Who are the mass shooters?


After every mass shooting and/or terrorist attack there comes the inevitable finger-pointing, blame-shifting, point-scoring and politicising. Understandably, no one wants to get tarred by association, however vague and tenuous, with the perpetrators. But tarring efforts there are aplenty. On the one hand, some at the right fringes have suggested that most if not all mass shooters are Democrats or supporters; on the other hand, and less fringy, supposedly a right-wing climate of hatred is to blame for the violence, like miasmas used to be for epidemics in less enlightened times.

So who are the killers?

This is not meant to be an exhaustive scientific analysis, since it only took me two hours to put together. As a starting point I used the database of mass shootings put together by Mother Jones, made an executive decision to look at the past 15 years only, and in that timeframe I have selected the ten bloodiest incidents ranked by the number of casualties. This selection was not made with any secret agenda to exclude any specific incidents, merely for the sake of keeping the table to a manageable size (though blamed I will be, since a “top 15” list would, for example, include the racially-motivated Charleston church shooting).

So who are they?

The short answer is: they are either self-radicalised Islamic terrorists or individuals with a history of mental illness. Their political beliefs are largely unknown and unlikely to have played a motivating role, though in several cases where the perpetrators’ beliefs are known they are more or less strongly on the political left. None of the top ten (or eleven, since the San Bernardino shooting was a duo effort) deadliest shooters, however, were either Republicans or sympathisers, NRA members, or Christian conservatives, which are the main categories accused of spreading hatred, bigotry and prejudice throughout the United States.

(in the casualties column below, the first number is victims killed, the number in bracket is victims wounded)