The horrific shooting at a Colorado supermarket, which left ten dead on Monday, is the second major lone shooter incident in the U.S. in short succession after eight were killed at a rampage at several Atlanta area massage parlors just last week. This brings the mass shooting tally of 2021 to two, just as many as occurred in the pandemic year of 2020.
Mother Jones has counted 59 mass shootings that caused the deaths of three or more people in the U.S. since 2013. While the numbers fluctuate each year, 2017, 2018 and 2019 saw an especially high number of these events. The 2017 tally includes 58 killed at the Route 91 Harvest music festival in Las Vegas, while 2016 deaths include the 49 lives lost at Pulse nightclub in Orlando.
Mother Jones applies a narrow definition of mass shootings. Counting those which left at least three dead by gunshot (not counting the perpetrator), they also only count incidents where a lone shooter attacked in a public setting or several public settings in short succession. This excludes shootings with high death counts in private settings, often related to domestic violence or gang activity. It also excludes those where several shooters are attacking.
Those two events combined are actually more common than public setting lone shooter incidents. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were 54 shootings where three or more victims died regardless of circumstance in 2019. These shootings left 255 dead that year, according to the website’s tally. While public lone shooter events dropped significantly in 2020, this cannot be said for all mass shootings. In 2020, Gun Violence Archive still counted 47 mass shootings that killed 185.
Independent of how mass shootings are defined, their victims make up only a fraction of all annual firearm fatalities in the United States. Compared to the 100-300 people who die in mass shootings, around 14,000 people are shot and killed in all homicides each year – in addition to more than 24,000 suicides carried out with firearms annually.