Mass shootings in the U.S. are horrifyingly common, but Monday’s attack on a Nashville school is unusual: Police identified the shooter as a 28-year-old Nashville woman, making it one of few mass killings with a female culprit.
At least three children and three adults were killed in the Monday morning attack at the Covenant School, a private Presbyterian school that serves children from preschool until sixth grade. In a press conference, officials said the shooter was killed at the scene—and that she was armed with at least two semi-automatic rifles, plus a handgun.
An FBI list of more than 275 active shooter events from 2000 until 2018 lists just 12 incidents with female attackers, two of whom participated in active shooter events alongside their husbands. Not all of those shootings claimed lives, but women also represent a small fraction of mass shootings with fatalities, according to the Violence Project, which defines a mass shooting “a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms” in a public setting. Of 172 mass shooters studied by the Violence Project, four were women, half of whom had acted alongside a man.
Researchers have attributed the overwhelming preponderance of male shooters to a greater cultural tolerance for violence among men. Domestic violence toward women is also a persistent trend among mass-shooters. A 2021 study of mass shootings from 2014 through 2019 found that most mass shootings were related to domestic violence.
“59.1% of mass shootings between 2014 and 2019 were DV-related and in 68.2% of mass shootings, the perpetrator either killed at least one partner or family member or had a history of DV,” researchers found.
Still, some shootings involving women occurred recently; in 2018, the last year for which the FBI has published data, three of 27 active shooters were women.
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