History Of Mass Shootings In The United States

History Of Mass Shootings In The United States

AP Photo/Ed Andrieski, File

Earlier this week, I wrote about how other countries’ gun control laws aren’t necessarily responsible for the lack of mass shootings. In it, I point out that mass shootings tend to be either rare or non-existent events before the attack used to justify gun control laws in those countries occurred.


Meanwhile, I didn’t get into mentioning massacres in the United States.

Frankly, it wasn’t relevant. I was talking about other countries at the time.

However, I started to think that it might be a good idea to take a step back and look at our nation for a bit. In particular, our history with mass shootings of various types, including rampage shootings. After all, if the claim is going to be that gun control worked for these other countries, doesn’t it help to understand the differences in the problem itself?

So, I decided to do a little research and see what I could find.

Part of the problem I found is that our nation’s early history is loaded with massacres. There are plenty from before our nation’s founding as well as after. Many of those, however, were groups of people slaughtering other groups of people and while horrific, not what people today think of when we look at mass shootings.

The earliest example I could find that would probably be considered a mass shooting by today’s standards comes from 1889. In that incident, a man claiming to be a Seminole wanted to marry a Seminole woman. He was denied permission, so he got a gun and went on a rampage, eventually killing eight people before he was killed.


That’s a good century before the term “mass shooting” entered the English language lexicon for most folks.

After that, we have some relatively brutal crimes, but nothing quite as shocking as the Midnight Massacre in 1945. In that incident, an Army private guarding a prison camp full of German POWs turned a .30-caliber Browning Machine Gun on the tents holding the sleeping prisoners and opened fire. His reasoning? He said he hated Germans and wanted to kill Germans.

He did — nine of them.

He was found to be mentally insane and instead of prison was locked up in a mental facility for some length of time.

For some, the first real mass shooting came just a few years later. In 1949, a man took a gun and went for a stroll in Camden, NJ. In the process, he killed 13 people.

In 1966, we had the notorious University of Texas shooting when a deranged man in the school’s clock tower opened fire, killing 17 people. The killer didn’t survive.

Note, for a moment, that this is now more mass shootings than England and Scotland combined, and this is just up to 1966. Since then, there have been a whole lot more.

For anti-gunners, this looks like all the reason in the world to enact more gun control.

However, many of these shootings took place in a world before things like concealed carry and the popularity of AR-15s, all the things anti-gun activists spend so much time deriding as a threat. Most of these early attacks involved revolvers, low-magazine capacity semi-automatic handguns, and hunting long-guns.


The point here is that we cannot look to other countries for solutions because our problems are different. I love my country and I wouldn’t change a thing about who we are as a people, but there’s also something about this country that tends to lead to this kind of thing. Something that didn’t really happen in other places and didn’t long before their current crop of gun control laws.

If the prevalence of guns were a sufficient cause for mass murder, then all of these nations that were lacking strict gun control laws previously would have had more of an issue. But in many cases, they had none.

That suggests that there’s some cultural trigger for this kind of thing, perhaps something we don’t understand that has been exported to other countries since.

I don’t pretend to know.

The problem is, far too many people pretend they do. They pretend that a complex problem that’s been around for decades has a simplistic solution such as restricting guns or taking them away from people that make others uncomfortable. While taking them away might help on occasion, how many people will be hurt who would never have done anything?

That’s a big chunk of the problem here, but the bigger is that so many of our politicians are so focused on restricting things that few are actually asking, “Why?”


It’s as if no one cares about the causes; like it doesn’t matter if someone thinks slaughtering their fellow man sounds like a swell time? They don’t get that while looking at massacres throughout the ages, I’ve found a number committed with mundane things like fire and, of course, vehicles. These are things no one is seriously talking about restricting, either.

Instead, they pretend this is a new problem related to newer developments. It’s easier for them to comprehend it that way, I suppose. It doesn’t change reality, though.

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