A Regional Breakdown of Mass Shootings

By Nicholas Simons and Jaclyn Schildkraut


Stemming from the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium’s first policy brief, Can Mass Shootings be Stopped?, we’ve generated a geographical breakdown of mass shooting incidents. Data amassed from 1966 to 2016 show that the western and southern regions of the country have historically seen two-thirds of the mass shootings in the nation. These shootings consistently happen in the most populous states, while several states in the New England region have never been home to a mass shooting. Perhaps the solution to this crisis can be found in Maine, New Hampshire, or Rhode Island.




Though they make up a small percentage of gun violence, mass shootings are a growing problem. Over a fifty-year period, 340 mass shootings occurred in the United States. As a result, shooters killed 1,141 people and injured another 1,385. The frequency and severity of these shootings have gone up in recent years. The number of mass shootings continues to increase every decade, averaging ten incidents a year in the late 1960s to sixteen a year in the late 2000s. The median number of deaths per incident (two) and median number of total victims (five) can be juxtaposed to recent events that have seen injuries and fatalities as high as 422 people, sustained during the Las Vegas shooting in 2017.

Further analysis is needed to discern what causes this regional distribution of mass shootings (e.g., types of gun laws or lack thereof). Different areas of the country will likely have to explore solutions tailored to their needs at a state and community level. Something that works in Nashville, Tennessee, might not work in Boise, Idaho. The Consortium is expanding its membership to include experts from states across the country in an effort to diagnose issues of gun violence from multiple perspectives. With time, prevention, and intervention, procedures unique to each community experiencing these tragic events will come. The only way to find them is through research that leads to evidence-based answers.