Mass Killings in America

On Friday morning, 27 people were killed in a shooting at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut. Among the fatalities are 20 children, six adults, and the shooter. It’s perhaps too easy to forget how many times this has happened. The horrific mass murder at a movie theater in Colorado on July 20, another at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin on August 5, another at a manufacturer in Minneapolis on September 27—and now the unthinkable nightmare at a Connecticut elementary school on December 14—are the latest in an epidemic of such gun violence over the last three decades. Since 1982, there have been at least 62 mass murders carried out with firearms across the country, with the killings unfolding in 30 states from Massachusetts to Hawaii. They are mapped below, including details on the shooters’ identities, the types of weapons they used, and the number of victims they injured and killed.


I used the following criteria to identify cases of mass murder:

  • The killings were carried out by a lone shooter. (Except in the case of the Columbine massacre and the Westside Middle School killings, both of which involved two shooters.)
  • The shootings happened during a single incident and in a public place. (Public, except in the case of a party in Crandon, Wisconsin, and another in Seattle.) Crimes primarily related to armed robbery or gang activity are not included.
  • The shooter took the lives of at least four people. An FBI crime classification report identifies an individual as a mass murderer—as opposed to a spree killer or a serial killer—if he kills four or more people in a single incident (not including himself), and typically in a single location.
  • If the shooter died or was hurt from injuries sustained during the incident, he is included in the total victim count. (But we have excluded cases in which there were three fatalities and the shooter also died, per the previous criterion.)
  • We included six so-called “spree killings—prominent cases that fit closely with our above criteria for mass murder, but in which the killings occurred in multiple locations over a short period of time.

Weapons: Of the 142 guns possessed by the killers, more than three quarters were obtained legally. The arsenal included dozens of assault weapons and semiautomatic handguns. (See charts below.) Just as Jeffrey Weise used a .40-caliber Glock to slaughter students in Red Lake, Minnesota, in 2005, so too did James Holmes, along with an AR-15 assault rifle, when blasting away at his victims in a darkened movie theater. In Newtown, Connecticut, Adam Lanza wielded two handguns and a .223 Bushmaster semiautomatic assault rifle as he massacred 20 school children and six adults.



The killers: Half of the cases involved school or workplace shootings (12 and 19, respectively); the other 31 cases took place in locations including shopping malls, restaurants, government buildings, and military bases. Forty four of the killers were white males. Only one of them was a woman. (See Goleta, Calif., in 2006.) The average age of the killers was 35, though the youngest among them was a mere 11 years old. (See Jonesboro, Ark., in 1998.) This map is not all-inclusive, but based on the criteria used to identify mass murders, I believe that I’ve produced the most comprehensive rundown available on this particular type of traumatic violence.

In the year 2012 alone, the following examples of mass killings have occured.

  • February 22 – Su Jung Health Sauna – Jeong Soo Paek, 59, returned to a Korean spa from which he’d been kicked out after an altercation.  He gunned down two of his sisters and their husbands before commiting suicide.  Total injured and killed: 5.
  • April 2 – Oikos University (Oakland, California) – One L. Goh, 43, a former student, opened fire in a nursing classroom.  He fled the scene by car and was arrested nearby a few hours later.  Total injured and killed: 10.
  • May 20 – Seattle cafe (Seattle, Washington) – Ian Stawicki, 40, gunned down four patrons at a cafe, and another person during a carjacking nearby, then shot himself as police closed in.  (He died later that day in a Seattle hospital).  Total injured and killed: 7.
  • July 20 – Auroroa theater (Aurora, Colorado) – James Holmes, 24, opened fire in a movie theater during the opening night of “The Dark Night Rises” and was later arrested outside.  Total injured and killed: 70.
  • August 5 – Sikh temple (Oak Creek, Wisconsin) – U.S. Army Veteran Wade Michael Page, 40, opened fire in a Sikh gurdwara before he died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound during a shootout with police.  Total injured and killed: 10.
  • September 27 – Accent Signage Systems – Andrew Engeldinger, 36, upon learning he was being fired, went on a shooting rampage, killing the business owner, three fellow employees, and a UPS driver.  He then killed himself.  Total injured and killed: 8.

My Conclusion:  The citizens of the United States are up in arms, no pun intended, over this trend which seems to be getting worse.  However; I certainly do not believe that the answer is a ban on guns, or to limit the type of guns that can be purchased, sold and/or owned.  As with every challenge we face as a group of people, education is the answer.  What the data shows is that the majority of these senseless killings are commited by young to mid-aged males.  There needs to be an emphasis on understanding why this is happening and ensure that we educate this same group of young males appropriately.  They need to understand that a mass killing is not the answer.  They need to be stopped before it’s too late and we’re discussing yet another horrible incident.


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