U.S.: Mass Shootings, by weapon type
Weapon typeNumber of weapons usedNumber of incidents
  • Region: United States
  • Time period: 1982 to Dec 6, 2023
  • Published: Dec 2023

Data Analysis and Insights

Updated: Mar 28, 2024 | Published by: Statistico

Handguns are the most used weapon in mass shootings

Handguns have been used in 116 incidents, making them the most frequently used weapon type in mass shootings. The number of handguns used reaches 166, indicating their prevalence in these violent events.

Rifles rank second in both incidents and weapons used

Rifles have been involved in 65 mass shooting incidents with a total of 70 rifles used. Their significant presence underlines the role of rifles in mass shootings, though less than handguns.

Shotguns are the least used weapon type

With 31 shotguns used across 29 incidents, shotguns are the least utilized weapon in mass shootings. This data highlights a lower incidence of shotguns in these events compared to handguns and rifles.

Handguns are used in more incidents than rifles and shotguns combined

Handguns appear in more mass shootings (116 incidents) than rifles and shotguns combined (94 incidents). This dominance illustrates the significant gap in weapon choice among perpetrators.

Ratio of weapons to incidents suggests multiple handguns per incident

The ratio of handguns to incidents is greater than 1 (1.43 handguns per incident), suggesting that in some mass shootings, more than one handgun is used. For rifles and shotguns, the ratios are closer to 1, indicating less frequent use of multiple weapons of these types in a single incident.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most used weapon in mass shootings?

The most used weapon in mass shootings is the handgun, with 116 incidents involving its use.

Where do rifles rank in terms of their use in mass shootings?

Rifles rank second in their use in mass shootings, with 65 incidents involving their use.

What is the least used weapon type in mass shootings?

The shotgun is the least used weapon type in mass shootings, having been used in only 29 incidents.

Terms and Definitions

A firearm is a portable gun or weapon that expels one or more projectiles, primarily by rapidly expanding high-pressure gases produced by chemical reactions within a confined space. These weapons are categorized more broadly into handguns, shotguns, and rifles and include a variety of types such as semi-automatic and automatic.

A mass shooting is an incidence of gun violence involving multiple victims, often in a single incident. There is no fixed definition of how many people have to be shot for it to be considered a mass shooting, but the criteria usually range from 3 to 4 people injured or killed excluding the perpetrator.

A handgun is a firearm designed to be held and fired using one or two hands. This class of firearm typically includes two common types: revolvers and semi-automatic pistols. Handguns are often used in crimes due to their small size and easy concealability.

A semi-automatic firearm is a type of firearm that can fire one bullet each time the trigger is pulled, automatically eject the spent cartridge, and load a new one from its magazine. It allows for rapid firing, but unlike an automatic firearm, it doesn't continuously fire while the trigger is held.

An automatic firearm continuously fires rounds as long as the trigger is pressed or held and there are rounds available in the magazine. Automatics may include military weapons like machine guns, automatic rifles, and assault rifles.

An assault rifle is a rapid-fire, magazine-fed firearm designed for tactical use. It is capable of both semi-automatic and fully automatic fire. They're generally used by military and law enforcement but are sometimes used by civilians and have been involved in various mass shootings.

A shotgun is a firearm that is usually designed to be fired from the shoulder, which uses the energy of a fixed shell to fire a number of small spherical pellets or a solid projectile called a slug. Shotguns come in a wide variety of sizes and types.

A high-capacity magazine refers to a feeding device that holds more rounds than standard magazines. The actual amount varies between types of firearms and jurisdictions, but generally, it holds more than 10 to 15 rounds. High-capacity magazines are often used in mass shootings to allow for continuous firing without reloading.

A background check refers to the process by which an individual's criminal history, mental health history, and other relevant information are reviewed before he or she purchases a firearm. This is intended to prevent guns from falling into the hands of those who have been deemed a risk to society or themselves.
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