Mass shootings a ‘uniquely American problem’ — over 70% take place in United States

WAYNE, N.J. — The recent mass shootings at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas and a supermarket in Buffalo, New York is a grave reminder that America has a gun problem. Now, new research shows 73 percent of mass shootings around the world over the last two decades take place in the United States.

“Mass shootings are a uniquely American problem, particularly in relation to other developed countries,” comments Jason R. Silva, an assistant professor at William Paterson University, in a media release.

For this study, Silva defined mass shootings as a public incident where there are four or more deaths and victims, chosen indiscriminately by the shooter. Between 1998 to 2019, the United States reported 101 attacks and 816 deaths from mass shootings. France came in second with just eight mass shootings and 179 deaths.

Meanwhile, half of 36 developed countries have not experienced mass shootings in the past 22 years. Only five had more than two mass shooting events. In contrast, the United States had at least one shooting every year during that timeframe.

The study author looked at data from both developed and developing nations worldwide, as well as prior research pertaining to mass shootings. Silva used the data and found several patterns in the research, including:

  • 91% of shooters attacked the country they were born in
  • 99% of shooters were male
  • One-third of shooters had military experience
  • 7% of shooters had involvement in law enforcement

Who are the most likely mass shooting suspects?

Additionally, the results showed that shootings in developed countries like the United States were more likely to be carried out by those with ideological motives and those seeking 15 minutes of fame.

Among Americans, most shooters had more than one gun and the trigger for a shooting often involved changes in employment, financial problems, or relationship problems. When they do, they are more likely to attack open spaces such as factories, offices, and warehouses.

“Relationship problems present another distinct form of strain contributing to US mass shootings. This is not to say that relationship problems do not exist in other countries or that they do not result in violence. In fact, many other countries have much higher rates of intimate partner violence and homicide,” explains Dr. Silva. “However, it is uniquely American that relationship problems end in mass shootings: where individuals outside of those contributing to relationship problems were also, or instead, targeted at random.”

Dr. Silva says the findings could help the United States identify who is likely to carry out a mass shooting and, more importantly, inform policies for gun reform.

“For example, in the wake of three shootings in Finland between 2007-2009, the Finnish government issued new firearm guidelines for handguns and revolvers, which were the primary firearms during these attacks. Applicants for handgun licenses are now required to be active members of a gun club and vetted by their doctor and police,” says Dr. Silva.

One study limitation to consider is that the results come from open-source data, indicating some mass shooting incidents may not appear in the report. This impacts developing countries most as they have limited technology and non-English language news outlets.

The study is published in the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice.


About the Author

Jocelyn Solis-Moreira

Jocelyn is a New York-based science journalist whose work has appeared in Discover Magazine, Health, and Live Science, among other publications. She holds a Master’s of Science in Psychology with a concentration in behavioral neuroscience and a Bachelor’s of Science in integrative neuroscience from Binghamton University. Jocelyn has reported on several medical and science topics ranging from coronavirus news to the latest findings in women’s health.

The contents of this website do not constitute advice and are provided for informational purposes only. See our full disclaimer

Comments

  1. If 70 percent take place in the US, then 30 percent do not. So its not unique to the US now is it?

    1. When the USA represents just over 4% of the world’s population and is responsible for 73% of the world’s mass shootings, that makes the number of mass shootings microscopic to non-existent in every other nation. So yes, the USA is uniquely bad on this issue.

  2. This story is a perfect example of “how to lie with statistics”. Try these statistics: https://fee.org/articles/the-myth-that-the-us-leads-the-world-in-mass-shootings/

    Or check out this list, found here: https://worldpopulationreview.com/country-rankings/mass-shootings-by-country
    Average (Mean) Annual Death Rate per Million People from Mass Public Shootings (U.S., Canada, and Europe, 2009-2015):
    Norway — 1.888
    Serbia — 0.381
    France — 0.347
    Macedonia — 0.337
    Albania — 0.206
    Slovakia — 0.185
    Switzerland — 0.142
    Finland — 0.132
    Belgium — 0.128
    Czech Republic — 0.123
    United States — 0.089
    Austria — 0.068
    Netherlands — 0.051
    Canada — 0.032
    England — 0.027
    Germany — 0.023
    Russia — 0.012
    Italy — 0.009

    1. I bet you do not use per capital arguments when taking pride in other American achievements that appear high in absolute terms but are not so high in per capita terms such as Olympic medals where many nations receive many more medals than the USA relative to their population (that is, per person in the population).

  3. Other countries suffer from “mass” suicide bombings, higher stabbing and clubbing death rates and so on.

    1. Actually, many Mass Shootings are a form of Suicide by Cop.
      In a driveby shooting, the shooter intends to escape – by driving away.
      These school shooters intend to go in a keep shooting until killed….hence a suicide.

  4. And we also lead the world is kicking ass everywhere with anybody.
    Compare our military adventures to Russia’s inept Ukraine adventure. And oh, by the way, we kill between 2000 and 3000 unborn babies every day – EVERY DAY!
    Stop sniveling over a few more broken eggs. Life has been devalued, so deal with it before your time comes.

    1. It is bizarre to mount a defense against gun violence by talking about military prowess. It is that macho, might-makes-right thinking that causes so much gun violence.

      What about American military ineptitude in Vietnam, Afghanistan, or even Korea. None of those were victories? They were all withdrawals with the enemy left in power to this day.

      The broken eggs argument is ridiculous. It is like saying so what if a teacher molests a lot of kids? Leave him/her in place because we need teachers and just accept that crap happens.

    2. Most Americans try to take credit for defeating the Nazis/Germans in WW2. Most Americans have no idea that 80% of German military deaths took place on the Eastern Front against Russia.

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