The largest mass murders in history have been governmental attempts to extinguish entire groups or communities of people, often for political reasons. The largest mass shootings, however, have often been carried out by one or more individuals at a time seeking either vengeance, fame or an outlet for whatever they were feeling at the time due to mental illness. Many of the culprits behind these murders haven’t even had a specific reason behind their actions and have later told authorities that they “just felt like doing it.”
Most of us have a hard time wrapping our minds around the actions of the perpetrator and become fascinated by the details of the events, curious about every possible detail about the shooter’s life and actions on the day of. The media is well aware of this and in turn, publishes sensationalist headlines and recaps of the shootings, feeding into the public’s frenzy and unintentionally turning the shooter into a celebrity.
While it’s important for the world to know why these horrible acts happened, having the media shine a limelight on a mass shooting often inadvertently gives the shooter what they want – attention. These mass shootings have also taught the world important lessons; prompting schools around the globe to implement emergency alert systems and crafting new and improved gun laws in various countries. While guns have been causing mass destruction for decades, we haven’t yet seemed to been able to put a stop to their sale before more atrocities happen. We’ve compiled a list of the ten worst mass shootings of all time, which date back to the 1980s and run right up until just last month.
10. April 1982 – South Korean Mass Shooting
Strangely enough, the mass murder of 57 people by Woo Bum-Kon in South Korea in 1982 began with the killer’s girlfriend waking him up by swatting a fly on his chest. He angrily left for duty as a policeman that afternoon and reportedly began to drink heavily before returning home to beat his girlfriend. Woo then drove to an armory and gathered several weapons and rounds of ammunition before setting off on a rampage. He entered a local post office, killed three people and cut-off the telephone lines and then continued on his tirade of terror using grenades and handguns. In total, he killed 56 people across several South Korean towns before detonating a grenade and killing himself. His girlfriend said he suffered from an inferiority complex that may have triggered his act of surreal violence. It remains South Korea’s worst mass shooting to date.
9. July 1984 – McDonald’s Mass Shooting
Three days before committing a mass shooting in San Diego that left 21 dead, James Huberty told his wife that he believed he had a mental health problem and called a clinic to request an appointment. Because his tone on the phone did not seem urgent, the operator logged his call and planned to have a doctor call him back within 48 hours. The following day, after having not received a call back from the clinic, Huberty told his wife that his life was over and said that “society had their chance.” Later that day he drove to a Mcdonald’s and began shooting at employees and customers – killing men, women, pregnant women and children without any emotion whatsoever. He was ultimately shot by a SWAT team. His wife later unsuccessfully filed a suit against Mcdonald’s claiming that her husband consumed much of their menu items, which caused a poor diet and may have contributed to his actions.
8. March 1996 – Dunblane Mass Shooting
In 1996, Thomas Watt Hamilton entered the Dunblane elementary school in Scotland armed with four of his own guns and 743 cartridges of ammunition. He headed towards the gym, which was filled with a class of 28 students and three teachers who were about to begin a P.E. class. In four short minutes, he killed 18 adults and children and then turned the gun on himself. Prior to his mass shooting, Hamilton had been a Boy Scouts leader and had been accused by numerous parents of inappropriate conduct towards the young boys he mentored. They claimed he took photographs of half-naked boys without parental consent and that he forced the scouts to sleep with him in a van on hiking expeditions. These claims reportedly led to Hamilton’s business failing and may have contributed to his rage on the day of the shooting.
7. April 1996 – Port Arthur Mass Shooting
A month after the Dunblane mass shooting mentioned in March of 1996, Martin Bryant decided to embark on a similar spree in Tasmania, Australia. The shooter had reportedly been inspired by the Scotland elementary school murders. After his father was outbid on a property by a couple, Bryant drove to their home and murdered them in cold blood. From there, he drove to a historic site nearby named Port Arthur and began shooting at random, starting at the site’s café and moving to the gift shop and then a nearby car park. Many of the victims believed that the gunshots were part of a historical re-enactment and moved even closer to danger. In total, 35 people were killed – prompting the Australian Prime Minister to restrict the private ownership of guns. Bryant is currently serving 35 consecutive life sentences.
6. April 1999 – Columbine Mass Shooting
Inspired by the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995, Columbine High School students Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold planned a complex attack in April of 1999 that involved bombs, explosive devices and guns to murders 13 students. The two gunmen first placed a bomb into a field on the morning of the shootings, hoping it would distract local firemen and policemen. They then transported bombs into the school cafeteria, which would have killed all 488 people inside if they had exploded properly. They began their shootings there, then moved to the library where they set off more bombs before both committing suicide. The Columbine shootings sparked massive debate about American culture’s obsession with videogames as well as teen depression.
5. April 2007 – Virginia Tech Mass Shooting
On April 16th of 2007, Virginia Tech University student Seung-Hui Cho shot and killed 32 people before committing suicide. Cho had a history of severe anxiety and had been accused of stalking two female students at the school. Because he had never been institutionalized, Cho was allowed to buy the guns that he used during his shooting spree. Before committing the crimes, the shooter had sent photos of himself holding guns as well as a manifesto to NBC News that depicted how he felt isolated and that society had forced him to go on a murder rampage. The incident made schools around the world implement an emergency alert system, as Virginia Tech had only informed its students of the first round of shootings a full two hours after they had taken place.
4. July 2011 – Norwegian Mass Shooting
In July of 2011, Norway’s single deadliest mass murder since World War II was carried out by Anders Behring Breivik. Extremely Islamophobic, Breivik wanted to protest Norway’s immigration laws and its leniency towards Muslims entering the country. His attack began with a bomb placed in a white van outside of the Prime Minister of Norway’s office. It detonated, killing 8 people and injuring 209. Breivik then drove to a political youth summer camp two hours away and posed as a police officer to gain access to the grounds. He then shot 69 people before being captured. In total, 77 people were killed during this horrifying attack.
3. July 2012 – Aurora Theatre Mass Shooting
Prompted by his dissatisfaction with life and his career, James Holmes had aimed to kill people for at least ten priors prior to the mass shooting he carried out during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado. Dressed in protective gear and wearing a gas mask, Holmes entered the theatre with several guns and assault rifles, intending to kill all 400 people viewing the film. Shortly after shots rang out, the theatre’s fire alarm went off and moviegoers began to evacuate. Holmes killed 12 people before he was captured without protest near his car in the theatre’s parking lot.
2. December 2012 – Sandy Hook Elementary Mass Shooting
In December of 2012, Adam Lanza shot and killed his mother, then drove to the elementary school where she was a teacher and killed 26 young children. While his motive remains unclear, he had reportedly been obsessed with mass murders and the Columbine High School shooting in particular. Lanza had a severe history of depression and had been socially ostracized growing up while attending Sandy Hook Elementary School for a brief period. Lanza left behind no manifestos or explanation as to his actions.
1. June 2015 – Sousse Beach Mass Shooting
In June of this year, a lone gunman named Seifeddine Rezgui attacked a hotel along a beach of Sousse, Tunisia – killing 38 people in an attack of Islamic terrorism. Rezgui walked along the popular, tourist-filled beach telling Muslims to leave and began shooting at mainly British holidaymakers. Rezgui’s profile did not fit the typical radical Islamic traits; he drank alcohol, had a girlfriend and had been high on cocaine during his rampage. ISIS later claimed that hotels would be targeted in their attacks because they were considered brothels and because the group desired to undermine tourism in the areas affected.