First Faculty Advisor
violence; mass shootings; white supremacy; mental illness; guns; United States; shooter; statistical analysis
Since mass shootings have become increasingly relevant in today’s society, the subject of what makes a mass shooting deadly has become more and more popular. This project focuses on how selected variables correlate with the severity of a mass shooting, and especially focuses on the impact of white supremacy ideology. Theoretically, a shooter imbued with this ideology will likely be more violent, thus causing a higher victim count (injuries + deaths). The other variables included in the model are: the use of a long gun, the use of multiple guns, the use of semi-automatic guns, mental illness, and shooter suicide. This project seeks to assess the relationships of these variables to the victim count, and the statistical significance of each of these relationships. By drawing from two prominent mass-shooting databases and associated media sources, a dataset was constructed, then analyzed with correlation, regression, and ANOVA. These analyses confirmed all of the hypotheses, with predictor variable correlating positively and significantly to victim count. Most importantly, the findings confirmed the significance of the white supremacy ideology variable in predicting the violence of a mass shooting, and the effect withstood the introduction of a variety of important control variables; in short, shooters with a white supremacy background tend to inflict a higher victim count during a mass shooting. Based on these findings, suggestions for further research include separating active-shooter mass shootings from other types of mass shootings; standardizing the operational definition of a mass shooting; and increasing the number of possible predictor variables in current mass shooting databases.