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Do Mass Shootings Happen Outside the US? (Yes, they do)

Sometimes it seems like you can’t look at the news without reading about another mass shooting. Usually it’s in the United States and usually it involves an angry loner with an axe to grind, mental illness, or both.

You could be forgiven if you assumed that this is a uniquely American problem. Because America’s Second Amendment rights are at odds with most of the western world’s majority opinion on gun control, the perception is understandable. Add the fact that America is the most powerful, most wired, and most reported on country in the world and that perception quickly hardens into fact, despite being incomplete.

In this article, we’re going to take a look at some mass shootings that have occurred in other countries and a few mass murders that did not use guns at all. This is a somber and gut wrenching topic to talk about, but an important one to discuss and try to prevent from happening in the future.

Do mass shootings occur in other countries?

Yes, they do. Just since the turn of the 21st Century, Czechia, Serbia, Norway, Slovakia, England, Germany, Finland, Italy, France, and Switzerland have all suffered from gun massacres. In fact, the deadliest mass shooting actually occurred outside the U.S.

Mass shootings are evil and occur far too often, but its important to realize that they are not actually the deadliest form of mass murder. Bombs and trucks have killed more people in single attacks than firearms.

Mass Shootings in other Countries

This is nowhere close to a comprehensive list of the mass shootings in other countries, but we are listing out a few of the deadliest and highest profile attacks.

Oslo, Norway

Oslo Norway, 2011 (67 Dead)

In 2011, a neo-Nazi named Anders Breivik meticulously planned a day of terror unlike any every seen in Scandinavia or anywhere. While the first ten deaths in this rampage were the results of a car bomb, most of the murders occurred on a Norwegian island, at a government youth camp. Breivik arrived dressed as a cop to gain access, once inside he went on the deadliest gun rampage in recorded history. By the time he was done, 67 were dead and more than 40 were injured. 

The scale of the slaughter was so immense in relatively small Norway that later surveys revealed that fully one in four Norwegians personally knew at least one victim.

Christchurch New Zealand

Churchchrist New Zealand, 2019 (51 Dead)

On March 15, 2019, an Australian white supremacist called Brenton Tarrant walked into a mosque in Riccarton New Zealand. With a GoPro camera strapped to his head, Tarrant proceeded to shoot dozens of worshippers with a shotgun and an AR-15 rifle before travelling five minutes to another mosque in Linwood where the killing continued. The police intercepted Tarrant as he drove to a third mosque. By the time he was stopped, 51 people were dead and more than 40 injured.

The entire gruesome nightmare was streamed live for the entertainment and approval of his fellow racists.

Zug, Switzerland

Zug Switzerland, 2001 (14 Dead)

The 2001 Zug massacre is typical of this type of crime…an antisocial loner takes out his hatred on those he perceives as responsible for his situation. In this case, a paranoid alcoholic and convicted pedophile called Friedrich Leibacher filed repeated nuisance law suits against anyone Leibacher perceived to be disrespectful of him. These suits were quickly dismissed and Leibacher turned his anger on the state itself.

On September 27, 2001, he walked into the regional parliament building and opened fire. After murdering 14 and injuring 18 more, Leibacher set off a bomb and then shot himself. His suicide note indicated that he perpetrated the crime because he felt he was being persecuted by the authorities.

The worst gun massacre in the US is, by a wide margin, the Las Vegas concert massacre in 2017 which killed 58 (motive unknown). The second deadliest in the US was the Pulse Nightclub rampage which killed 49 in Orlando by a muslim extremist in response to US bombings of ISIS terrorists.

But any shooting with three or more victims is, by definition, a mass shooting. It’s important to keep that in mind when evaluating the most severe and rare cases…those with 10 or more victims.

Mass Murders Not Using Guns

Mass shootings, as terrible and horrifying as they are, are not as deadly as some other mass murder attacks in recent years not using firearms.

The incidents below only account for mass murder attacks carried out by lone wolves or very small groups of radical extremists. Of course, the largest terrorist attack in US history used airplanes rather than guns or bombs, but that was carried out by an organized, well-financed terrorist organization operating on a far broader scope and far greater capacities than the type of “lone wolf” mass killings we are looking at today.

Here we’re not restricting to outside the U.S. to get a better scope of the scale of the issue.

Oklahoma City USA

Oklahoma City USA, 1991 (177 Dead)

Method: Bomb

The largest mass murder incident in US history is the Oklahoma City bombing. In 1991, an anti-government zealot called Timothy McVey tried to start a civil war within the United States by bombing a federal government-owned building in downtown Oklahoma City.

With the help of his co-conspirators, McVey filled a U-Haul truck with ammonium nitrate fertilizer and set it off with an explosive charge. The resulting blast killed 177 and wounded scores more. On the first floor of the target building was a daycare center. None survived.

Manmade mass murders are rare, but not as uncommon around the rest of the world as you might assume.

Nice France

Nice France, 2016 (88 Dead)

Method: Truck

But even these pale in terms of scale to the Bastille Day truck rampage. On July 15, 2016, a Tunisian immigrant and radicalized Muslim terrorist called Mohamed Bouhlel drove a rented refrigerator truck through a crowd enjoying holiday on the French Riviera. By the time police caught up to him, firing into the cab of the truck until he was dead, Bouhlel had killed 88 including a dozen children.

Kunming, China

Kunming China, 2014 (31 Dead)

Method: Knife

In an attack in 2014 that became known as “China’s 9/11,” eight suspected Uighur separatists from Xinjiang were responsible for the stabbing deaths of 31 with another 141 injured. Of the attackers, 7 were killed on the scene or sentenced to death with only a single female assailant slipping the noose and receiving life in prison.  This is China’s worse mass killing (not carried out by their government).

Sagamihara Japan

Sagamihara Japan, 2016 (19 Dead)

Method: Knife

In 2016, Japan was shocked to its core when a former care worker entered a nursing home and proceeded to knife murder 19 residents with another 26 injured. It was later revealed that the killer has experienced a recent change in his previously friendly, outgoing behavior. He wrote a politician demanding that Japan euthanize the elderly and threatening to kill hundreds of pensioners himself. This is Japan’s worst mass killing.

Toronto Canada

Toronto Canada, 2018 (11 Dead)

Method: Van

Self proclaimed incel, Alek Minassian, rented a van and drone it into a crowd on a major street in Toronto in April of 2018. The 25 year old claimed he was trying to take part in the “incel rebellion” and was lashing out in response to a perceived lack of social success when it came to women. His victims ranged from a 22 year old student to a 94 year old retiree. In 2022, Alek was sentenced to life in prison.

Weldon, Saskatchewan, Canada

Weldon Canada, 2022 (10 Dead)

Method: Knife

In Saskatchewan last year, Canada suffered its second worse mass murder incident of this century when Myles Sanderson and his brother Damien went on a premeditated stabbing rampage across the Cree Nation. Victims were found in 13 different crime scenes that left 10 dead and 18 injured. In the end, both brothers died before any motive could be determined. 

Closing Thoughts

Obviously, mass shooting are evil, unredeemable crimes and are an affront to our shared humanity. Society should do everything reasonable within the confines of the law and individual rights to prevent them.

None-the-less, as the examples above show, taking away guns will not end mass killings. We cannot change human nature. We should work to mitigate it and improve mental health. As long as people live with hate in their hearts and illness in their minds, there will be mass murders – with or without guns.

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