An Updated (Yet Again) Top 10 Worst Mass Shooting In American History (October, 2023)

Keith
8 min readOct 27, 2023

This updates a prior list from just last year. That list updated a prior list done just four years ago to reflect the shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde Texas. That in turn updated a prior updated list done just a year and a half before to reflect the mass shooting at the El Paso WalMart. That list, in turn, updated a prior list to reflect the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland Florida, which fell of the list today. The Lewiston Maine shooting enters the list as the #10 worst mass shooting in American history. It has the potential to move higher as the suspect remains at large as of this writing.

Here Are The Top 10 mass gun shootings in the United States:

1. Las Vegas Harvest Music Festival, October 2017: White male Stephen Paddock opens fire from a hotel high rise sniper position, using weapons legally modified to fire as fully automatic, killing 58 and wounding over 500. Also legally acquired were magazines capable of firing 100 rounds without reloading (bump stocks were later banned by the Trump Administration). These helped him at one point fire 280 rounds into the crowd in just 30 seconds with thousands of rounds of legally acquired ammunition fired in total over just 10 minutes. Also legally acquired were incendiary “tracer” rounds he unsuccessfully used to try to get nearby huge jet fuel tanks to explode. Later reports indicate Paddock was a right wing conspiracy theorist preoccupied with beliefs the Federal government was going to seize guns. He supposedly claimed FEMA camps after Hurricane Katrina were “a dry run for law enforcement and military to start kickin’ down doors and … confiscating guns.” Paddock also allegedly said, “Somebody has to wake up the American public and get them to arm themselves . . . Sometimes sacrifices have to be made.”

2. Pulse Nightclub in Orlando, June 2016: Born in USA Islamic and anti-gay terrorist Omar Mateen attacks a gay nightclub killing 49 and injuring more than 50. Neither his history of domestic abuse or being twice investigated for possible terrorist ties preventing him from legally buying assault rifles used in the attack.

3. Virginia Tech, April 2007: South Korean national Seung-Hui Cho goes on a shooting rampage killing 32. Cho had a history of mental health problems and evidence showed mental health professionals at the university failed to appropriately handle his case.

4. Sandy Hook, Connecticut. December 2012: Mentally disturbed white male Adam Lanza kills his gun enthusiast mother before taking her assault style weapons and going to an elementary school and killing 20 children and 6 members of the school staff. Lanza had mental health problems but beyond that no motive was determined.

5. Sutherland First Baptist Church, Texas November 2017: White male Devin Kelley enters a church firing nearly 450 rounds from high capacity magazines in an assault weapon, killing 26 and wounding 20. At this time motive appears to be revenge against in-laws who attended the church (but weren’t there at the time). Kelley had a history of mental health issues and violence to include being court martialed out of the Air Force for assaulting his wife and child. He should have been banned from buying guns but an Air Force administrative error kept him from being on the list.

6. Luby’s Cafeteria, Killeen Texas, October 1991: White male racist (against blacks and hispanics) and woman hater George Hennard crashes a truck into a restaurant and comes out firing killing 24 and wounding 27. Many victims were killed assassination style by single shots to the head.

7. McDonald’s, San Ysidro California, July 1984: White male survivalist and pusher of conservative conspiracy theories, James Huberty, entered a McDonalds firing a pump action shot gun and 9mm pistol killing 22 and wounding 19. He walked among the crowd randomly executing people. He complained of mental health problems to his wife the days before the attacks but apparently was angry a mental health clinic he called for help did not return his call.

8. Robb Elementary School, Uvalde Texas, May 2022: North Dakota born United States citizen Salvador Ramos, a student at a nearby High School, shot his way into an elementary school wearing body armor and carrying two assault rifles he has just bought for his 18th birthday. Less than a year before Texas Governor Gregg Abbott signed a law allowing those as young as 18 to buy guns. Ramos kills 19 school children and two adults at the school before police officers kill him. Ramos also shot and injured his grandmother before heading to the school. The shooting was just two days before the Summer recess. Ramos hinted of his attacks in advance on social media, posting pictures of the two assault rifles he bought on his birthday along with pictures of high capacity magazines. Republican Representative Paul Gosar quickly took to Twitter to falsely claim the shooter was “a transsexual leftist illegal alien.”

9. El Paso Texas WalMart, August 2019: White male white supremacist 21 year old Patrick Crusius, of Allen Texas, walks into an El Paso WalMart armed with a legally acquired civilian version of an AK-47 rifle and legally acquired large capacity “banana clip” magazines. He kills 20 people and injures 26 more before police stop and arrest him without major incident. Just before starting his rampage Crusius posted a four page white supremacist “manifesto” online. The manifesto begins with the following chilling words:

In general, I support the Christchurch shooter and his manifesto. This attack is a response to the Hispanic invasion of Texas. They are the instigators, not me. I am simply defending my country from cultural and ethnic replacement brought on by an invasion.”

The Christchurch shooting was of a mosque in New Zealand five months earlier that killed 51 people. The shooter in that case left a 51 page manifesto entitled “The Great Replacement” advancing anti-Islamic and white supremacist theories rooted in white genocide conspiracy theories. As with the shooter in Christchurch manifesto, Crusius encouraged others to follow his ethnic cleansing lead by suggesting soft targets which he described as “low hanging fruit” rather than areas with armed guards. Later the same evening as this El Paso attack, a second mass shooting occurred in Dayton Ohio, in an area filled with bars and restaurants, killing nine people.

10. Lewiston Maine (potentially ongoing): On October 25, 2023 white male Army Reserve sergeant Robert Card goes on a shooting rampage at a restaurant and bowling alley, killing 18 (so far) and wounding 13 before taking his own life. His erratic mental health history, which included hearing voices and an involuntary commitment just three months before, did not prevent him from legally having the AR-15 rifle he used. Card’s social media history was scant but included following the likes of Tucker Carlson and liking pro-gun tweets made by Donald Trump Jr., and Dinesh D’Souza.

Analysis

The shooting falling off this top ten list should be a real eye opener. Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, Parkland Florida, February 2018: In another well planned operation, previously expelled student Nikolas Cruz sets off the fire alarms at his old High school and begins shooting evacuating students students, killing at least 17. Cruz was armed with an AR-15 rifle and “countless magazines.” Cruz’s social media accounts were filled with disturbing glorifications of gun violence, racist white supremacist chats and an Instagram avatar picture of him wearing a MAGA hat.

In less than 24 hours Trump (without mention of the MAGA hat) took to Twitter to blame the victims.

Now some thoughts.

  • Not one of the Top 10 mass gun shootings is attributable to any kind of “Leftist.” They are overwhelmingly mentally disturbed white men. Often the mentally disturbed part includes elements of extreme conservatism including racism, sexism, obsession with guns, and anti-government conspiracy theories.
  • The Uvalde shooting was just ten days after Payton Gendron killed 10 in a long planned mass shooting at a grocery store in Buffalo New York. Gendron published a white supremacist, replacement theory driven, manifesto that stated he too was inspired by the Christchurch shooter.
  • Another example of such a anti-government conspiracy theory conservative thinking terrorist was Oklahoma City bomber, and white male, former Army Gulf War vet, registered Republican and NRA member Timothy McVeigh who killed 168 people with a fertilizer bomb. He was not included on this list because it was not a mass shooting. His motive was vengeance against the Clinton Administration for the Waco Branch Davidian siege.
  • Another example of racist alt-right type white male mass shooting terrorist would be Dylan Roof who in June 2017 entered a Charleston Church and targeted blacks, killing 9.
  • Only one of the top 10 involve a Muslim, though he was motivated by anti-gay sentiments, such as those reflected in Paul Gosar’s tweet above.
  • Speaking of mental illness and guns, in February 2017 President Trump signed legislation rolling back an Obama era regulation making it more difficult for the mentally ill to buy guns.
  • Did you notice what else was not on the list? Columbine, which shocked the nation in 1999, is not there because it no longer even close to the Top 10. With 12 killed it slips to #15 now.
  • Every instance in the Top 10 all involved only one shooter. None even involved any other accomplices.
  • Four of the Top 10 occurred in Texas, known for its pro-gun policies.
  • Six of the Top 10 worst mass shootings have been in just the last decade (see chart below):

Number of Top 10 Mass Shootings By Decade:

Founding of our Republic-1983 = 0

1984–1989 = 1

1990–1999 = 1

2000–2012 = 2

2013–2023 (so far) = 6

The chart below is compelling. The red line reflects when the ban on production and sale of assault weapons was lifted.

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Keith

Retired lawyer & Army vet in The Villages of Florida. Lifelong: Republican (pre-Trump), Constitution buff, science nerd & dog lover. Twitter: @KeithDB80