Mass shootings in Australia and the United States, 1981-2013

Date21 September 2015
Publication Date21 September 2015
AuthorFrederic Lemieux,Samantha Bricknell,Tim Prenzler
SubjectHealth & social care,Criminology & forensic psychology
Mass shootings in Australia and the
United States, 1981-2013
Frederic Lemieux, Samantha Bricknell and Tim Prenzler
Frederic Lemieux is Professor/
Program Director at
Department of Sociology,
The George Washington
University, Washington,
District of Columbia, USA.
Dr Samantha Bricknell is
Research Manager at
Australian Institute of
Criminology, Canberra,
Professor Tim Prenzler is based
at Department of Arts and
Business, University of the
Sunshine Coast, Queensland,
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to compare the incidence and main characteristicsof mass shooting
events in Australia and the USA in the period 1981-2013.
Design/methodology/approach The study adopted a conservative definition of mass shootings derived
from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, covering four or more fatalities not including the offender.
Australian cases were accessed from the Australian Institute of Criminologys National Homicide Monitoring
Programme (NHMP) database and several secondary sources. The US data were collected from the Mother
Jones database, a report prepared for Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a New York Police Department
report. The time series data were related to changes in firearms regulations in the two jurisdictions.
Findings For Australia, the study identified 13 mass shooting events and 104 fatalities from gunshot
wounds. For the USA, there were 73 events and 576 victims. Of note is the fact that all cases in Australia
pre-dated the implementation of the restrictive 1996 National Firearms Agreement. In the USA, a small
decline was evident during the 1994-2004 Federal Assault Weapon Ban. Incidents and fatalities increased
after 2004.
Research limitations/implications Of necessity, the paper adopts a conservative FBI-based definition of
mass shootings that limits the number of cases captured. The absence of an official government US
database also most likely limits the number of cases identified.
Practical implications The findings lend support to policy considerations regarding regulating access to
Originality/value The paper is unique in comparing mass shootings in these two jurisdictions over three
decades in association with changes in firearms regulation.
Keywords Offenders, Risk, Crime prevention and reduction, Evidence-based practice, Victims,
Community safety
Paper type Research paper
Mass shootings, symbolised by events at Dunblane (UK), Port Arthur (Australia), Utøya (Norway)
and Columbine, Virginia Tech and Newtown (USA), are largely characterised as the death and
wounding of multiple victims from gunshot wounds over the course of a single shooting episode
(adapted from Fox and DeLateur, 2014). On most occasions, a single perpetrator is responsible
for the shootings, although there are rare instances (such as at Columbine) where multiple offenders
are involved.
The nature of mass shooting events the large number of deaths and injuries, the identity of the
victims (in many cases, children and young people), the types of firearm used and the frequently
indiscriminate intent of the perpetrator has invariably opened up debate around public access
to firearms, in particular selective fire and semi-automatic long-arms and high-powered,
concealable handguns. In some countries, such as Canada, the UK and Australia, that debate
generated action in the form of prohibition or tightened restrictions on access to specific firearm
Received 26 May 2015
Revised 26 May 2015
Accepted 1 June 2015
DOI 10.1108/JCRPP-05-2015-0013 VOL. 1 NO. 3 2015, pp. 131-142, © Emerald Group Publishing Limited, ISSN 2056-3841
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