People praying during a vigil Oct. 3, 2015, in Winston, Ore., in remembrance of the victims killed at Umpqua Community College. (AP)

VOA Special Report

College campus shootings

Mass shootings (1966 - 2019)

The first mass shooting in modern U.S. history at a college or university took place in 1966 at the University of Texas at Austin. Fifteen people were killed and 31 others injured.

Since then, eight more mass shootings have occurred on college campuses through 2019 — the majority of them taking place in the past 15 years.

Mass shootings are defined by the Congressional Research Service as having four or more victims.

In 2007, Virginia Polytechnic Institute became the scene of the deadliest mass shooting on a U.S. campus when a 23-year-old student of the school killed 32 people and injured 26 others on the campus located in Blacksburg, Virginia. The perpetrator, who had a history of mental health issues, committed suicide.

The shooting at Virginia Tech received widespread media attention, and remains the third-most-deadly mass shooting in the United States.

In the years between 2012 and 2015, there was a shooting at a U.S. college or university every year, including at Oikos University, a Korean Christian college in Oakland, California; Santa Monica College in Southern California; the University of California, Santa Barbara; and Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon.

College and university mass shooting locations Fatalities and college and university mass shootings

Circles scaled according to the number of fatalities.

Jillian Peterson, Ph.D., and James Densley, Ph.D., built a new database of mass shooters that they hope will inform future research and policy decisions about how to effectively prevent and respond to mass shootings.

For their study, they used the Congressional Research Service’s definition of a mass shooting:

“a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms — not including the offender(s) — within one event, and at least some of the murders occurred in a public location or locations in close geographical proximity (e.g., a workplace, school, restaurant, or other public settings), and the murders are not attributable to any other underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance (armed robbery, criminal competition, insurance fraud, argument, or romantic triangle).”

About the data

All shooters have either been charged, convicted or killed at the scene.

In two years, the team collected more than 100 pieces of information on each of 171 mass shooters, resulting in The Violence Project Database of Mass Shootings in the United States, 1966-2019.

They compiled details on hundreds of factors, including age, race, gender, nationality, sexual orientation, religion, education, relationship status, number of children, employment type and status, military service and branch, criminal, violence and abuse history, gang and terrorist affiliation, bullying, home environment and trauma.

What emerged were fleshed-out profiles and motivations of individual shooters, whose crimes can potentially influence current and future policy and prevention.

College campus shootings (1966 - 2019)

While there is no single profile of a mass shooter, there are several similar characteristics of shooters who commit crimes at a college or university.

According to The Violence Project database, a college shooter tends to be a non-white male who is a current student of the college and who has a history of violence and childhood trauma. He is suicidal, uses handguns that he legally obtained, and often leaves behind a manifesto or video about his crime.

All of the college shooters had a history of mental illness and were suicidal either before or during the shooting.

Sixty-seven percent experienced childhood trauma and had a criminal record. Forty-four percent served in the military.

Fifty-six percent of college mass shooters were immigrants, a much higher percentage than mass shooters as a whole, of whom 15% were immigrants. Violence Project co-founder James Densely noted possible underlying grievances and motivations in carrying out such a crime at one’s own school.

“It may well be that non-white immigrants feel very disconnected from university life. They may be suffering from racism or exclusion, may feel alienated. And these, we know, are risk factors for these types of shootings. Beyond it is just the race,” he said.

A third of college shooters were white, 44% were Asian and 22% were other minorities. The average age of a college shooter was 28.

Number of shooters by age

Years old

College campus shooting victims

Aug. 1, 1966 Thomas Aquinas Ashton • Robert Hamilton Boyer • Thomas Frederick Eckman and Baby Boy Wilson • Martin (Mark) Gabour • Marguerite Lamport • Karen Griffith • David Hubert Gunby • Thomas Ray Karr • Claudia Rutt • Paul Bolton Sonntag • Roy Dell Schmidt • Billy Paul Speed • Edna Elizabeth Townsley • Harry Walchuk • Kathy Whitman • Margaret Whitman July 12, 1976 Paul Herzberg • Bruce Jacobson • Donald Karges • Deborah Paulsen • Seth Fessenden • Frank Teplansky • Stephen Becker Nov. 1, 1991 T. Anne Cleary • Christoph Goertz • Dwight Nicholson • Robert Smith • Linhua Shan April 16, 2007 Ross Alameddine • Christopher James Bishop • Brian Bluhm • Ryan Clark • Austin Cloyd • Jocelyne Couture-Nowak • Kevin Granata • Matthew Gwaltney • Caitlin Hammaren • Jeremy Herbstritt • Rachael Elizabeth Hill • Emily Hilscher • Jarrett Lane • Matthew La Porte • Henry Lee • Liviu Librescu • G. V. Loganathan • Partahi Lumbantoruan • Lauren McCain • Daniel O'Neil • Juan Ortiz • Minal Panchal • Daniel Perez Cueva • Erin Nichole Peterson • Michael Pohle Jr. • Julia Pryde • Mary Karen Read • Reema Samaha • Waleed Mohamed Shaalan • Leslie Sherman • Maxine Turner • Nicole White Feb. 14, 2008 Gayle Dubowski • Catalina Garcia • Julianna Gehant • Ryanne Mace • Daniel Parmenter April 2, 2012 Tshering Bhutia • Doris Chibuko • Sonam Choedon • Grace Kim • Katleen Ping • Judith Seymour • Lydia Sim June 7, 2013 Carlos Franco • Marcela Franco • Margarita Gomez • Chris Zawahri • Samir Zawahri May 23, 2014 George Chen • Katherine Breann Cooper • Cheng Yuan Hong • Christopher Ross Michaels-Martinez • Weihan Wang • Veronika Weiss Oct. 1, 2015 Lucero Alcaraz • Treven Anspach • Rebecka Carnes • Quinn Cooper • Kim Saltmarsh Dietz • Lucas Eibel • Jason Johnson • Lawrence Levine • Sarena Moore

* Includes victims who died as a result of the shooting, in some cases decades later due to injuries suffered at the scene.