2022 Is the Deadliest Year Yet for U.S. Mass Shootings, New Data Shows

James Alan Fox, a professor who has tracked mass killings for 40 years, says 2022 has surpassed 2019 as the deadliest year on record, and the rate of killings has increased significantly since October.
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Photographs of victims of a weekend mass shooting at a nearby gay nightclub are on display at a memorial on November 23, 2022 in Colorado Springs, Colorado. (Photo by RJ Sangosti/MediaNews Group/The Denver Post via Getty Images)

This year is the deadliest year yet of mass shootings in the U.S., according to a professor who has tracked mass killings for 40 years. 

There have been 36 fatal mass shootings in 2022 so far, including 15 since Oct. 3, said James Alan Fox, a professor of Criminology, Law and Public Policy at Northeastern University. That figure surpasses the record broken in 2019 when there were 33, said Fox, who defines mass shootings as shootings that result in four or more deaths. There is no standard, federal definition for what constitutes a mass shooting in the U.S., which makes it difficult to track mass shooting-related data. Fox said he specifically focuses on shootings resulting in mass loss of life.

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“I understand injuries can be debilitating, but there is a big difference between dying and injury and we shouldn’t be conflating injuries and deaths,” Fox said, adding that otherwise, we risk stoking fear and overstating the risks people face when they go out in public.

According to Fox, 186 people have died in mass shootings in 2022, compared to 175 in 2019. In 2017, mass shootings resulted in 177 deaths even though there were fewer shootings than in 2019 in part because the Las Vegas Strip massacre resulted in nearly 60 deaths.

This year’s statistic is a grim one, and comes on the heels of two deadly shootings within a week: Last weekend, a man opened fire at an LGBTQ club in Colorado Springs, killing five, just days before a team leader at a Walmart in Virginia killed six people on Tuesday. 

“The trajectory has been startling,” Fox told VICE News. “We tend to have on average about two mass shootings per month. Since the beginning of October, we’ve had two on average per week.”

Fox is in charge of data collection for the mass killing database in collaboration with the Associated Press and USA Today. Overall, 2019 has still experienced more mass killings in total, which include killings caused by guns and other weapons, than 2022. In 2019, there were 45 incidents, while 2022 has so far logged 40, Fox said. 

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“I was expecting it (2022) to be relatively calm compared to other years,” Fox said, because the first half of the year had comparably fewer mass shootings. 

“Since the beginning of fall things have turned worse,” he said. 

Fox said feelings of disenchantment among some Americans and political divisiveness could be partly to blame for the rise in violence. 

“The mood in the U.S. these days is hardly a positive one. People are even talking about civil war, which I don't think we're going to have, but even the fact that people are talking about it is startling,” Fox said. 

But it’s important to remember that mass shootings, especially those that take place in public, are rare and only make up less than one percent of all homicides, Fox said. 

“The scary thing about public shootings—even though they are very rare—is they can happen at any place, at any time, and to anyone, even you,” Fox said. “The largest category of mass shootings are family massacres, but these don't get a lot of attention because most people don’t think it’ll happen to their family.” 

VICE News reported how most mass shootings are linked to domestic violence.

This week’s violence, specifically the shooting at Club Q, also coincides with an increase in hate targeting LGBTQ folks, and a rise in fatal violence against trans and nonbinary people. Since Human Rights Campaign started tracking fatal violence of trans and nonbinary people, the group has officially recorded at least 300 deaths, including 32 in 2022 alone. Trans and non-binary victims of violence are disproportionately Black and under 35.

Follow Anya Zoledziowski on Twitter.