Although mass shootings — especially in schools — typically draw the most attention from the media, the reality is that these shootings account for a very small percentage of death-by-firearms in our country.
The recent spate of random, isolated shootings — the 16 year-old boy who was shot by an 84 year-old man in Kansas City when he mistakenly knocked on his door; the 20 year-old young woman who was shot by a 65 year-old man in upstate NY when her car mistakenly drove up the wrong driveway; the six year-old girl and her father who were shot by a 24 year-old man when her basketball rolled onto his property in No. Carolina; the high school cheerleader who was killed when she mistakenly approached the wrong car in a parking lot in Texas; and the murder of a family of five in Texas by a man who was target shooting with his AR-15 late at night — are more typical of the manner in which innocent Americans (in shootings that are not crime-related) are killed by firearms.
Gun murders have climbed sharply in recent years. About 80% of murders in the U.S. in 2021 – 20,958 out of 26,031 – involved a firearm. That marked the highest percentage since record-keeping began in 1968 and represents a 75% increase in the past 10 years.
However, fatalities in mass shooting incidents in 2021 totaled only 706 Americans, accounting for a small fraction of the 20,958 murders-by-guns.
Similarly, while mass shootings in schools make the headlines, they account for only a very small proportion of gun deaths among children. The number of American children killed by firearms has risen dramatically in the past two years by almost 50%, from 1,732 in 2019 to 2,590 in 2021.
It should surprise no one that the states with the highest rates of gun-related deaths – counting murders, suicides and all other categories – include Mississippi (28.6 per 100,000 people), Louisiana (26.3), Wyoming (25.9), Missouri (23.9) and Alabama (23.6), all of which have lax gun ownership laws (as well as “open carry” and “stand your ground” laws).
By contrast, the states with the lowest rates include New York (5.3), Rhode Island (5.1), New Jersey (5.0), Massachusetts (3.7) and Hawaii (3.4), all of which have strong gun laws.
More tellingly, our death rate by firearms of about 10 per 100,000 Americans is far higher than in countries with strict gun ownership laws, such as Canada (2.1 per 100,000) and Australia (1.0), as well as European nations such as France (2.7), Germany (0.9) and Spain (0.6). The equation is very simple: More guns = more shootings — a trend that is increasing in our country with no end in sight.