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How Likely is an American to Die in a Mass Shooting? by KONSTADINOS MOROS

How likely is an American to die in a mass shooting? It really depends on which measure you use.

According to Gun Violence Archive (GVA), across 646 mass shootings in 2022, 642 people were killed. That fact alone should already give you some indication of how they count these things – GVA defines mass shootings as any incident where 4 or more are shot, not including the shooter. As a result, their list is mostly gang violence incidents, many of which involved no one being killed, just injuries. According to Excel, the average is .993808 deaths per GVA “mass shooting.”

Anyway, even taking that 642 figure, that means the average American had a 0.19 in 100,000 chance of dying in a mass shooting in 2022. In other words, about 1 in 500,000.

But let’s say you aren’t a gang member, and are more concerned with what people actually mean when they say “mass shooting”. I.e., some lunatic walks into your grocery store, school, movie theater, etc. and begins a rampage. How likely are you to be killed in an incident like that?

The Mother Jones database is an excellent tool for that question. It limits it to incidents (1) where three or more are killed, (2) involved a lone shooter (with some obvious exceptions, like San Bernardino), (3) were carried out in a public place, and (4) gang-related crime is excluded. To be sure, Mother Jones’s measure still isn’t perfect. I do think some incidents where less than three are killed are still mass shootings by the common understanding of such incidents. But Mother Jones’s definition comes close to what most people mean when they say “mass shooting.”

By the Mother Jones definition, 74 people died in mass shootings in 2022. That’s about 0.02 per 100,000. Or roughly one for every five million people.

Mass shootings are tragedies that get massive media attention. But they are a very unlikely way to die, especially if you aren’t involved in criminal activity.

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