How do U.S. mass shootings compare with other countries?
In Spring 2022, newspapers across the country announced two horrific mass shootings, one at a grocery store in Buffalo, New York, and another in Uvalde, Texas. The shock and horror of these events have become all too familiar—from Columbine and Sandy Hook to Miami, Las Vegas, and Sacramento– along with overwhelmingly painful images of grieving families and survivors, police responders behind yellow hazard tape, and the makeshift memorials of flower bouquets and candles.
Several mass shootings in the past decade have been close to home:
- April 3, 2022: Six people were killed, and 12 wounded in downtown Sacramento during a gang-related shootout
- February 28, 2022: A man shot his three daughters and a court-appointed chaperone before killing himself in a church in Sacramento
- October 30, 2021: Two people were killed, and several wounded at the Exotic Erotic Halloween Ball in Sacramento
- May 26, 2021: An employee at the Valley Transportation Authority rail yard in San Jose shot and killed nine coworkers and himself
- July 28, 2019: Shooter killed three people and wounded 17 at the Gilroy Garlic Festival before committing suicide
- March 9, 2018: Four dead after hostage situation at the Yountville Veterans Home in Napa Valley, including the shooter
- June 14, 2017: Four dead (including the shooter) and two wounded at UPS facility in San Francisco
These seven incidents were among 72 mass shootings in the last 10 years that involved at least three deaths, which is how the federal government defines the term. Is the United States experiencing an “epidemic of mass shootings”?
Comparing data for shooting deaths from different countries is a challenge, but one analysis from the University of Alabama that looked at statistics from 171 countries for the period 1966 to 2012 came to this conclusion: Although the U.S. only had 5% of the world’s total population, it accounted for 31% of all mass shootings. These incidents are also becoming more frequent.
Number of US mass shootings from 2000 to 2019
- 2015-2019: 25
- 2010-2014: 20
- 2005-2009: 16
- 2000-2004: 4
While criminologists and other social scientists are trying to explain what appears to be a uniquely American problem, the legal profession has been grappling with ways to determine how to make the victims—and survivors—of such preventable disasters whole.
Premises liability for mass shooting victims
Mass shootings often occur in public venues such as malls, concert arenas, schools, workplaces, churches, and military facilities. Places where an owner or proprietor may be held liable for damages if their negligence made the premises unsafe. There are times when the safety practices of these venues can fall below the standard of care for preventing a massacre from taking place.
Survivors of mass shootings and the families of those who have passed can face enormous immediate and long-term medical expenses, years of therapy for their emotional and psychological well-being, and limited legal recourse to claim compensation for these damages. Experienced counsel is necessary to ensure that these victims and survivors—our clients—have an opportunity to reclaim their dignity in civil court.
Who is liable for your shooting injury?
Gunmen are often described as “lone wolves” who have given no prior warning about their intentions, but this is not always the case. In some situations, those who interacted with the perpetrator were aware of the potential for violence; if they did nothing to stop this, they might be considered liable parties. These can include:
- Parents, spouses, or friends
- Mental health professionals
- Military officers or agencies
- Law enforcement officers
From a legal standpoint, mass shooting cases are successful when proprietors, security firms, or event organizers are responsible for recklessness or negligence in preventing a mass shooting incident from taking place—namely, if a failure to take reasonable and safety precautions can be proven.
In the follow-up reporting after a mass shooting, we often learn that the shooter not only had been posting information about their intentions but had been influenced by content on social media platforms, some of which valorize other mass shootings. Attempts to assign liability in these cases can run up against free speech protections, and it is sometimes difficult to prove that online content signaled a direct intention or was the cause of a crime. The courts have generally declined to hold social media providers legally responsible for actions that their content may have provoked or encouraged, but the issue is at the forefront of legal scholarship and will continue to be tested in the courts, both state and federal, in the years to come.
Recently, the California legislature passed Senate Bill 1327 in April 2022, which gives citizens who have been injured by gun violence the right to initiate a lawsuit against manufacturers, distributors, and sellers of firearms. The bill expressly states that failure to adhere to laws meant to regulate this industry constitutes a public nuisance and makes these third parties liable for injury-related damages. This legislation will almost certainly be tested, analyzed, and balanced against our Constitution by the highest courts in the nation.
What types of compensation can survivors of mass shootings obtain?
When certain parties fail to take reasonable actions to prevent a foreseeable catastrophe from occurring, survivors of such traumatic events are entitled to seek compensation.
Damages in these cases can be broken down into several categories:
- Immediate injury-related medical costs, including hospitalization, surgery, and medication
- Rehabilitation, including in- and out-patient treatment
- Long-term care for injuries resulting in severe disability
- Emotional and psychological therapy to recover from trauma
- Lost wages, calculated to cover the term of recovery or, in cases of severe or permanent injury, projected lost income
- Loss of consortium, which acknowledges the damage such catastrophes wreak on families
- Wrongful death, or damages that family members can claim if their loved one is the victim of a shooting
Good lawyers work diligently and carefully to secure compensation for their clients because they are aware of the burden survivors carry. The results of these cases can help produce changes in public policy by encouraging more effective safety protocols that ensure that our social lives will be safer in the future.
Californians deserve a better life
Our office is dedicated to protecting the legacies of the survivors we are proud to represent. Equally crucial to safeguarding our client’s legal rights. We are committed to safeguarding the well-being and dignity of the people who trust us. We listen. We do the hard and painstaking work to uncover every detail. We research each angle of every case we take—just as we would if our clients were members of our own family.
If you or a family member has sustained a severe gun-related injury or fatality, call 415.360.5477 or contact us online for a free consultation.