FACT CHECK: ‘The Vast Majority of Mass Shootings Have Not Taken Place With Automatic Weapons’

David Sivak | Fact Check Editor

Conservative political commentator Ben Shapiro claimed Wednesday that most mass shooters don’t use machine guns or other automatic weapons.

“The vast majority of mass shootings have not taken place with automatic weapons, or even semi-automatic weapons being fired like autos,” said Shapiro on Fox News. “They’ve been with semi-automatic rifles, or mostly with handguns.”

Verdict: True

Only two mass public shootings in recent history involved a machine gun according to the Congressional Research Service (CRS). Handguns and other semi-automatic weapons are most commonly used in such massacres.

Fact Check:

The CRS conducted an analysis of all mass public shootings – defined as homicides where at least four people were killed by firearms in a public space – from 1999 to 2013.

According to their research, 27 percent of all mass public shootings were committed with weapons considered to be “assault weapons,” meaning rifles or pistols that might accept magazines formerly banned under the federal assault weapons ban of 1994.

But only two of the mass public shootings since 1999 were committed using fully automatic weapons. In 2002, an off-duty police officer in New Jersey killed five individuals with a police-issued machine gun. In a 2011 incident, a mentally ill person in Nevada killed four people with a weapon that had been illegally converted into a machine gun.

Semi-automatic weapons, which include pistols and fire a single bullet each time the trigger is pulled, are the most commonly used firearm in such massacres. According to a Mother Jones’ analysis of mass public shootings from 1982 to 2012, 48 percent involved semi-automatic handguns, 25 percent involved assault weapons, 14 percent involved revolvers and 13 percent involved shotguns.

We rate Shapiro’s claim as true.


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David Sivak

Fact Check Editor
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