The List: The World’s Worst Shooting Rampages
Last week’s shootings at Virginia Tech left 32 innocent victims dead and at least another 15 wounded. Cho Seung-Hui’s rampage stands among the worst such sprees by a single shooter in world history. As this week’s FP List shows, all of them prove to be equally senseless and horrifying.
Uiryong, South Korea
Uiryong, South Korea
Casualties: 56 killed; 37 wounded
Date: April 26-27, 1982
What happened: Enraged when his live-in girlfriend woke him up from a nap by swatting a fly against his chest, Woo Bom Kon, a 26-year-old South Korean policeman, tanked up on booze and launched an eight-hour shooting spree across several farming villages 170 miles outside of Seoul. Evidently thirsty, he at one point ordered a local youth to pick him up a soft drink, and then shot him and his family. Woo finally blew himself up in a farmhouse, along with several hostages. His girlfriend, who was lightly wounded during the rampage, described Woo as having been a little eccentric.
Weapons of choice: Two carbine rifles and seven grenades pilfered from police stocks
Aftermath: South Koreas home minister resigned, and a number of local police officials were suspended for negligence.
Port Arthur, Tasmania, Australia
Date: April 28, 1996
Casualties: 35 killed; 18 wounded
What happened: Martin Bryant, a 28-year-old surfer with a history of mental problems, shot dead 35 people at Tasmanias premier tourist attraction, a colonial-era penal colony. The killer first opened fire in the crowded cafe before moving on to the parking lot and a nearby road, where he shot at passing cars and pedestrians. Bryant was eventually captured alive after holing himself up in a local guesthouse; he emerged only when he caught himself on fire while trying to burn the place down. Bryant, who laughed as he admitted his guilt in court, is currently serving 35 life sentences without parole.
Weapons of choice: AR-15 and FN semiautomatic rifles
Aftermath: Australias federal and state governments banned assault rifles and combat shotguns.
Date: December 4, 1986
Casualties: 30 killed; 12 wounded
What happened: Campo Elas Delgado, a 52-year-old Vietnam vet and fan of the novel The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, shot and burned his mother and knifed or shot seven other people en route to dinner at an upscale Italian restaurant, where he downed vodka along with his meal. After polishing off dessert, he calmly stood up, removed his gun from his bag, and opened fire, killing or fatally wounding 22 people and injuring another dozen before the police shot him dead.
Weapon of choice: .38-caliber revolver, knife
Aftermath: The restaurant, only mildly popular before the murders, was thereafter jammed every night, according to the Los Angeles Times.
Hebron, the West Bank
Casualties: at least 29 killed; an estimated 150 wounded
Date: February 25, 1994 (during the Jewish holiday of Purim and the Muslim holiday of Ramadan)
What happened: Dr. Baruch Goldstein, a 37-year-old Jewish settler from Brooklyn and devotee of the radical Rabbi Meir Kahane, emptied 3 clips into a crowd of several hundred Arab worshippers in a mosque in the Cave of the Patriarch, held by three religions to be the burial place of Abraham. Goldstein, who wore his military reservist uniform for the assault, was beaten to death with iron bars by the crowd.
Weapons of choice: Galil automatic rifle, an Israeli version of the Russian AK-47
Aftermath: The Israeli government immediately condemned the shootings, but violent riots followed in Palestinian areas, leading to more deaths, and the massacrethe work of a lone gunman, according to an Israeli government inquirynearly derailed the Middle East peace process.
Date: May 21, 1938
Casualties: 29 killed; three wounded
What happened: Mutsuo Toi, a 21-year-old from a wealthy family, had been shunned by women and rejected from military service for having tuberculosis. Finally one night, he snapped. He cut the electricity to his village, bound two flashlights to his head, and shot or stabbed nearly half of the small community over the course of 90 minutes before then shooting himself at dawn. Before embarking on his rampage, he decapitated his grandmother with an ax.
Weapons of choice: Browning shotgun purchased legally, ax, samurai sword
Aftermath: Toi left notes complaining of being ostracized for his disease. His bizarre attack has inspired at least four books, several films, and at least one play. Until 1982, his rampage was known as the worlds worst massacre by a single individual.
Click here to see our archive of FP Lists.
More from Foreign Policy
Saudi-Iranian Détente Is a Wake-Up Call for America
The peace plan is a big deal—and it’s no accident that China brokered it.
The U.S.-Israel Relationship No Longer Makes Sense
If Israel and its supporters want the country to continue receiving U.S. largesse, they will need to come up with a new narrative.
Putin Is Trapped in the Sunk-Cost Fallacy of War
Moscow is grasping for meaning in a meaningless invasion.
How China’s Saudi-Iran Deal Can Serve U.S. Interests
And why there’s less to Beijing’s diplomatic breakthrough than meets the eye.