Mass Shootings and Assault Weapons

The death toll in the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland makes it one of the deadliest gun massacres in U.S. history, and it was the deadliest school shooting since 20 first graders and six educators were gunned down inside Sandy Hook Elementary School. After the Parkland shooting, it emerged that the perpetrator purchased his AR-15 assault rifle legally. That weapon and others like it were once banned under U.S. law and there are growing calls for a reintroduction of that legislation.

The AR-15 is a civilian version of the military grade M4 and M16 type of rifles that are designed to deliver relatively small sized rounds at high velocity in order to inflict devastating and lethal wounds. “Routine handgun gunshot injuries leave entry and exit wounds and linear tracks through the victim’s body that are roughly the size of the bullet….The bullets fired by an AR-15 are different: They travel at a higher velocity and are far more lethal than routine bullets fired from a handgun. The damage they cause is a function of the energy they impart as they pass through the body. A typical AR-15 bullet leaves the barrel traveling almost three times faster than—and imparting more than three times the energy of—a typical 9mm bullet from a handgun.” (from “What I Saw Treating the Victims From Parkland Should Change the Debate on Guns”)

In his book “Rampage Nation” Louis Klarevas of the University of Massachusetts at Boston notes that gun massacres (defined as a shooting incident in which six or more people are shot and killed) fell 37 percent during the period the federal assault weapons ban was in place between 1994 and 2004, and that in the ten years after it lapsed, they went up an alarming 183 percent.

 

Below are the deadliest mass shootings in modern US History. Note that only two (Columbine and Atlanta, both in 1999) occurred during the 10 year period (1994 – 2004) the assault weapons ban was in place.  Shootings where a semi-automatic rifle was used are highlighted.

Santa Fe High School shooting

2018

10

14

Stoneman Douglas High School shooting

2018

17

17

Las Vegas shooting

2017

59 (inc. the perp.)

851 (422 from gunfire)

Sutherland Springs church shooting

2017

27 (inc. the perp.)

20

Orlando nightclub shooting 

2016

50 (inc. the perp.)

53

San Bernardino attack

2015

16 (inc. both perps.)

24

Umpqua Community College shooting

2015

10 (inc. the perp.)

8

Washington Navy Yard shooting

2013

13 (inc. the perp.)

8

Aurora shooting

2012

12

70

Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting

2012

28 (inc. the perp.)

2

Binghamton shootings

2009

14 (inc. the perp.)

4

Fort Hood shooting

2009

14 

33 (inc. the perp.)

Geneva County massacre

2009

11 (inc. the perp.)

6

Virginia Tech shooting 

2007

33 (inc. the perp.)

23

Red Lake shootings

2005

10 (inc. the perp.)

5

Atlanta shootings

1999

10 (inc. the perp.)

13

Columbine High School massacre

1999

15 (inc. both perps.)

24

Luby’s shooting 

1991

24 (inc. the perp.)

27

GMAC shootings

1990

10 (inc. the perp.)

6

Edmond post office shooting

1986

15 (inc. the perp.)

6

Palm Sunday massacre

1984

10

0

San Ysidro McDonald’s massacre

1984

23 (inc. the perp.)[fn 1]

19

Wah Mee massacre

1983

13

1

Wilkes-Barre shootings

1982

13

1

Easter Sunday massacre

1975

11

0

University of Texas tower shooting 

1966

18 (inc. the perp.)[fn 1]

31

Camden shootings 

1949

13

Additional reading:

With AR-15s, Mass Shooters Attack With the Rifle Firepower Typically Used by Infantry Troops – New York Times

Why the AR-15 keeps appearing at America’s deadliest mass shootings – USA Today

Is It Time to Bring Back the Assault Weapons Ban? – Statista

Assault guns are not just about mass shootings — they’re also a big factor in attacks on police and other crimes – LA Times