For a look at the statistics, we checked with two researchers, Jaclyn Schildkraut of the State University of New York in Oswego and H. Jaymi Elsass of Texas State University. They have been collecting and analyzing mass-shooting incidents in 11 countries, covering the period from 2000 to 2014. Aside from the United States, the countries they studied are Australia, Canada, China, England, Finland, France, Germany, Mexico, Norway and Switzerland. (They also looked at less-developed countries, but we will exclude those since Obama specifically mentioned “advanced” countries.)
Schildkraut and Elsass shared the summary information from their database with PolitiFact. Here’s their table:
The chart does show that the United States has more mass shootings — and more people cumulatively killed or injured — than the other 10 nations combined, partly because it has a much bigger population than all but China.
Still, using this data, it’s easy to dispense with the first claim Obama made — that “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.”
Over the decade and a half studied, the researchers found 23 incidents of mass shootings in the other 10 countries, resulting in 200 dead and 231 wounded. In the United States over the same period, there were 133 incidents that left 487 dead and 505 wounded.
Here are a just a few examples of mass shootings in other countries:
• On July 22, 2011, a total of 80 people were killed in Norway when Anders Behring Breivik, a political extremist, bombed a government building in Oslo and then went on a shooting rampage on the island of Utoya, just outside the city.
• On March 11, 2009, in Winnenden, Germany, a teenage gunman killed 15 people. The majority of the victims were children and teachers killed when the shooter opened fire in three classrooms in a local secondary school. The gunman shot two other people before killing himself after being cornered by the local police.
• On Sept. 23, 2008, in Kuahajoki, Finland, a gunman shot 10 people to death after opening fire on a classroom in the Kuahajoki School of Hospitality. After killing the students, the shooter burned the victims’ bodies.
In sum, then, Obama is wrong to say that “this type of mass violence does not happen in other advanced countries.” Clearly it does happen elsewhere, and not in trivial numbers. Seven of the countries saw double-digit numbers of people killed in mass shootings during that period.
By contrast, the second part of Obama’s claim — that “it doesn’t happen in other places with this kind of frequency” — isn’t entirely off-base.
We compared mass shooting incidents across countries is to calculate the number of victims per capita — that is, adjusted for the country’s total population size.
Calculating it this way shows the United States in the upper half of the list of 11 countries, ranking higher than Australia, Canada, China, England, France, Germany and Mexico.
Still, the U.S. doesn’t rank No. 1. At 0.15 mass shooting fatalities per 100,000 people, the U.S. had a lower rate than Norway (1.3 per 100,000), Finland (0.34 per 100,000) and Switzerland (1.7 per 100,000).