Weapons Used in Contemporary American Mass Shootings

Weapons Used in Contemporary American Mass Murders
by Kirby Sanders
December 18, 2012

As the debate over gun control rages once again in the aftermath of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings in Newtown CT, perhaps some analysis is in order to determine exactly what firearms have been involved in these tragedies. Including this most recent case, there have been 62 recorded multiple shootings in the United States over the last 30 years. Since the infamous Columbine High School massacre in Littleton CO on April 20, 1999, there have been 32 (including Sandy Hook) “mass murders” according to FBI / National Crime Information Center statistics. Those statistics quantify a “mass murder” as four or more deaths (excluding the perpetrator) in a single incident. The following is a statistical survey of weapons used in the 32 incidents since and including Columbine.

Given the fact that murderer Adam Lanza used a .223 caliber AR15 style rifle in the December 14, 2012, shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary, much of the current debate has again focused on “military style assault rifles”. These types of weapons have been used in eight of the 62 incidents.  AR15 variant weapons using .223 caliber ammunition were used in five of the 32 incidents since Columbine (one case being a European variant roughly equivalent to .224 caliber). AK47 variant weapons chambered for European 7.62×39 caliber were used in three incidents. None of those were fully automatic, true military “assault rifles”. All were civilian semiautomatic weapons.

Given that Lanza also carried a Glock brand semiautomatic pistol and a Sig Sauer semiautomatic pistol, those, too, have come under scrutiny. Glock pistols have been employed in eight of the recent incidents. Sig Sauer pistols have been used in two. Handguns have been used in most of the recent incidents with semiautomatic pistols constituting the vast majority. Of the incidents where handguns were used, five involved revolver type weapons — the balance employed an array of different brands and calibers of semiautomatic. Far and away, the most often employed caliber is the nine millimeter (9mm). This 9mm ammunition has been involved in 14 of the 32 cases since Columbine. It should be noted, however, that 9mm is probably the most common caliber of ammunition available in the United States.

In four of the incidents, the specific model of firearm used could not be determined.

Shotguns have been used in eight of the incidents, being 12 gauge chambering, pump action models every time.

Details of the incidents prior to Sandy Hook are as follows:
The base timeline and synopses of the incidents are from Think Progress http://thinkprogress.org/justice/2012/12/14/1337221/a-timeline-of-mass-shootings-in-the-us-since-columbine/ writtem by Aviva Shen. Additional research on the types of weapons used in each case is by Kirby Sanders.

December 11, 2012. On Tuesday, 22-year-old Jacob Tyler Roberts killed 2 people and himself with a stolen rifle in Clackamas Town Center, Oregon. His motive is unknown.
• AR15 style  rifle / .223 caliber

September 27, 2012. Five were shot to death by 36-year-old Andrew Engeldinger at Accent Signage Systems in Minneapolis, MN. Three others were wounded. Engeldinger went on a rampage after losing his job, ultimately killing himself.
• Glock semiautomatic pistol  / 9mm caliber

August 5, 2012. Six Sikh temple members were killed when 40-year-old US Army veteran Wade Michael Page opened fire in a gurdwara in Oak Creek, Wisconsin. Four others were injured, and Page killed himself.
• Springfield XD (M) semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber

July 20, 2012. During the midnight premiere of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, CO, 24-year-old James  Eagan  Holmes killed 12 people and wounded 58. Holmes was arrested outside the theater.
• Two Glock Model 22  semiautomatic pistols / .40 caliber
• Smith & Wesson M&P15 AR 15 style rifle / .223 caliber
• Remington Model 870 shotgun / .12 gauge

May 29, 2012. Ian Stawicki opened fire on Cafe Racer Espresso in Seattle, WA, killing 5 and himself after a citywide manhunt.
• Para-Ordnance semiautomatic pistol / .45 caliber

April 6, 2012. Jake England, 19, and Alvin Watts, 32, shot 5 black men in Tulsa, Oklahoma, in racially motivated shooting spree. Three died.
• weapons undetermined

April 2, 2012. A former student, 43-year-old One L. Goh killed 7 people at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college in Oakland, CA. The shooting was the sixth-deadliest school massacre in the US and the deadliest attack on a school since the 2007 Virginia Tech massacre.
•  unidentified semiautomatic pistol / .45 caliber.

February 27, 2012. Three students were killed by Thomas “TJ” Lane, another student, in a rampage at Chardon High School in Chardon, OH. Three others were injured.
• unidentified handgun / .22 caliber
• knife

October 14, 2011. Eight people died in a shooting at Salon Meritage hair salon in Seal Beach, CA. The gunman, 41-year-old Scott Evans Dekraai, killed six women and two men dead, while just one woman survived. It was Orange County’s deadliest mass killing.
• Springfield  Arms semiautomatic pistol / 9 mm caliber
• Heckler & Koch semiautomatic pistol / 9 mm caliber
• Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol / .44magnum caliber

September 6, 2011. Eduardo Sencion, 32, entered an IHOP restaurant in Carson City, NV and shot 12 people. Five died, including three National Guard members.
• AK47 variant semiautomatic rifle / 7.62×39 caliber

July 7, 2011. Seven people were shot to death when Rodrick Dantzler went on a rampage in Grand Rapids, MI. He killed his ex-girlfriend, her sister, and her sister’s 10-year-old daughter, his ex-wife and their daughter before going on a rampage on the street.
• Glock semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber

January 8, 2011. Former Rep. Gabby Giffords (D-AZ) was shot in the head when 22-year-old Jared Loughner opened fire on an event she was holding at a Safeway market in Tucson, AZ. Six people died, including Arizona District Court Chief Judge John Roll, one of Giffords’ staffers, and a 9-year-old girl. 19 total were shot. Loughner has been sentenced to seven life terms plus 140 years, without parole.
• Glock semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber

August 3, 2010. Omar S. Thornton, 34, gunned down Hartford Beer Distributor in Manchester, CT after getting caught stealing beer. Nine were killed, including Thornton, and two were injured.
• Two Ruger SR9 semiautomatic pistols / 9mm caliber

November 5, 2009. Forty-three people were shot by Army psychiatrist Nidal Malik Hasan at the Fort Hood army base in Texas. Hasan reportedly yelled “Allahu Akbar!” before opening fire, killing 13 and wounding 29 others.
• FN Five-seven semiautomatic pistol /  5.57mm caliber (European equivalent of .223 caliber)
• Smith & Wesson revolver pistol  / .357 Magnum caliber

April 3, 2009. Jiverly Wong, 41, opened fire at an immigration center in Binghamton, New York before committing suicide. He killed 13 people and wounded 4.
• Beretta 92FS Vertec semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber
• Beretta Px4 semiautomatic pistol / .45 caliber

March 29, 2009. Eight people died in a shooting at the Pinelake Health and Rehab nursing home in Carthage, NC. The gunman, 45-year-old Robert Stewart, was targeting his estranged wife who •worked at the home and survived. Stewart was sentenced to life in prison.
• unidentified revolver pistol / .357 Magnum caliber
• unidentified semi-automatic pistol / 22 Magnum caliber
• Winchester 1300 shotgun / 12-gauge

February 14, 2008. Steven Kazmierczak, 27, opened fire in a lecture hall at Northern Illinois University, killing 6 and wounding 21. The gunman shot and killed himself before police arrived. It was the fifth-deadliest university shooting in US • history.
• Glock Model 19 semi automatic pistol / 9mm caliber
• Kurz Sig Sauer P232 semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber
• Hi-Point CF380 / .380 caliber

February 7, 2008. Six people died and two were injured in a shooting spree at the City Hall in Kirkwood, Missouri. The gunman, Charles Lee Thornton, opened fire during a public meeting after being denied construction contracts he believed he deserved. Thornton was killed by police.
• Smith & Wesson Model 29 revolver pistol / .44 Magnum caliber
• Smith & Wesson semiautomatic pistol (stolen from police officer whom he shot immediately prior to incident) / .40 caliber

December 5, 2007. A 19-year-old boy, Robert Hawkins, shot up a department store in the Westroads Mall in Omaha, NE. Hawkins killed 9 people and wounded 4 before killing himself. The semi-automatic rifle he used was stolen from his stepfather’s house.
• AK47 semiautomatic rifle / 7.62×39 caliber

April 16, 2007. Virginia Tech became the site of the deadliest school shooting in US history when a student, Seung-Hui Choi, gunned down 56 people. Thirty-two people died in the massacre.
• Walther P22 semiautomatic pistol / .22 caliber
• Glock Model 19 semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber

February 12, 2007. In Salt Lake City’s Trolley Square Mall, 5 people were shot to death and 4 others were wounded by 18-year-old gunman Sulejman Talovic. One of the victims was a 16-year-old boy.
• Mossberg Maverick 88 Field shotgun / 12 gauge
• S&W M36 revolver pistol / .38-caliber

October 2, 2006. An Amish schoolhouse in Lancaster, PA was gunned down by 32-year-old Charles Carl Roberts, Roberts separated the boys from the girls, binding and shooting the girls. 5 young girls died, while 6 were injured. Roberts committed suicide afterward.
• Springfield XD semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber
• Browning BPS pump-action shotgun / 12 gauge
• Ruger M77 bolt-action rifle / .30-06 caliber

March 25, 2006. Seven died and 2 were injured by 28-year-old Kyle Aaron Huff in a shooting spree through Capitol Hill in Seattle, WA. The massacre was the worst killing in Seattle since 1983.
• Winchester 1300 Defender shotgun / 12 gauge
• Ruger P944 semiautomatic pistol / .40-caliber

March 21, 2005. Teenager Jeffrey Weise killed his grandfather and his grandfather’s girlfriend before opening fire on Red Lake Senior High School, killing 9 people on campus and injuring 5. Weise killed himself.
• Winchester 1300 Defender shotgun / 12 gauge
• Ruger P944 semiautomatic pistol / .40-caliber

March 12, 2005. A Living Church of God meeting was gunned down by 44-year-old church member Terry Michael Ratzmann at a Sheraton hotel in Brookfield, WI. Ratzmann was thought to have had religious motivations, and killed himself after executing the pastor, the pastor’s 16-year-old son, and 7 others. Four were wounded.
• Beretta 92FS semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber

July 8, 2003. Doug Williams, a Lockheed Martin employee, shot up his plant in Meridian, MS in a racially-motivated rampage. He shot 14 people, most of them African American, and killed 7 before killing himself.
• Winchester 1200 shotgun / 12 gauge
• Ruger Mini-14 semiautomatic rifle / .223 caliber

December 26, 2000. Edgewater Technology employee Michael “Mucko” McDermott shot and killed seven of his coworkers at the office in Wakefield, MA. McDermott claimed he had “traveled back in time and killed Hitler and the last 6 Nazis.” He was sentenced to 7 consecutive life sentences.
• AK47 style semiautomatic rifle / 7.62×39 caliber
• Winchester 1300 shotgun / 12 gauge
• Retolaza semiautomatic pistol / .32 caliber

September 15, 1999. Larry Gene Ashbrook opened fire on a Christian rock concert and teen prayer rally at Wedgewood Baptist Church in Fort Worth, TX. He killed 7 people and wounded 7 others, almost all teenagers. Ashbrook committed suicide.
• Ruger P85 semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber
• AMT Backup semiautomatic pistol / .380 caliber

July 29, 1999. Mark Orrin Barton, 44, murdered his wife and two children with a hammer before shooting up two Atlanta day trading firms. Barton, a day trader, was believed to be motivated by huge monetary losses. He killed 12 including his family and injured 13 before killing himself.
• Hammer
• Colt 1911A1 semiautomatic pistol / .45 caliber
• Glock  Model 17 semiautomatic pistol / 9mm caliber
• H&R Revolver pistol / .22 caliber
• Raven MP-25 semiautomatic pistol / .25 caliber

April 20, 1999. In the deadliest high school shooting in US history, teenagers Eric Harris and Dylan Kiebold shot up Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. They killed 13 people and wounded 21 others. They killed themselves after the massacre.
• Savage-Springfield 67H pump-action shotgun / 12 gauge (Harris)
• Hi-Point 995 Carbine /  9mm caliber (Harris)
• Pipe Bomb (Harris)

• Intratec TEC-9 semi-automatic handgun / 9mm caliber (Kliebold)
• 12-gauge Stevens 311D double-barreled sawed-off shotgun / 12 gauge (Kliebold)

On a quantitative basis, as the following graph by Judith Robinson Levine indicates several worthy considerations:
Mass Shootings copy
1. There have been definite downturns in mass shootings immediately following major event years; notably 1999 – 2004, 2005 – 2007 and 2009 – 2012.

2. Semi-automatic weapons (handgun and rifle combined) constituted what was used in approximately 89.6% of woundings and fatalities. Approximately 10.4% of all deaths and woundings are attributable to manual weapons (revolver style handguns, shotguns, bolt-action rifles, etc). However, it should be noted that semiautomatic handguns in particular have become far and away the most popular models of handgun worldwide amongst police, military and civilians since the introduction of the European Borchardt Luger in 1893 and the “Broomhandle” Mauser in 1896. The Borchardt Luger was the first semiautomatic handgun to be patented and released. The “Broomhandle” Mauser could be configured as either a handgun or fitted with stock to serve as a carbine-style short rifle. Both are German designs.

3. The years with the greatest number of woundings and fatalities due to mass shootings have been 1999 (76 in number), 2007 (79 in number), 2009 (78 in number) and 2012 (142 in number).

4.  There has been a sharp increase in the number of woundings and fatalities due to mass shootings between 2006 and 2012.

5. Of the years within the scope of this survey during the “assault weapons ban” (1994-2004), the Columbine year 1999 represents a significant spike. The only years that show no mass shooting incidents are 2001, 2002 and 2004.

6. The years with the fewest number of woundings and fatalities due to mass shootings since Columbine 1999 were 2000 (7 in number) and 2010 (11 in number).

Update – December 20, 2012
Where have mass shooting events occurred?

As we consider the effect of mass shooting events on the public safety, another logical question is “where have these events occurred?”.

• 1) Private business establishments appear to be the primary locations, accounting for the sites of 11 of the contemporary events.

• 2) Public areas (city streets, shopping malls, etc) account for seven of the locales.

• 3) Schools account for six locales.

• 4) Religious or church facilities and gatherings have been the locations for five of the mass shooting incidents.

• 5) Government or military facilities account for three incidents since 1999.

• 6) Two appear to have involved private residences.

8 thoughts on “Weapons Used in Contemporary American Mass Shootings

  1. Judith Levine

    Thank you, Kirby. This is important information. I would like to make a graph with this data if you don’t mind. Or did you find one that was easily read (in this less is more age)?

    Reply
    1. kirbytheog Post author

      Go right ahead. I would love to have a high res jpg of the graph to illustrate this piece. All I ask is that you attribute my data. It was a lot of work digging out all the info. If you do make a graph and I use it on my page, I will certainly attribute “Graph by Judith Robinson Levine”.

      Reply
  2. gengwall

    While quite thorough, I think you missed a few important ones.
    The Dec 9 2007 Colorado YWAM and New Life Church shootings
    The June 11 2009 Holocaust Memorial shooting (while only one person and the shooter died, it could have been worse)

    Reply
    1. kirbytheog Post author

      Youth With a Mission / New Life situation is a bit of an anomaly. I used FBI / National Crime Information Center definition for “mass murder” being 4+ fatalities (excluding the shooter) in a single incident. YWAM / New Life was technically two separate incidents. Granted, they were related but technically two different incidents. There will be some such anomalies in any statistical collection of data. FWIW, killer Matthew J. Murray killed 2 at Youth With a Mission center in Arvada CO and (approx 12 hours later) killed 2 more at New Life Church in Colorado Springs CO. He used Bushmaster XM15 (AR15 style) .223-caliber rifle, 1 Beretta .40-caliber semiautomatic handgun and 1 Springfield Armory 9mm semiautomatic handgun in the New Life shooting. At the earlier YWAM incident he used one of the 2 handguns (I am uncertain which one).

      I also did not include the October 2002 Washington DC sniper attacks (shooters John Allen Muhammad and Lee Boyd Malvo) because technically they were 15 separate incidents over a 3 week period. YWAM / New Life and DC sniper incidents are statistically categorized as “serial killings” rather than “mass killings”.

      Reply
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