Exploring the Other Side of Mass Shootings

Mass shootings are happening about every week in the U.S. When we hear about a mass shooting, we usually focus on how many people were killed. Those injured who survive are often treated as an afterthought. However, a new study believes we need to better understand what happens to those survivors.

“In most cases, nonfatal mass shooting injuries outnumber deaths, and a portion of the survivors face long-term physical and mental health consequences,” reports a study published in the May 2023 issue of the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine.1

For example, the researchers followed the case of one of the people shot at the 2017 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas who survived. Following the case for 2.5 years, they discovered that the victim had to undergo five surgeries. The total cost of his time in the hospital and surgeries was more than $450,000. Moreover, 2.5 years later, he is still not back at work, but is on disability.

Key Findings of the Mass Shootings Study

The study involved thirteen mass shootings in the U.S. from 2012 to 2019, resulting in 153 deaths and 887 injuries. The academics gathered the following data on the incidents and on 403 injured victims:

  • Fifty weapons were involved in the 13 mass shootings during this period.
  • In 23 percent of the cases, the shootings were associated with hate crimes.
  • Nearly seventy percent of the victims were white; fifteen percent Hispanic, eleven percent Black, and less than four percent Asian.
  • As to the locations of the shootings, most occurred in religious centers, bars/nightclubs, schools, and at concerts or festivals.
  • Thirteen semi-automatic assault rifles, thirteen semi-automatic pistols, three shotguns, three handguns, and one non-automatic rifle were used in the attacks.
  • All weapons were legally obtained.
  • More than 90 percent of the shootings occurred within one mile of schools or parks.

Other findings in the study were that while 63 percent of the survivors’ injuries were due to gunshots, 40 percent were not due to being shot. These injuries resulted from falling or being trampled when people were exiting the area where the shooting occurred, blunt force trauma, or heart attacks. Further, while the average hospital cost per patient was $32,000, most victims (64 percent) had no insurance. This means they were responsible for the charges, forcing some into bankruptcy.

Mental Health Impacts of Mass Shootings

Fifty of the 403 patients in the study were diagnosed with one or more mental issues because of the experience. These included:

  • Anxiety
  • Panic attacks
  • Acute stress disorder
  • Major depressive disorder or symptoms and post-traumatic stress disorder.

These psychiatric issues were often short-lived, three to thirty days. In other cases, however, the victims required ongoing medical treatment and visits to a therapist for a prolonged period.

 Preventing Mass Shootings

The researchers suggested that more research be conducted into the fate of mass shooting survivors, starting with establishing a national registry.

A registry would give us a more comprehensive picture of what happens after a mass shooting. Currently, records of those killed in mass shootings are collected, but they usually do not track the nonfatal injuries or what happens to people after these experiences.

The recommendations did not directly discuss ways to help prevent or at least minimize the chances of mass shootings and other violent acts. Nor did it discuss what to do when such violent acts are happening.

However, prevention, mitigation and incident management can be accomplished by having a workplace violence threat assessment conducted. While there are many components to a threat assessment, among the goals of a threat assessment are to identify and assess potential threats and to develop appropriate responses. They are designed to help prevent violence, protect individuals and property, and improve safety, and if an incident does occur, a threat assessment provides a strategy to mitigate and manage.

This video on threat assessments provides more information about threat assessments and their value.

As always, we value your feedback, which helps us shape our perspective on recent events, security, and the services we offer.

Stay safe,

Oscar Villanueva

Chief Operating Officer
TAL Global
O: 1-408-993-1300


1 “Nonfatal Injuries Sustained in Mass Shootings in the U.S., 2012-2019: Injury Diagnosis Matrix, Incident Context, and Public Health Considerations,” By Matthew Czaja, Kraus Chadd, Phyo, Su, et al. published in May 2023 in the Western Journal of Emergency Medicine.


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