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The National Church Shooting Database (1980-2005) is available from ICPSR (Inter-University Consortium on Political and Social Research) in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Just put ICPSR into your search engine. Once at the site, search in the “Data” box using the name of the database. The public version has 139 cases, whereas, most statistics released from the Center for Homicide Research released directly to media outlets only contained 137 cases. The ICPSR version is most complete, but the percentage statistics should not vary in any significant way.

Due to intense publicity in 2017, Center researchers are began identifying incidents occurring in later years. Two waves of data have now been collected, including 1980-2005, and 2006-2016. Collection of a third wave of data is now underway. During this third wave, a dramatic increase in number of incidents (400%) is apparent. These data include all discharges of firearms on church property, or where bullets landed on church property (i.e. church windows shot out). Approximately 40% of church shootings occur in a church parking lot–pointing to the need for better control of parking areas.

An interesting question posed by one of the news reporters recently asked whether 1980 was the year of the first church shooting, and of course it was not. Shooting incidents during the early Civil Rights Movement might come to mind. However, there were many others as well. In 1952 “[John] Whiteside said he killed the chairman of the board of deacons of his church because he didn’t like the way selection of a new pastor was handled.” (“Church Shooting Gets Life Term For Father of 11.” The Daily Times-News (Burlington, NC, Thurs Jan 1, 1953.) While this was a church shooting, it was not a mass shooting.

Even earlier (1937), a shooting between the Brady Gang and Indiana State Police occurred at Caley United Methodist Church in White County, Indiana. The gang opened fire from their hiding spot immediately behind the church mortally wounding an Indiana State Trooper, Paul Minneman. After being shot, his patrol car crashed into the church. It was estimated that over 50 gunshots were fired during the shootout and the gang escaped with at least one wounded, but possibly several wounded. (“Bout with the Brady Gang: 80 years later, Hoosiers recall a deadly police chase in Cass and White counties.” Mitchell Kirk. Pharos-Tribune/CNHI News, Indiana; May 25, 2017.)

Dataset Citation:

2010  Bixby, Derek, Kielmeyer, Amy, & Drake, Dallas. United States National Church Shooting Database, 1980-2005. ICPSR25561-v1. [distributor], 2010-03-30. http://doi.org/10.3886/ICPSR25561.v1


Center Research Media Citations:

2019 “What to do when persecuted.” Dennis, Pine Grove Community Church [blog], November 28.

2019 “As violence rises at places of worship, faith leaders promote safety.” Kali Venable. Victoria Advocate, February 23.

2018 “When the ‘good guy with a gun’ happens to be in a church, are worshippers safer?” Jennifer Graham, Deseret News, August 3.

2018 “Are churches safer when worshippers are armed?” Jennifer Graham, Deseret News, August 3.

2018 “At a church security seminar: Guns, God and ‘get those heads up when you pray.” Hailey Branson-Potts, Los Angeles Times, May 22.

2018 “At a church security seminar: Guns, God and ‘get those heads up’ when you pray.” Hailey Branson-Potts. Los Angeles Times. May 22.

2017 “Evangelical Pastor: The church Should Help Keep Guns From Abusers.” Rob Schenck. Time.com. November 9.

2017 “Are American churches under attack.” CNN. News Editor. November 6.

2017 “Church shootings are becoming much more common.” Francie Diep. Pacific Standard. November 6.

2017 “The truth about church shootings.” Daniel Burke. CNN. November 6.

2017 “Church shootings are so common that there’s a database for them.” Lila MacLellan. Quartz. November 5.

2017 “Nashville church shooting: What happens when violence invades sacred spaces.” Holly Meyer. USA Today. September 25.

2017 “‘Evil has invaded sanctuary’: Texas massacre likely the worst church shooting in U.S. history.” Kristine Phillips and Sarah Pulliam Bailey. Washington Post. November 6.

2017 “The shooting at First Baptist church is an attack on all people of faith. William J. Barber and Jonathan Wilson-Hartgrove. NBC News. November 7.

2017 “Blood on the altar: The rise of sanctuary shootings.” Clyde Lewis. Ground Zero.com. November 6.

2017 “What do you do with a church building that has witnessed tragedy? Bob Ditmer. Church Leaders.com. November 13.

2014 “Quand les enseignants américains s’arment.” Marie-Claude Malboeuf. LaPresse (France). December 8.


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