Mass Shootings: After 19 In Five Years, Many Thoughts And Prayers, No Real Answers

President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush take part in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Was
President Barack Obama and former President George W. Bush take part in a ceremony in the East Room of the White House in Washington, Thursday, May 31, 2012, to unveil the Bush portrait. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

On Friday, Dec. 14, a gunman entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., and opened fire on students and teachers, killing at least 26 and wounding others.

Though the victims were younger -- some of the 20 children killed on Friday were in kindergarten -- the massacre drew comparisons to the 2007 tragedy at Virginia Tech that left 32 dead and 17 others wounded in the deadliest mass shooting by a single gunman in U.S. history. Hundreds more have died in shootings during the five years that have passed since that devastating marker.

There is no official definition of a "mass shooting," but FBI classifications describe the term as any incident in which a perpetrator kills four or more people, not including him or herself. Under that definition, 19 mass shootings have taken place since April 16, 2007, the date of the Virginia Tech massacre. That's a rate of more than one every four months -- only considering these most brutal examples. Other devastating shootings go largely unnoticed on the national stage.

When mass shootings prompt a presidential response -- and they often don't -- the White House tends to focus on investigating the shooter's motives and encouraging people to pray or mourn for the victims. The question of how easy it is for certain individuals to buy guns is often left off the table entirely.

The tendency to approach the issue with an abundance of caution was on display on Friday, when White House Press Secretary Jay Carney gave the administration's first official comments on the incident, saying that it wasn't the day to discuss gun control policy.

It would appear that it never is.

President Barack Obama unsurprisingly left politics and policy out of his brief address on the matter Friday. He did make a promising plea for "meaningful action." Time will tell whether he can -- or will even attempt to -- translate these words into specific policy change.

Below, a list of the 19 mass shootings over the past 5-plus years, alongside the political responses, if any, to the incidents:

Five Years, 19 Mass Shootings, No Action