The Deadliest Mass Shootings In History

By Victoria Simpson on September 10 2020 in World Facts

The term "mass shooting" really only emerged in the post-World War II era.
The term "mass shooting" really only emerged in the post-World War II era.
  • Does the US lead the world in mass shootings? The worst incidents have been in South Asia, Europe, and Africa.
  • This being said, the US has a gun homicide rate that is astoundingly over 25 times higher than in other countries with high incomes.
  • Sometimes, groups like the Taliban or ISIS are behind mass shootings, and at other times, people are seeking out twisted acts of individual revenge in horrific ways.

Life is fleeting and given your circumstances, you may enjoy your days but dread dying in a war, an accident, or un untimely event. In recent times, the fear of mass shootings has also gripped the hearts of many. This is for good reason. While still rare events, mass shootings typically come without any warning and are often led by shooters who can seemingly strike at random. By definition (which is still debated), a mass shooting is one that involves four or more people being shot to death at one location. It can also happen in several places that are close together. (This does not include gang killings, although these can be just as unforgiving). 

The US is known for being a hotbed for mass shootings, but some of the worst killings have actually taken place elsewhere in Africa, South Asia, and Europe. 

Garissa University College Attack, Kenya, 2015

The worst mass shooting in recent recorded history took place in Kenya on April 3, 2015. On this dire day, 148 people were killed in a terror attack committed in the name of the Somali Islamist group al-Shabab. The gruesome killing had four gunmen target students and staff who self-identified as Christians. Victims were asked on the spot whether they were Muslim or Christian. Depending on how they answered, they were killed in broad daylight or let go.

Why kill? The perpetrators said they were retaliating for acts of violence committed by Kenya’s security forces in the country. 

Peshawar School Massacre, Pakistan, 2014

On December 16, 2014 scores of innocent students and staff at the Army Public School, which is run by the military in northwestern Pakistan, were attacked and killed. Seven armed assailants shot 141 people to death, mostly children. It was a horrific blood bath.

Why commit such an atrocity? This mass shooting was a heartless act done to get back at the Pakistani military for killing Taliban fighters in a prior attack in the Khyber area and North Waziristan.  Pakistan had previously been accused by many world leaders of not dissuading the Taliban from acting within its borders. Attacks such as this one bring to light the inner tensions that a country like Pakistan lives with, and how hard it can be to do the right thing.  

November 2015 Paris Attacks, France, 2015

ISIS claimed responsibility for this next horrendous event in France. Spanning two days from November 13 to 14, 2015, assailants shot and used explosives that killed 130 people in Paris, and wounded 494 others. People in restaurants, a concert hall, a sports stadium, and just on the sidewalk were the defenceless targets. The shooters attacked with assault rifles, and as suicide bombers. In the end, a three-month national state of emergency was declared in France and security laws were tightened.  These included giving authorities more ability to block websites that promote terrorism, to carry out searches without warrants, and to place suspicious people under house arrest. 

Protesters gather outside of the National Rifle Association headquarters for a vigil in remembrance of the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre, US, December 14, 2017. Image credit: Nicole Glass Photography/Shutterstock

Mass Shootings in the US

Gun violence is also a major issue in the US. There is some debate on whether or not Americans lead the world in mass shootings, but some things are definitely clear. Americans own more guns per capita than people in any other country. People in the US also have a gun homicide rate that is astoundingly over 25 times higher than in other countries with high incomes. It is true that countries in Central and South America have a higher gun-homicide rate, but the US does lead the world in children dying from gunshots.

As analysts note, this is a disturbing trend. In 2019, the US had the highest number of mass killings ever recorded in a single year in the country, with 41 events and 211 people killed. Clearly, something needs to change. 

Mass shootings are a tragic part of modern life on our planet. As acts of violence, they result from various circumstances. Sometimes politics and war are the drivers, and in other times, twisted personal revenge is at play. Mental health issues and readily available guns come together to create a toxic combination that targets the innocent. Through stronger, more supportive communities that foster relationships over wealth and stricter gun laws, these atrocities may become a thing of the past. 

The Deadliest Mass Shootings In History

RankShootingLocationYearCasualties
1Garissa University College AttackGarissa, Kenya2015148
2Peshawar School MassacrePeshawar, Pakistan2014149
3November 2015 Paris AttacksParis, France2015130
42011 Norway AttacksOslo, Norway201177
5Westgate Shopping Mall AttackNairobi, Kenya201367
62017 Las Vegas ShootingLas Vegas, Nevada, USA201758
7South Korea Shooting of 1982Uiryeong County, South Korea198256
8New Zealand Mosque ShootingsChristchurch, New Zealand201951
92016 Orlando Nightclub ShootingOrlando, Florida, USA201649
10Sousse Beach Mass ShootingSousse, Tunisia201538
11Port Arthur MasacrePort Arthur, Tasmania, Australia199635
12Virginia Tech ShootingsBlacksburg, Virginia, USA200732
13Tian Mingjian IncidentBeijing, China199428
14Sandy Hook MassacreNewtown, Connecticut, USA201227
15Sutherland Springs Church ShootingSutherland Springs, Texas, USA201726
16Kampala Wedding MassacreKampala, Uganda199426
17Luby's ShootingKillen, Texas, USA199123
18El Paso Walmart ShootingEl Paso, Texas201922
19Nove Scotia AttacksNova Scotia, Canada202022
20San Ysidro McDonald's MassacreSan Ysidro, California, USA198421
212015 Bamako Hotel AttackBamako, Mali201520
222010 Chihuahua ShootingsChihuahua, Mexico201019
23University of Texas Tower ShootingAustin, Texas, USA196618
24Dunblane MassacreDunblane, Scotland, UK199617
25Erfurt School MassacreErfurt, Germany200217
26Stoneman Douglas High School ShootingParkland, Florida, USA201817
27Hungerford MassacreHungergord, Berkshire, UK198716
28Winneden School ShootingWinnenden, Germany200916
29Columbine High School MassacreColumbine, Colorado, USA199915
30Edmond Post Office ShootingEdmond, Oklahoma, USA198615
31Toulon France ShootingToulon, France199515
32Zug MassacreZug, Switzerland200114
33Luxiol MassacreLuxiol, France198914
342015 San Bernandino AttackSan Bernardino, California, USA2,01514
35École Polytechnique massacreMontreal, Quebec, Canada1,98914
36Pashupatinath Temple ShootingMandsaur, India198314
37Aramoana MassacreAramoana, New Zealand199013
38Fort Hood ShootingFort Hood, Texas, USA200913
39Binghamton ShootingsBinghamton, New York, USA200913
40Baku ShootingBaku, Azerbaijan200913
41Velika Ivanča ShootingVelika Ivanča, Serbia201313
42Kamwenge Trading Centre ShootingKamwenge, Uganda199413
43Aurora ShootingAurora, Colorado, USA201212
441999 Atlanta ShootingAtlanta, Georgia, USA199912
45Rio de Janeiro School ShootingRio de Janeiro, Brazil201112
46Campinas MassacreCampinas, Brazil201612
47Cumbria ShootingsCumbria, England, UK201012
48Charlie Hebdo ShootingParis, France201512
492011 Rio de Janeiro School ShootingRio de Janeiro, Brazil201112
50Virginia Beach ShootingVirginia Beach, Virginia, USA201912
51Washington Navy Yard ShootingWashington, D.C., USA201311

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