Kevin and Pam Crawford, of Roseburg, comfort each other during a vigil at Stewart Park in Roseburg, Ore., on Thursday. Students, families and supporters gathered after a shooting at Umpqua Community College.(Photo: Anna Reed, Statesman Journal)
Mass shootings, such as the killing of 10 people at Umpqua Community College in Oregon, focus the nation's attention on gun laws, from President Obama down to local activists.
But even if guns weren't available, nearly 450 people would likely still have died in mass killing incidents in the U.S. over the past 10 years.
Since 2006, at least 1,075 people have died from gunshots in a mass killing, defined by the FBI as an incident with four or more victims. But another 140 people suffered fire-related injuries, 104 were stabbed and at least 92 were killed by blunt force, according to data tracked by USA TODAY.
BEHIND THE BLOODSHED: THE UNTOLD STORY OF AMERICA'S MASS KILLINGS
People sufficiently enraged to commit such crimes may also be motivated to find other ways, criminologist James Alan Fox of Northeastern University says.
For example, four children, their mother and grandfather died in a house fire that critically injured their father in McKeesport, Pa., last October. Court documents say Ryan Williams was angry that his father had turned him in to police on a theft charge. Williams faces the death penalty.
Still, guns are the most common weapons used in such incidents. Over the past decade, about 75% of the 1,524 who have died in mass killings were shot. And some of the deadliest mass killings have been shootings, such as the Virginia Tech massacre (though the deadliest mass killing at a school in U.S. history happened in Michigan with a series of bombs.)
Mass killings that happen in public places – such as Umpqua Community College – account for about 20% of such incidents. Shootings in public places can sometimes give people more places to hide, or a stronger possibility of a security guard or other person intervening. In less well-publicized, but more common family killings, the incident may take place in a more enclosed or isolated space, or take place overnight, Fox says.
A much broader definition of incidents where people were shot (but not necessarily killed), shows nearly 300 people have been shot in such cases this year. At Umpqua, at least seven people were injured in the shooting.
It's unclear how much gun control would reduce injuries or deaths in such incidents. USA TODAY's data show most guns used in mass killings are handguns, and are often legally obtained.
"When we have these incidents, they tend to motivate people to want to do something about it, and that's a good thing," said Fox, the author of Extreme Killing. "But the kind of crime that's probably most difficult to prevent are these extreme, but rare cases."
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