Remember when Columbine was horrifying? Everyone was stunned that someone would think to bring a gun to school and begin shooting classmates. There was a huge discussion about how to handle things and it framed up one of the biggest debates that continue to preside over this country today.
Sadly, Columbine was only the dark beginning, and no longer even one of the most shocking mass shooting evens to make the news. Discussion and debate have only gotten more heated and more divisive as time goes by. Our thoughts and prayers and empty rhetoric – no matter how well-meaning and sincere – enough to base national policy on, or is it time to take a hard look at our policy and make some changes?
Mass shootings are still terrifying, but unfortunately, they are now so commonplace that many of them do not even make headlines anymore despite our reluctance to acknowledge the prevalence. It is a sad truth that while this list is some of the 10 scariest mass shooting events that we have had as a nation, lists could just as easily have been made for the 10 scariest that we have had… in 2019, or even in July!
Framework for Discussion
The solution can’t be to eradicate all the guns, because the conservatives will not and should not agree to that; neither can the nation continue to do nothing, because liberals are right when they mention that there need to be tangible policy changes in order for these mass shootings to come to an end so that citizens can begin living in a safe society once more.
This article is meant to inspire people to genuinely reflect on the situation at hand and begin discussing actionable policy changes with one another. For this reason, the names of all of the shooters have been left out in favor of the incident locations, so as not to assist in their pathway to notoriety. Hopefully, more media sources will follow suit in what is responsible and immediately actionable change that members of the press can make to discourage this type of violence.
Without further commentary, and in no particular order, here is the list of the 10 most terrifying mass shooting events in the United States in recent history.
1. El Paso, Texas – August 3, 2019
This is among the most recent mass shootings and it has also earned a spot on the list of the 12 deadliest ones in history, 6 of which have taken place in the last 5 years. As of the writing of this article, 22 people were killed and over 25 others were injured, including a mother protecting the life of her child. What’s more, is that it was only 1 of 3 such mass shootings that occurred over this last week. Across these attacks, 35 have died and over 75 were injured.
This event has created debate over whether politicians should be held responsible for their rhetoric when they want to fire up their base. The shooter used the same exact phrase heard in one of Trump’s rallies, wherein the audience suggested shooting Mexicans and the President laughed. The racial motivation of this shooting cannot be ignored or attributed to mental illness; it was an act of domestic terrorism.
2. Las Vegas, Nevada – October 1, 2017
This shooting is the deadliest mass shooting in the United States to date. It claimed a death toll of 58 with more than 500 other victims injured.
The whereabouts also make this one scary. Las Vegas is a massive vacation destination and one that several people frequent regularly. Vegas is well known for not just casinos – but also for incredible shows, festivals, and shopping. It was discovered that this shooter had somehow managed to bring nearly 20 guns into a hotel room and escape notice.
This was also scary because it happened so quickly. It brought the delineation of rapid-fire weapons and semi-automatics from handguns. After all, a handgun could not have fired off nearly as many shots in such a time frame, nor could it have reached nearly as far with the same accuracy. It was also a completely random attack with no designated target.
3. Pulse Nightclub, Orlando, Florida – June 12, 2016
This is another one of the deadliest and most terrifying mass shooting events in the US. Pulse is an LGBTQ friendly nightclub, which made the entire country wonder whether the shooting was a homophobic hate crime. This very quickly divided the debate and conversation, pulling it away from the long-overdue discussion on gun legislation reforms that it might otherwise have garnered given the extremely high 49 person death toll.
It is scary to think that the nation may be so quick to sensationalize for headlines that policy legislation and action become dictated by rapid emotional responses, quickly allowing memes and circumstantial evidence to frame the debate rather than rational thinking and necessary prevention.
4. Parkland, Florida – February 14, 2018
School shootings are always going to be more emotionally impactful because of the innocent nature of very young victims. This is especially true given that on a closed, small public school campus they also have very little protection or escape. Classrooms rarely offer a safe way out, and schools rarely have more than 1 or 2 sets of doors leading out of the building, so it is a quintessential fish in a barrel scenario.
Another thing that happened in the aftermath was the massive backlash that the victims faced. They became targets of further hate for begging those who were of legal voting age to enact policies that would protect children from further shooting incidents.
5. Gilroy, California – July 28, 2019
This festival had a much smaller death toll, but that was largely due to the quick action of law enforcement. The efficiency of the gunman and rapidity of the bullets made this extremely scary. When the shooter fired his gun, it was at random and in every direction.
There were no specific targets. When someone in the crowd asked him why he was doing it, he simply responded that he was very angry. The form of gun he used is illegal in California, but he purchased it in Nevada and brought it across the border.
6. Aurora, Colorado – July 20, 2012
A shooter walked into a Batman movie premiere, then proceeded to wound 70 and claim 12 victims that evening, including Air Force Staff Sgt. Jesse Childress. He was dressed head to toe in ballistic gear and armed with tear gas. What makes this scary is that it could have been any theater in the nation. This shooting drove home the fact that America is no longer safe in a way that nothing had up to that point.
He had been previously diagnosed and was under the care of a psychiatrist. Despite this, he was able to purchase the guns used in the attack legally at sporting stores and an inordinately large amount of ammo online.
7. Killeen, Texas – October 16, 1991
The Killeen massacre was the deadliest shooting on record at the time. This was scary because mass shootings were far less common in the 90s.
This shooter drove his truck through a restaurant window and then shot 23 people and injured 27 more. He engaged in a shootout with the police and refused to surrender, turning everyone in the restaurant into hostages.
His story is one that is important to remember today because he blamed women for his rage. In fact, he passed over men to shoot women during his execution-style attack. Half of his victims were shot with a single bullet to the head.
8. Sandy Hook Elementary, Newton, Connecticut – December 14, 2012
Many feel that Sandy Hook was a jumping-off point when it comes to the debate around gun control and the prevalence of mass shootings. In this massacre, a shooter gunned down 26 people, the majority of whom were only 6 or 7 years old.
It began a national discussion regarding gun legislation, and many hoped that it would spark action and sweeping reforms that could prevent the growing incidences of mass shooting events in the US.
9. Edmond, Oklahoma – August 20, 1986
This list is not a list of the most recent mass shootings. The fact that this is still one of the deadliest mass shootings in our history shows that this problem has existed for a long time. The fact that it is no longer among 10 deadliest mass shootings shows that this problem only grows worse with time.
In this shooting, a postman received a poor performance review and retaliated by arriving the next day armed with 3 guns. He shot anyone in sight, murdering 14 coworkers.
10. Sutherland Springs, Texas – November 5, 2017
The First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, Texas is tied with Sandy Hook as the 4th deadliest shooting in American history. It remains the deadliest shooting in a place of worship in the US.
The shooter claimed 26 victims, injuring another 20 more people. He was shot by a bystander when exiting the church and fled in his car. He was prohibited from purchasing firearms but the Air Force failed to record the conviction in the database, so he was able to purchase the weapons.
This list is extensive and by no means comprehensive, and it spans from 1986 to just this current week. It is clear that debate must begin anew, but with less rhetoric and more actionable suggestions.
There’s a large divide between those that support some forms of gun control versus those that don’t. That leaves us with a few questions.
How has society contributed to the prevalence of mass shootings?
What actions are necessary to ensure safety again?
How should mental health and previous convictions factor in gun ownership rights?
What will it take to affect necessary change?
What is a reasonable compromise that can achieve bipartisan support?
What do you think?