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A new study by researchers from the University of Colorado Boulder has found that there is no correlation between the strength of gun control laws and the number of mass shootings that occur in each state.
The United States has more than 10 times the number of mass shootings than any other developed country in the world. In the study, the researchers looked at 4,011 mass shootings – defined as four or more gun deaths in the same short period, not including the shooter – between Jan. 1, 2014 and Dec. 31, 2022. (Related: RFK Jr.: Seizing lawful firearms will not STOP mass shootings.)
Illinois, with its restrictive gun laws and comparatively low gun ownership of 22 percent, had 414 mass shootings and a per capita rate of 3.6 mass shootings per million people.
Washington, D.C., despite not being a state, was included in the study and the researchers were shocked to find that the district had the highest rate of mass shootings per capita at 10.4 shootings for every one million people. This is despite the fact that the country’s capital has some of the strongest gun control laws in the nation.
For states, Louisiana had the highest rate of mass shootings per capita at 4.3 shootings per million people – less than half the per capita rate in Washington, D.C. despite the lax gun laws and 52 percent gun ownership.
Hawaii and North Dakota had zero mass shootings from 2014 to 2022. They are followed by New Hampshire, Vermont and Wyoming, which all had one each, Idaho with two and Maine with three.
Environmental and sociocultural factors more likely to lead to mass shootings
The high per capita number of mass shootings in states with supposedly strong gun laws strongly suggests that gun violence is caused more by environmental and sociocultural factors other than gun policy.
“I’m constantly asked, ‘What is public health doing about the rise in mass shootings?'” said researcher Leslie Barnard, a student working with the University of Colorado School of Medicine’s Firearm Injury Prevention Initiative.
“We want to help explain the ‘why, where and how often,’ to give people an understanding of this issue,” Barnard continued. “This study is not intended to answer every question, but highlights components to generate more hypotheses.”
In the data, Barnard and her colleagues noted that over the nine years when the 4,011 mass shootings took place, 27 percent of the mass shootings were social-related, 16 percent were crime-related, 11 percent were domestic violence-related, and just one percent were school- or work-related. A full 52 percent of the mass shooting incidents were not part of any of those categories. These 4,011 mass shootings caused over 21,000 injuries and deaths.
“From this data, we can speculate that certain communities and victims are underrepresented,” said Barnard. “Mass shootings in public places are covered by media, but 11 percent of mass shootings are domestic violence-related, and even more may never be reported or receive coverage. We ask ourselves how we can raise awareness and bring support to this issue.”
“Understanding where mass shootings occur across the country, and more about the context, such as how often these tragic events happen in homes, can point firearm injury prevention specialists toward how to prevent them,” said researcher Ashley Brooks-Russell, director of the Injury and Violence Prevention Center of the Colorado School of Public Health.
Barnard noted that future research on mass shootings should move away from taking a look at gun control, but should focus more on assessing socioeconomic, cultural, demographic and other political factors associated with incidents of mass shootings across states and address policies and social determinants that are associated with these shootings.
Learn more about gun violence incidents as well as their causes at GunViolence.news. Watch this clip from Fox News featuring Texas Rep. Beth Van Duyne discussing the actual issues impacting mass shootings.
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