While US has 5% of the world's population, it sees about 31% of public mass shootings
Between 1966 and 2012, there were 90 mass shootings in the United States
When it comes to gun massacres, the United States is tragically exceptional: There are more public mass shootings in the United States than in any other country in the world, according to a study published recently.
Between 1966 and 2012, there were 90 mass shootings in the United States. Mass shootings are defined for the study as having four or more victims and don’t include gang killings or slayings that involve the death of multiple family members. These shootings include the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in June 2016 – the worst mass shooting in US history – and others in an Aurora, Colorado, movie theater and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, both in 2012.
The 90 US mass shootings are nearly one-third of the 292 such attacks globally for that period. While the United States has 5% of the world’s population, it had 31% of all public mass shootings.
“People have been a little surprised by these statistics,” said Adam Lankford, an associate professor of criminal justice at the University of Alabama, who did the analysis. Lankford presented his work at the American Sociological Association’s annual conference last year and said it’s the first research of its kind to do a global comparison.
How US shootings are different
Lankford combed through the records of every incident and found a few common factors that set the US incidents apart from the rest of the world’s.
In the United States, people have a greater chance of dying in mass shootings if they’re at work or at school. Overseas, these incidents typically happen near military installations.
In more than half the American cases, the shooter had more than one firearm. In global incidents, the shooter typically had only one gun.
And in the United States, there are 6.87 victims on average per incident. In the other 171 countries Lankford studied, the average was 8.8 victims per incident.
Lankford said he thinks there are fewer people killed in these mass shootings in the United States because American police routinely train on how to deal with this kind of incident, even though it happens rarely compared with other kinds of crime.
“Police were slower to respond in other countries and were more likely to be ill prepared when they did respond,” he said.
The copycat phenomenon
What’s behind all these mass slayings in the United States?