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Women and Children in the Crosshairs: New Analysis of Mass Shootings in America Reveals 54 Percent Involved Domestic Violence and 25 Percent of Fatalities Were Children


NEW YORK – Everytown for Gun Safety, the country’s largest gun violence prevention organization, today released an updated report analyzing mass shootings in the United States between 2009 and 2016 that shows a majority involve domestic or family violence, that American children are significantly affected and that shooters often exhibit warning signs. This new analysis provides a closer look at what mass shootings in America look like just days ahead of April 16, which marks ten years since the mass shooting at Virginia Tech, in which 32 students and faculty were shot and killed. The full report is available here.

Topline findings include:

  • There were 156 mass shootings in the U.S. between 2009 and 2016, resulting in 1,187 victims: 848 fatalities and 339 non-fatal injuries.
  • The majority of mass shootings – 54 percent of cases – involved domestic or family violence.
  • 25 percent of all mass shooting fatalities were children. In shootings involving domestic or family violence, children made up more than 40 percent of those killed.
  • In nearly half the shootings – 42 percent of cases – the shooter exhibited warning signs in advance of the shooting, indicating they posed a danger to themselves or others.
  • More than one-third of the shootings – 34 percent – involved a shooter who was prohibited from possessing firearms.
  • Contrary to the myths pushed by the gun lobby, only 10 percent of cases happened in so-called “Gun-Free Zones.” The vast majority of incidents – 63 percent – took place entirely in private homes.

“The findings of this report challenge the conventional understanding of mass shootings in the United States, revealing the true nature and dynamics of such shootings,” said Sarah Tofte, Research Director for Everytown for Gun Safety. “The facts underlying these shootings also demonstrate the value of common-sense policies – like domestic violence laws that keep guns out of the hands of abusers and mechanisms that allow for temporary removal of guns from people who may be a danger to themselves or others – that will help save lives.”

Everytown defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people, not including the shooter, are killed with a firearm. The threshold of four fatalities—which is used by the majority of academics and organizations studying mass violence—is derived from a definition of mass murder used in a 2005 FBI report.

To identify the 156 mass shootings included in this analysis, Everytown pulled information from the FBI’s Supplementary Homicide Report and from media reports. Everytown then requested police and court records for each shooting. Researchers received official records for 76 shootings. If police or court records were unavailable, Everytown used media reports that were deemed reliable for additional case information.

Among other components of their analysis, Everytown researchers tracked the number of cases in which a shooter displayed one or more warning signs, such as threats of violence or protective order violations, prior to carrying out a mass shooting. The high proportion of these “Red Flag” cases underscores why four states – California, Connecticut, Indiana and Washington – have passed laws that provide a mechanism for law enforcement or family members to petition a court to temporarily remove firearms from an individual they believe to be a risk to themselves or others. The analysis calls attention to potential warning signs from the shooter who targeted the Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, FL – the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history.

“Nothing can bring back my son Christopher who was senselessly shot and killed nearly three years ago. After his murder by a man who displayed warning signs, I decided that I would not let his death be in vain – that I would honor his life with action to save lives from gun violence,” said Richard Martinez, whose son Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez was shot and killed in the May 2014 shooting in Isla Vista, California and Outreach Associate for Everytown for Gun Safety. “Along with other gun safety advocates in California, I worked hard to make sure that California passed a Gun Violence Restraining Order law that enables law enforcement to temporarily remove firearms from people who exhibit dangerous red flags. Elected leaders across our country must do more to make sure that’ Not One More’ American is killed by senseless gun violence.”

“The phrase ‘another mass shooting’ should not be a common expression,” said Shannon Watts, founder of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America. “This new analysis reminds us that all too often women and children are the victims of gun violence in America. Although the fatal shooting yesterday of a teacher and her student in San Bernadino was not technically a mass shooting, it, too, reflected this cruel reality. There are real and effective solutions to addressing gun violence, but we must use our voices and votes to demand action from our lawmakers.”