the incidents in different ways. One study published in the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice found that the US accounted for 73% of 139 mass shootings that occurred in developed countries between 1998 and 2019. A separate 2016 paper from the University of Alabama looked at mass shootings in 171 countries from 1966 to 2012. It found that the United States accounted for 5% of the world’s population, but 31% of its mass shootings.

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What do we know about the shooters and the guns they use?

To look into the characteristics and motivations of the perpetrators, we will turn to another database, compiled by The Violence Project. This uses a stricter definition of a mass shooting - that at least four victims were shot and killed, with at least one killed in a public place and that the shooting was not linked to criminal activity or commonplace circumstances such as an argument. It contains details of 190 incidents, from the University of Texas Tower shooting in 1966, which left 17 dead, to the present day.

The age and gender of 188 shooters is known. More than a third were in their twenties at the time, while one in 10 was a child or teenager. The youngest shooter, Andrew Golden, was 11 when he and 13-year-old Mitchell Johnson killed four pupils and a teacher at Westside Middle School in Arkansas in 1998.

The vast majority of shooters, 97%, were male. 

In terms of motives, common themes include employment issues, such as a perpetrator being fired or missing out on a promotion, which was listed as the motive for 40 shootings, and non-domestic conflicts, such as disagreements with family, friends or co-workers, which lay behind 37 incidents.

Handguns were the most commonly used type of weapon, according to data on 401 firearms used in mass shootings. Of cases where the circumstances surrounding a gun’s purchase is known, it was bought legally 80% of the time.

What do we know about the victims?

Behind every statistic, of course, is a life cut short. 

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Four in ten people killed (44%) knew the person who shot them, or are thought to have known them. They include the parents, partners, sons and daughters of shooters, as well as their colleagues, classmates, relatives, neighbours, landlords, customers and fellow church members.

Around six in ten victims killed by mass shooters in The Violence Project records (58%) were male and 42% female. 

One in nine (12%) were under 18. Two were just a year old when they died: Carlos Reyes Jr, killed in California in 1984, and Noah Grace Holcombe, killed in Texas in 2017.

The deadliest mass shooting on record was in Las Vegas in 2017, when gunman Stephen Paddock opened fire on the crowd at the Route 91 Harvest festival, killing 60 people and injuring more than 400, before taking his own life.

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Here we have created a chart showing each man, woman and child killed in a mass shooting and recorded in The Violence Project. Clicking on an icon will reveal the victim’s name, age, and the date they were targeted.

The visual includes mass shootings where at least four people were killed with firearms, at least one in a public place and the incident was not linked to criminal activity or commonplace circumstances such as an argument.

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