Mass shootings in Australia and the United States, 1981-2013

Frederic Lemieux (Department of Sociology, The George Washington University, Washington, District of Columbia, USA)
Samantha Bricknell (Australian Institute of Criminology, Canberra, Australia.)
Tim Prenzler (Department of Arts & Business, University of the Sunshine Coast, Queensland, Australia.)

Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice

ISSN: 2056-3841

Publication date: 21 September 2015



The purpose of this paper is to compare the incidence and main characteristics of mass shooting events in Australia and the USA in the period 1981-2013.


The study adopted a conservative definition of mass shootings derived from the US Federal Bureau of Investigation, covering four or more fatalities not including the offender. Australian cases were accessed from the Australian Institute of Criminology’s National Homicide Monitoring Programme (NHMP) database and several secondary sources. The US data were collected from the Mother Jones database, a report prepared for Mayors Against Illegal Guns and a New York Police Department report. The time series data were related to changes in firearms regulations in the two jurisdictions.


For Australia, the study identified 13 mass shooting events and 104 fatalities from gunshot wounds. For the USA, there were 73 events and 576 victims. Of note is the fact that all cases in Australia pre-dated the implementation of the restrictive 1996 National Firearms Agreement. In the USA, a small decline was evident during the 1994-2004 Federal Assault Weapon Ban. Incidents and fatalities increased after 2004.

Research limitations/implications

Of necessity, the paper adopts a conservative FBI-based definition of mass shootings that limits the number of cases captured. The absence of an official government US database also most likely limits the number of cases identified.

Practical implications

The findings lend support to policy considerations regarding regulating access to firearms.


The paper is unique in comparing mass shootings in these two jurisdictions over three decades in association with changes in firearms regulation.



Lemieux, F., Bricknell, S. and Prenzler, T. (2015), "Mass shootings in Australia and the United States, 1981-2013", Journal of Criminological Research, Policy and Practice, Vol. 1 No. 3, pp. 131-142.

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