Alastair Boone is the editor-in-chief of Street Spirit and a former editorial fellow at CityLab.
Since 1982, mass shootings have spared few regions of America.
On Sunday night, Stephen Paddock opened fire on a crowd of festival goers in Las Vegas, killing at least 59 and injuring hundreds of others. The event has been named the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history.
The maps below chronicle each mass shooting that has occurred in the U.S. since 1982. Using data collected by Mother Jones, we have mapped the spread of these shootings, both geographically and by number. “Mass shooting” is defined as an incident during which four or more people, excluding the shooter, are killed during a single attack in a public place. This is one of the more conservative counts—the data does not include shootings that took place during conventional crimes, like armed theft or gang violence.
Each color represents a period of about six years, growing darker with the passage of time. Between 1982 and 1988, there were six mass shootings, killing a total of 64 people in California, Oklahoma, Florida, and Texas.
However, in the years since, mass shootings have been distributed throughout the country. And the volume of these incidents has grown dramatically.
Indeed, mass shootings don’t discriminate by place, explains Mark Bryant, the executive director of the Gun Violence Archive, which tracks incidents of gun violence. “And they’re impossible to predict…Sometimes they come from normal spots, and sometimes from places you would never expect.”
Between 1989 and 1995 there were 14 mass shootings, killing a total of 103 people. Between 1996 and 2002, there were 13 mass shootings, which killed a total of 83 people. This period includes the mass shooting at Columbine High School in 1999. Between 2003 and 2009, there were 14 mass shootings, killing a total of 120 people. This period includes the Virginia Tech shooting of 2007.
Since 2010, there have been 34 mass shootings, which have killed a total of 359 people. This number would be even higher if we measured mass shootings by the new definition President Obama set in 2013, when he changed the criteria from four fatalities to three.
Mother Jones modified their definition in 2013 to include incidents during which three or more victims were killed. By that new standard, they counted 44 mass shootings between 2009 and 2017, including incidents like the 2015 Planned Parenthood shooting in Colorado Springs, during which three people were killed and 9 were injured. However, for consistency, our maps represent only mass shootings during which four or more people were killed.
By this count, a total of 729 people have died as the result of mass shootings since 1982.
“If I’m looking at the numbers from a few hours ago, I see what looks like a normal day for us,” Bryant says, referring to the total number of gun related deaths the Gun Violence Archive tallies every day. “[The Las Vegas shooting was] all in one incident, but 50 killed and more than 100 injured, that’s normal.” [Editors’ note: The death and injury toll continued to rise after his comments.] Bryant’s numbers include everything from armed robbery and domestic disputes to mass shootings. “I haven’t had a vacation since 2013,” he adds. “It’s never-ending.”
The Gun Violence Archive researchers tally every gun-related death they can find on a daily basis, and define mass shootings broadly to include conventional crimes that lead to four or more fatalities. Other entities, too, define mass shootings far more expansively. Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy organization, has counted 156 mass shootings just between 2009 and 2016 using a broader definition.
In other countries, including Australia and Norway, mass shootings have inspired stricter gun law reforms, and led to fewer mass shootings as a result. In the U.S., however, these events are happening more frequently, and have grown more lethal with time.
CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article incorrectly stated the number of people injured in the 2015 Planned Parenthood shooting. It was 9 people.