Studies Explore Gun Deaths, Mass Shootings in United States

Person standing with a white rose at a funeralAs politicians, mental health experts, and community health leaders continue to explore options for reducing gun violence, two new studies aim to understand the issue.

One study, led by University of Alabama criminal justice professor Adam Lankford and published in Violence and Victims, suggests more guns lead to more shootings in the United States.

A separate study, authored by a team of researchers from the University of Nevada-Reno and the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published in The American Journal of Medicine, found gun deaths are higher in the U.S. than in any other high-income nation.

Gun Deaths Highest Among Wealthy Nations

To further explore the connection between gun ownership and mass shootings, Lankford pulled data from the New York City Policy Department’s 2012 active shooter report and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s 2014 active shooter report. He also looked at various data sources from shootings in other countries, compiling research on shootings in a total of 171 nations. In total, he looked at 292 shooting incidents in which four or more people were killed between 1966 and 2012.

Lankford then studied each country’s homicide, suicide, and firearm ownership rate. He found no connection between number of shootings and suicide or homicide rates, but he did find a correlation between gun ownership rates and an increase in shootings.

Even when Lankford removed the U.S.—which accounts for 90 of the shootings studied—from the data set, the correlation persisted.

Lankford cautions that his research cannot account for all mass shootings because some older shootings might not have been reported and some countries may have inefficient reporting systems. Because of the relative rarity of public mass shootings, the sample size remains small.

More Guns, More Mass Shootings?

The second study highlights the United States’ status as an outlier among developed nations. Researchers analyzed the World Health Organization’s mortality data for 2010. They compared the rates of lethal violence in the U.S. to rates in 22 other high-income countries. Though U.S. crime and suicide rates were similar to other countries, gun-related homicide and suicide rates were significantly higher in the U.S.

Compared to residents of other high-income nations, U.S. residents are:

  • 6 times more likely to die due to an accidental gunshot.
  • 7 times more likely to be killed violently.
  • 25 times more likely to be killed with a gun.
  • 8 times more likely to die by suicide with a gun.

Among Americans ages 15-24, homicide is the second-leading cause of death. It is the third-leading cause of death for Americans ages 25-34. According to the researchers, young adults in other nations do not face similar risks. Americans ages 15-24 are 49 times more likely to be killed with a gun than people in the same age group in other high-income nations. Americans ages 25-34 face a gun death rate 32 times higher than other nations.


  1. Gun deaths in US remain highest among high-income nations. (2016, February 1). Retrieved from
  2. Lankford, A. (2016). Public mass shooters and firearms: A cross-national study of 171 countries. Violence and Victims. Retrieved from
  3. Pomeroy, R. (2016, February 2). Study: More guns linked to more mass shootings. Retrieved from

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  • Dorothea

    February 2nd, 2016 at 3:11 PM

    If this is not a wake up cal for US citizens then I don’t know what ever will be. We are the wealthiest and most influential nation on earth and yet all we want to do is run around killing each other with all of these guns that we for some reason feel the overwhelming need to amass and hoard. When is this madness going to end?

  • rose

    February 3rd, 2016 at 1:22 PM

    I don’t have anything against RESPONSIBLE gun ownership
    but usually the ones who are doing it responsibly are not the ones willy nilly pulling the trigger
    Unless you look at police violence and then I guess you have a whole other subject

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