Can We At Least Be Honest About the Frequency of Transgender Mass Shooters?

Dylan Butler Iowa school shooter
Dylan Butler (Images: TikTok)

Last week, 17-year-old Dylan Butler opened fire at Perry High School in Perry, Iowa, northwest of Des Moins. Butler killed one and wounded five others before turning the gun on himself. It was subsequently widely reported that the shooter was LGBTQ or possibly trans. That touched off a feeding frenzy in social media, fueled by the the fact that Nashville school shooter Audrey Hale was trans.

In response, The Advocate, an LGBTQ news site, published an article by Christopher Wiggins, ‘No, transgender and nonbinary people are not frequently mass shooters.’

I agree with the larger point that blaming trans-identifying people for mass shootings is wrongheaded. At this point we’ve established that virtually any demographic can be mass killers, and I’ve posted on this topic since the Iowa school shooting happened. But The Wiggins’ article is a mess and its central argument is weak. Had it been more honest, it could have made a solid point.

Wiggins writes that . . .

…out of 4,684 mass shootings documented by the Gun Violence Archive since 2014, at most six involved transgender individuals. This represents about 0.128 percent of all mass shooters, in stark contrast to the 99.9 percent of mass shootings carried out by non-trans individuals, [trans activist and writer Charlotte] Clymer noted…

As has been discussed ad nauseam, the often debunked Gun Violence Archive’s mass shooting numbers simply measure incidents in which four or more people are shot. That ends up including a lot of incidents that are not what the general population consider to be mass shootings.

A drug deal gone bad that erupts into a gunfight between two sets of criminals can be a “mass shooting” in GVA’s data base, for example. Only a small number of the GVA “mass shootings” are actually what laypeople would consider actual mass shootings, such as when someone goes to a public place — a mall, or a school — and tries to kill as many people as possible, whether or not the shooter knows those people.

Using the argument in The Advocate’s article, you’d conclude that trans mass shooters are rare. You’d also conclude that black males are far and away the most common perpetrators of mass shootings in America. That, however, isn’t an accurate representation either when looking at the problem of mass shootings.

GVA’s methodology casts such a wide net that it ends up being more a measure of gang-related violence that happens to include a few actual public mass shootings. That makes sense, because the idea of 4,684 mass shootings since 2014 is utterly preposterous (just ask the FBI). Yes, it’s a disturbingly common problem in recent years, but it’s nowhere near as common as GVA makes it appear. You only get that high a result if you include incidents that no one really considers mass shootings.

That’s not to say GVA’s work is totally useless…I use it all the time. It’s a great database. You just have to know that it isn’t really counting what we consider to be mass shootings at all. Their “mass murder” category, while I still have some issues with it, is much closer to what actual mass shootings are. On that front, there have been 258 since 2014 by the GVA’s metrics. That’s still inflated, but far less so.

Further insights come from Reuters Fact Check, which clarifies that the majority of mass shooters in the U.S. are cisgender men. This investigation also debunks certain viral claims on social media, pointing out that the few cases often cited (in Nashville, Colorado Springs, Denver, and Aberdeen) do not represent the more significant trend.

Okay, but Wiggins is using some sleight of hand here. The Reuters Fact Check uses data from The Violence Project, not GVA. While also not perfect (I’d argue its criteria are too strict), it’s a far better measure of mass shootings than GVA’s overly expansive data.

Notice also how now we’re talking about a “majority.” That’s very dishonest on the part of Wiggins. Of course the majority of shooters are “cisgender” men. They represent a much bigger slice of the overall population than trans men. The relevant metric here is how many shooters are trans as compared to their share of the population…which is about 0.5%.

Nashville Covenant School shooter Audrey Hale
Nashville Covenant School shooter Audrey Hale (Image: social media)

According to the Violence Project, there were 60 mass shootings between 2014 and the end of 2023. Only one in their database was committed by a trans suspect (the Nashville shooting). Other shootings don’t meet Violence Project’s strict criteria for inclusion. For example, the Iowa school shooting last week doesn’t qualify because only one person was killed, and they require at least four.

But even just one in sixty is out of proportion with the share of the general population. So on paper, yes, trans people commit more mass shootings, at least for the 2014 to 2023 period.

That, however, is a faulty conclusion because the sample size is just too small. Mass shootings with four or more dead victims are, thankfully, still statistical anomalies. That would be as if we had one freak incident where a 85-year-old woman did committed a mass shooting and then used that to conclude that octogenarian women are huge mass shooting threats.

All of this is what Wiggins’ Advocate article should have said, rather than trying to mislead and run cover for the LGBTQ community.

Similarly, the Human Rights Campaign has criticized the exploitation of these events to promote anti-LGBTQ+ hysteria.

I think it’s an ugly practice too, but this is really a case of the shoe now being inconveniently on the other foot. The media have demonstrated that they love to make a mass shooting the top story for days…whenever the suspect is a straight white male (bonus points if the shooter was a Trump supporter). But it rapidly buries shootings that don’t fit their preferred narrative, which is also why those thousands of GVA “mass shootings” never make it beyond local news articles.

So yes, a lot on the political right have taken a “turnabout is fair play” stance after the Iowa school shooting. Any time a shooter is vaguely identifiable as someone “of the left,” they start dunking…just as the left does when the suspect is “of the right.”


Konstadinos Moros is an Associate Attorney with Michel & Associates, a law firm in Long Beach that regularly represents the California Rifle & Pistol Association (CRPA) in its litigation efforts to restore the Second Amendment in California. You can find him on his Twitter handle @MorosKostas. To donate to CRPA or become a member, visit

This post was adapted by SNW from tweets posted by Konstadinos Moros.

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