The Center for Disaster Philanthropy does not include mass shootings of any kind in its taxonomy of disasters, nor do we provide resources for mass shootings or other acts of public violence. However, due to numerous requests for information, below is some basic information on mass shootings to help funders impacted by an event in their community.
If your community has been affected by a mass shooting, we encourage you to connect with organizations mentioned in this Issue Insight for advice. If you have a standard disaster grantmaking or a rapid response process, use these to guide your work. CDP has numerous resources available on disaster grantmaking. We also provide a list of resources at the end of the document.
There is no commonly agreed-upon term to define a mass shooting, only “mass killing,” which the U.S. Congress defines as three or more people killed in a single incident, not including the perpetrator. The Gun Violence Archive builds on that definition to describe a mass shooting as “four or more people are shot or killed in a single incident, not including the shooter.”
Although all mass shootings are criminal acts, there are multiple kinds of shootings, which account for the different numbers reported.
The Gun Violence Archive does not exclude any shooting incident as long as it meets the total number of people shot or killed. The circumstances in which they were shot, therefore, do not matter. As a result, their numbers tend to be higher than other lists, which is also true because they include all victims and not just fatalities.
Another area of confusion is school shootings. Although some trackers include any shooting that occurs on a school campus, the Government Accountability Office in a June 2020 report, narrowed the definition to focus on “instances where students or staff were at risk [and] defined a school shooting as ‘any time a gun is fired on school grounds, on a bus, during a school event, during school hours, or right before or after school.’’ This definition, therefore, would exclude suicides in a parking lot or a gang incident in a school playground on the weekend.
- Gun violence has a significant impact on deaths in the U.S. Compared to other high-income countries, the gun homicide rate in the U.S. is 26 times higher. In 2020, there were 19,384 firearm homicides (out of 24,576 total homicides) in the U.S. This compares to 297 firearm homicides in Canada, 34 in Australia, and 30 in England and Wales. However, mass shootings account for less than 1% of all firearm deaths. Everytown Research says that having access to a firearm triples one’s risk of death by suicide.
- In 2022 there were 682 mass shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The definitional issue makes it difficult to know the exact number of mass shooting fatalities and, therefore, trends over time. However, there is some evidence that active shooter incidents have become more common in the U.S. The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) found three such incidents in 2000. However, by 2020, that figure had increased to 40.
- Gun violence has significant economic consequences. A July 2022 report from Everytown Research said, “In an average year, gun violence in America kills 40,000 people, wounds twice as many, and has an economic consequence to our nation of $557 billion.” Also, response to crises is much more expensive than prevention. In the US., federal, state and local governments spend a combined average of almost $35 million each day to deal with the aftermath of gun violence.
- Victims of crime compensation programs distribute billions of dollars annually. The U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Victims of Crimes (OVC) has funding available to support victims of several kinds of violent crimes, including mass violence. In fiscal year 2021, the distribution cap was set at $2.015 billion. According to OVC, as of January 2023, the fund balance is over $1.9 billion and includes deposits (also known as receipts) from federal criminal fines and other sources, including gifts, donations and bequests by private parties.
- Gun control helps reduce mass shootings. Research has shown that when gun control laws are stricter, there are fewer mass shootings. Some gun control advocacy groups grew out of tragic shootings. Moms Demand Action for Gun Violence in America, part of Everytown for Gun Safety, was founded in the wake of Sandy Hook. Moms Demand Action “is a grassroots movement of Americans fighting for public safety measures that can protect people from gun violence. We pass stronger gun laws and work to close the loopholes that jeopardize the safety of our families.”
- Response to a mass shooting typically includes government, individual and philanthropic support. After the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting in June 2016, CDP and Candid “identified 55 institutional pledges and transactions totaling $7.5 million in response to the tragedy” in the Measuring the State of Disaster Philanthropy report. For example, “Twenty-six were directed to Strengthen Orlando, a Florida-based nonprofit affiliated with the OneOrlando Fund, created by Mayor Buddy Dyer in response to the shooting. The OneOrlando Fund focused its grantmaking on survivors and victims’ families and distributed $31.7 million. Fifty-five percent (30 pledges/transactions) came from corporations, either through their corporate giving programs or their foundations.”
How to Help
In the U.S., the federal government has several resources to support victims of mass shootings. This financial support usually comes through OVC, a component of the Office of Justice Programs at the Department of Justice, as opposed to the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Department of Homeland Security as is standard with natural hazard and extreme weather disasters.
Funders can have a role within their community if they wish to support response to a mass shooting, as well as recovery and prevention. They can manage one or more funds for victims or first responders, support trauma-informed and supportive services, advocate for gun control and engage in community education.
- Host a coordinated group fund for victims. People want to donate after a tragedy but do not know where to give. Often, individual giving funds are started on platforms such as GoFundMe. A coordinated fund through a local or community foundation can ensure an equitable fund distribution process by providing a centralized platform and process. There may also be a need to support a fund for first responders who witness the violence or aftermath.
- Fund mental health and trauma services. A mass shooting in a community can affect more than just those in attendance at the school, the event or the location where the shooting occurred. The broader community can also be affected. Broad, wide-ranging mental health and trauma-informed services are often required for several years to help heal the community.
- Support advocacy efforts for gun control. Following the Parkland shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in 2018, the teen victims and students created the #NeverAgain hashtag and began a social media and speaking advocacy campaign to prevent more school shootings. Everytown for Gun Safety has several research-based policy initiatives and solutions that can reduce gun violence, including mass shootings, domestic violence shootings, crime-based killings, accidental shootings and suicides.
- Help build a collaboration of funders. After the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting, philanthropic serving organizations including, but not limited to, the United Philanthropy Forum, Funders for LGBTQ Issues and Change Philanthropy co-sponsored teleconferences to bring together national and regional funders and foundations that wanted to contribute to a response. By taking on the responsibility of organizing and hosting the events, these organizations allowed local funders affected by the shooting to focus on their community’s immediate needs.
- Contribute to the victims of crimes fund federally or to similar state/local funds. The spending cap is determined by the revenue invested in the fund. Donations can help ensure that victims receive full support after a mass shooting.
- Make investments in community-based interventions in underinvested places. Understanding the relationship between violence and place is essential. Then, as described in a Brookings Institution report released in November 2021, “when it comes to solutions, a growing body of evidence also demonstrates the promise of micro-level place-based interventions (such as rehabilitating vacant lots or increasing the number of community organizations) in significantly decreasing violence within these neighborhoods.”
- Support violence reduction training at schools instead of active shooter drills. While 95% of schools in the U.S. hold active shooter drills, there is no proof that these work. Alternatives include supporting “proactive school safety measures, such as threat assessment programs, access to mental health professionals and social support, non-punitive disciplinary processes, and trauma-informed emergency planning for teachers in reducing a school’s risk of gun violence and mass shootings.”
What Funders Are Doing
Government support is usually available to victims of mass shootings, including the families of those deceased, people who are shot and people in/at the location but not shot. Crime victim compensation is a federally-funded and state-administered program.
According to the National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards, “Compensation programs can pay for a wide variety of expenses and losses related to criminal injury and homicide. Beyond medical care, mental health treatment, funerals, and lost wages, a number of programs also cover crime-scene cleanup, travel costs to receive treatment, moving expenses, and the cost of housekeeping and child care if a victim is unable to perform those tasks.”
The Ventura County Community Foundation (VCCF) set up a Conejo Valley Victims Fund after the Thousand Oaks shooting in 2018. The Fund was established in coordination with the City of Thousand Oaks, Conrad N. Hilton Foundation, Amgen Foundation, California Community Foundation and other funders. The Fund developed a protocol so that 100% of the funds went toward assisting the families of the victims who were killed or physically injured and those present.
The Contigo Fund was established after the Pulse Orlando nightclub shooting. Under Our Fund Foundation, a nonprofit LGBTQ philanthropic organization, Contigo’s mission is to fund, strengthen and empower existing agencies and emerging ones working to improve the lives of LGBTQ and Latinx individuals, immigrants and people of color in Central Florida. Unlike the Conejo Valley Victims Fund, Contigo funds organizations working on healing, empowerment, leadership development, bridge-building, and racial/social/gender justice.
The OneOrlando Fund was used to bring together various funds, together with the National Compassion Fund, to allocate funding to four groups of people: individuals killed as a result of the Pulse Nightclub attack, individuals who were injured and had to spend at least one night in hospital, injured parties treated within 48 hours as an outpatient, and individuals who were present but not injured.
In the summer of 2022, the National Alliance for Children’s Grief (NACG) received a $35,000 grant from the Abell Hanger Foundation in Midland, Texas. NACG is a national nonprofit that serves as an umbrella for children’s grief programs nationwide. NACG was contacted to help deploy services to the community of Uvalde after the school shooting there in May. They were able to deploy staff, secure a camp venue, purchase supplies and provide support to the fourth-grade students from Robb Elementary with a two-day bereavement camp for the students who were injured and their families. The funds allowed them to remove barriers such as transportation by providing gas cards.
National Compassion Fund (NCF) “provides a single, trusted way for the public to donate directly to victims of a mass crime, such as a shooting or terrorist attack. It was developed by the National Center for Victims of Crime in partnership with victims and family members from past mass casualty crimes.” NCF has distributed over $105 million since 2014 to victims and survivors of mass crime, including mass shootings.
Mavericks Community Foundation in Half Moon Bay, California, established The Coastside Victims Fund following the Jan. 23, 2023 shooting in the city and in nearby San Mateo County. “Following national and trauma-informed best practices, the Coastside Victims Fund will directly support survivors and victims’ families.”
The Alliance for Gun Responsibility Foundation hosted a virtual summit in 2021 called White Supremacy and Guns: Exploring the History. The summit was dedicated to the intersection—past and present—of gun violence and white supremacy.
In 2021, the Chicago-based Joyce Foundation announced the launch of a five-year, $250 million grantmaking strategy that will extend its commitment to creating a more just, fair, and equitable future for young people in the region. The strategy will be implemented across all the foundation’s program areas, including Culture, Democracy, Education & Economic Mobility, Environment, Gun Violence Prevention & Justice Reform, and Journalism.
- OVC: Helping Victims of Mass Violence and Terrorism – Planning, Response, Recovery and Resources
- OVC: Supporting Communities After Mass Violence Incidents
- OVC: The Vicarious Trauma Toolkit
- National Center for Victims of Crime
- Legal Information Institute 34 U.S. Code Chapter 201: Victim Rights, Compensation and Assistance
- FBI: Active Shooter Resources
- Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration: Incidents of Mass Violence
- Pew Research Center: What the data says about gun deaths in the U.S.
- Government Accountability Office: Characteristics of School Shootings
- Everytown for Gun Safety: Mass Shootings in America
- The Educational Fund to Stop Gun Violence
- Mother Jones: A Guide to Mass Shootings in America
- Department of Homeland Security: Active Shooter How to Respond
- Gov: Attacks in Crowded and Public Places
- National Association of Crime Victim Compensation Boards: State Programs Map
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