VPC Releases Where’d They Get Their Guns? An Analysis of the Firearms Used in High-Profile Shootings, 1963 to 2001

For Release:  Wednesday, April 18, 2001

Most Firearms Were Legally Acquired

Washington, DC The Violence Policy Center (VPC) today released Where’d They Get Their Guns? An Analysis of the Firearms Used in High-Profile Shootings, 1963 to 2001, an examination of 65 high-profile shootings over the past four decades. The report provides details for each shooting including: the identity of the shooter; the number of people killed and wounded; the make, model, and caliber of the gun(s) used in the shooting; the circumstances of the shooting; and, how the gun was acquired. The shooters in these killings varied from school-aged children to disgruntled employees to lone-wolf assassins acting out of a wide range of motives.

“This report reveals that most mass shootings involved handguns, usually legally acquired,” VPC Policy Analyst and report author Marty Langley said today. “The message is clear, until we begin focusing upstream at the gun manufacturers by regulating the gun industry itself instead of relying on traditional gun control measures that focus solely on the user killings of this type will continue unabated.”

Among the study’s findings are

  • In the 59 high-profile shootings from 1980 onwards:A handgun was used in 71 percent of the shootings (42 cases) as the only or primary weapon, while in 29 percent (17 cases) a rifle or shotgun was used as the only or primary weapon.The handguns were acquired legally in 62 percent of the handgun shootings (26 cases).

    The long guns were acquired legally in 71 percent of the long-gun shootings (12 cases).

  • In the 10 high-profile shootings in America’s schools from October 1997 to March 2001, handguns were among the weapons used in nine of the shootings. In eight of the 10 school shootings the guns were obtained from a family member or friend of the shooter.

Adds Langley, “This week, as we mark the second anniversary of the Columbine massacre, we should more closely examine the source of these devastating shootings and look toward a more comprehensive approach to lessen the impact guns have on our lives.”



About the Violence Policy Center
The Violence Policy Center is a national educational organization working to stop gun death and injury. Follow the VPC on TwitterFacebook, and YouTube.

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