President Barack Obama has had to unfortunately address the country following a mass shooting with alarming frequency recently. During those addresses, the president has repeatedly said that the U.S. sees more mass shootings than any other country.
“The one thing we do know is that we have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world,” Obama said in an interview with CBS News, hours after the San Bernardino shooting that killed 14 people. He has repeated this claim following other mass shootings in the United States—12 in the course of his presidency.
The San Bernardino shooting was the 355th shooting in the United States in 336 days.
During a press conference in Paris, the president said that mass shootings “just [don’t] happen in other countries.” However, that’s not necessarily the case. They do happen in other countries.
The Washington Post cited a study by State University of New York-Oswego public justice professor Jaclyn Schildkraut and Texas State University researcher H. Jaymi Elsass, who have been tracking mass shooting incidents in 14 countries from 2000 to 2014. The study looked at the United States in comparison to 11 other countries (Canada, Finland, China, England, Australia, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland), and found the United States had a lower rate of mass shooting fatalities per 100,000 people than Norway, Finland and Switzerland. Aside from China, the countries that outrank the United States in the study were all members of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development—the measure typically used to qualify “advanced” countries.
While the exact definition of what qualifies as a “mass shooting” is still debated—the FBI no longer officially defines “mass shootings”—the organization once established the definition as “four or more victims slain, in one event, in one location.”
Quantifying whether the United States outranks other countries in the number of mass shootings is nuanced, as the numbers reported should also be judged per capita and couched in the understanding that every country has their respective gun safety and regulation laws.