Mass Shootings in the United States

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It is no secret that America has a mass shooting problem. Just in May 2022, there were 31 shootings that resulted in at least one death—one of which was located in HeinOnline’s hometown of Buffalo, New York, where 10 Black people were murdered on May 14 in an act of lone wolf terrorism by a white supremacist. Across states, laws differ significantly in strictness regarding gun regulation. At the federal level, Congress has struggled to garner the number of votes needed to pass gun control legislation. And with each mass shooting that occurs, there’s an influx of thoughts, prayers, and calls for reform, ultimately to no avail.

Why does America have more mass shootings than any other country in the world? Let’s use HeinOnline to dive into this important yet controversial issue.

Gun Regulation and Legislation in America

To honor our core value of corporate citizenship and help foster knowledge, civil discourse, and action for the betterment of our nation, HeinOnline is proud to offer a free Gun Regulation and Legislation in America database, which is one of four databases currently included within our complimentary Social Justice Suite. This collection contains more than 750 titles and nearly 350,000 pages of periodicals, federal legislative histories, congressional hearings, CRS reports, Supreme Court briefs, and more that analyze gun control in the United States. This collection is automatically included in all HeinOnline Core subscriptions. If you are interested in subscribing to our Social Justice Suite, fill out the form on this page or contact marketing@wshein.com.

homepage of HeinOnline's Gun Regulation and Legislation in America database

The Data on Mass Shootings

We are just six months into 2022, and already this year has seen at least 246 mass shootings, with 27 of them taking place in schools, the most deadly of which occurred in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, when a gunman killed 19 children and two adults at Robb Elementary School. This occurred just 10 days after the Buffalo shooting. On June 1, a gunman killed four people at a medical facility in Tulsa, OK. During the first weekend of June, 36 total people were shot in separate incidents in Chattanooga, Tennessee; Philadelphia, Pennsylvania; and Summerton, South Carolina.

But this isn’t anything new. In 2021, there were 693 mass shootings in America. And the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic didn’t put any damper on these numbers—there were 611 shootings in 2020, and 417 in 2019. And before that, there were countless infamous mass shootings in our recent history that caused catastrophic loss and damage, such as:

  • Las Vegas Strip, 2017, 58 people killed
  • Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL, 2016, 49 people killed
  • Virginia Tech, 2007, 32 people killed
  • Sandy Hook Elementary, Newton, CT, 2012, 27 people killed
  • First Baptist Church, Sutherland Springs, TX, 2017, 26 people killed
  • Walmart in El Paso, TX, 2019, 23 people killed
  • Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland, FL, 2018, 17 people killed
  • Columbine High School, Littleton, CO, 1999, 13 people killed
  • Century 16 movie theater, Aurora, CO, 2012, 12 people killed
  • Tree of Life Synagogue, Pittsburgh, PA, 2018, 11 people killed

The list of senseless tragedies goes on and on.

The United States has more guns than any other country. As of 2018, there were 120.5 firearms per 100 residents—making America the only country with more guns than civilians. The United States ranks 32 on the list of countries with the highest rates of gun-related homicides—most countries with more gun deaths than the United States are in Central America, where economic and political upheaval and drug trafficking play major factors in increased levels of violence. However, the United States is the only developed nation that has experienced mass shootings every single year for the past 20 years.

A Brief History of Gun Control in America

The United States is one of only a few countries in the world that has a right to bear arms written into its Constitution. Therefore, attempts at enacting gun reform often come head-to-head with the Second Amendment[1]Text of the Constitution up to Amendment XXVII, with index and with the Declaration of Independence 21 (1789) Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s World Constitutions … Continue reading For example, in 1934, Congress passed the National Firearms Act,[2]To provide for the taxation of manufacturers, importers, and dealers in certain firearms and machine guns, to tax the sale or other disposal of such weapons, and to restrict importation and regulate interstate transportation thereof., Public Law … Continue reading imposing a tax on the manufacture and transfer of certain firearms and mandated registration of those firearms. When the Act was challenged in 1939’s United States v. Miller,[3]United States v. Miller et al, 307 U.S. 174, 182 (1939). This case can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Supreme Court Library. the Supreme Court upheld the legislation, stating, “The Court cannot take judicial notice that a shotgun having a barrel less than 18 inches long has today any reasonable relation to the preservation or efficiency of a well regulated militia, and therefore cannot say that the Second Amendment guarantees to the citizen the right to keep and bear such a weapon.” However, in the 2008 case District of Columbia v. Heller,[4]District of Columbia et al. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 723 (2007). This case can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Supreme Court Library. the Court changed its mind, deciding: “the Second Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to possess a firearm unconnected with service in a militia, and to use that arm for traditionally lawful purposes, such as self-defense within the home.”

excerpt from National Firearms Act in HeinOnline

Following the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., in 1968 President Lyndon B. Johnson advocated for the Gun Control Act of 1968,[5]To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide for better control of the interstate traffic in firearms., Public Law 90-618, 90 Congress. 82 Stat. 1213 (1968). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database. which put limitations on gun imports, imposed age restrictions for purchasing handguns, limited who could purchase a gun, and generally tightened gun regulations. Several later laws amended this act, such as the Firearms Owners’ Protection Act of 1986[6]To amend chapter 44 (relating to firearms) of title 18, United States Code, and for other purposes., Public Law 99-308, 99 Congress. 100 Stat. 449 (1986). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database. and the Brady Handgun Violence Prevention Act of 1993.[7]To provide for a waiting period before the purchase of a handgun, and for the establishment of a national instant criminal background check system to be contacted by firearms dealers before the transfer of any firearm., Public Law 103-159, 103 … Continue reading President Bill Clinton imposed a temporary assault weapons ban in 1994,[8]To control and prevent crime., Public Law 103-322, 103 Congress. 108 Stat. 1796 (1994). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database. the results of which are still debated today—therefore, when the ban expired in 2004, it was not renewed, and has not been renewed since.

excerpt from assault weapon ban of 1994 in HeinOnline

In the early 2000s, the Tiahrt Amendments and the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act[9]Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act , Public Law 109-92, 109 Congress. 119 Stat. 2095 (2005). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database. helped to protect gun retailers and manufacturers from being sued by victims of gun crimes.

What’s Happening Today

For years, gun control activists and critics have argued about the reasons why mass shootings are so common in America and what can be done about it. Some critics argue that even with gun restrictions, people will still find a way to purchase guns illegally. Some believe more armed protection would help stop these shootings;[10]Matthew Hamel, Good Guys and Good Reasons: Addressing the Constitutionality of Good Reason Right-to-Carry Regulations and the Failures of the “Good Guy with a Gun” Theory, 53 NEW ENG. L. REV. 55 (2018). This … Continue reading however, in the case of Uvalde, armed police officers remained outside the elementary school during the shooting. In Buffalo, Aaron Salter Jr., an armed security guard at the Tops where the shooting occurred, bravely attempted to attack the shooter, who was wearing a bulletproof vest and proceeded to then murder Salter. Some also argue that the real reason behind mass shootings is mental health issues,[11]Adena Gruskin, Does Tragedy Prompt Change: A Look at Gun Control in the Aftermath of Mass Shootings, 42 DTTP 18 (2014). This article can be found in HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library. or from influence from violent media and video games.[12]Aaron Kupchik, John J. Brent & Thomas J. Mowen, The Aftermath of Newtown: More of the Same, 55 BRIT. J. CRIMINOLOGY 1115 (2015). This article can be found in HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library. However, these are issues in other countries as well, which do not have nearly the rates of mass shootings as America does. What America does have, however, is the highest firearm ownership rate in the world.

Currently in Congress there are several stalled pieces of gun regulation legislation. For example, the Enhanced Background Checks Act of 2021 and Bipartisan Background Checks Act of 2021[13]1 1 (March 4, 2021) Firearm Background Checks Under H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Documents database. both aim to expand background checks for all firearm sales. The Federal Extreme Risk Protection Order Act[14]165 Cong. Rec. H4221 (2019). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Documents database. would allow family members and law enforcement to remove access to firearms from those deemed a danger to themselves or others. In addition, the Protecting Our Kids Act contains a list of bills that include raising the purchasing age for semiautomatic rifles, outlawing large-capacity magazines, and more. A House committee meeting for this act was scheduled for June 3.[15]168 Cong. Rec. D601 (2022). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Documents database. However, lack of bipartisan support as well as the filibuster have made further action on these laws difficult.

Today, leading senators from both parties are meeting to discuss a plan for addressing and preventing mass shootings. The House of Representatives passed a gun reform bill yesterday to raise the minimum age to purchase an assault rifle from 18 to 21, after hearing testimonies from victims of the Uvalde and Buffalo shootings and their family members—this legislation is not expected to pass in the Senate.

Continue Your Research in HeinOnline

In addition to our Gun Regulation and Legislation in America database, HeinOnline is full of resources that you can use to research gun legislation at the state and federal level. For example, check out the National Survey of State Laws database, where you can compare and contrast gun legislation across different states.

National Survey of State Laws section on Gun Control

And, of course, our Law Journal Library has thousands of scholarly articles pertaining to gun regulation and mass shootings as well. An easy way to find these articles is to use our PathFinder tool and select a topic such as Second Amendment, which contains the sub-topics of Firearms, Handguns, and Right to Bear Arms.

In addition, you can subscribe to the HeinOnline Blog, where we follow important topics like this closely and show you how you can conduct your own research using trustworthy, reliable sources within our databases.

HeinOnline Sources

HeinOnline Sources
1 Text of the Constitution up to Amendment XXVII, with index and with the Declaration of Independence 21 (1789) Amendments to the Constitution of the United States of America. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s World Constitutions Illustrated database.
2 To provide for the taxation of manufacturers, importers, and dealers in certain firearms and machine guns, to tax the sale or other disposal of such weapons, and to restrict importation and regulate interstate transportation thereof., Public Law 73-474 / Chapter 757, 73 Congress. 48 Stat. 1236 (1928-1934) (1934). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database.
3 United States v. Miller et al, 307 U.S. 174, 182 (1939). This case can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Supreme Court Library.
4 District of Columbia et al. v. Heller, 554 U.S. 570, 723 (2007). This case can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Supreme Court Library.
5 To amend title 18, United States Code, to provide for better control of the interstate traffic in firearms., Public Law 90-618, 90 Congress. 82 Stat. 1213 (1968). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database.
6 To amend chapter 44 (relating to firearms) of title 18, United States Code, and for other purposes., Public Law 99-308, 99 Congress. 100 Stat. 449 (1986). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database.
7 To provide for a waiting period before the purchase of a handgun, and for the establishment of a national instant criminal background check system to be contacted by firearms dealers before the transfer of any firearm., Public Law 103-159, 103 Congress. 107 Stat. 1536 (1993). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database.
8 To control and prevent crime., Public Law 103-322, 103 Congress. 108 Stat. 1796 (1994). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database.
9 Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act , Public Law 109-92, 109 Congress. 119 Stat. 2095 (2005). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Statutes at Large database.
10 Matthew Hamel, Good Guys and Good Reasons: Addressing the Constitutionality of Good Reason Right-to-Carry Regulations and the Failures of the “Good Guy with a Gun” Theory, 53 NEW ENG. L. REV. 55 (2018). This article can be found in HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library.
11 Adena Gruskin, Does Tragedy Prompt Change: A Look at Gun Control in the Aftermath of Mass Shootings, 42 DTTP 18 (2014). This article can be found in HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library.
12 Aaron Kupchik, John J. Brent & Thomas J. Mowen, The Aftermath of Newtown: More of the Same, 55 BRIT. J. CRIMINOLOGY 1115 (2015). This article can be found in HeinOnline’s Law Journal Library.
13 1 1 (March 4, 2021) Firearm Background Checks Under H.R. 8 and H.R. 1446. This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Documents database.
14 165 Cong. Rec. H4221 (2019). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Documents database.
15 168 Cong. Rec. D601 (2022). This document can be found in HeinOnline’s U.S. Congressional Documents database.
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