There is no growing 'trend' of transgender, nonbinary shooters, experts say | Fact check

The claim: The Lakewood Church shooter is latest in 'alarming trend' of transgender shooters

A Feb. 12 Instagram post (direct link, archive link) shared by Media Research Center, a conservative media watchdog group, shows a list of shootings and the shooters' supposed gender identity.

“Colorado Springs shooter: nonbinary; Nashville school shooter: trans; Aberdeen shooter: trans; Denver school shooter: trans; Iowa school shooter: trans/genderfluid; Lakewood Church shooter: trans,” reads the screenshot, which shows a Libs of TikTok post. “The modern LGBTQ+ movement is radicalizing our youth into becoming violent extremists.”

The caption reads, “Why won’t the leftist media report on this alarming trend?”

The post was liked more than 14,000 times in 12 days.

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Our rating: False

Police said the Lakewood Church shooter was not transgender, and there's no trend of transgender shooters. The incidents in the post are cherry-picked and not all correctly labeled: Data shows only two mass shootings by transgender assailants since 2006.

Data showing cases of transgender, nonbinary shooters is small

The claim was first shared by Libs of TikTok, a conservative social media account that has previously spread misinformation.

It references six shootings from 2018 to 2024. But it doesn't accurately describe each of the shooters. Here are the basics on the shootings and what we know about the shooters:

  • In Colorado Springs, Colorado, in November 2022, authorities said Anderson Lee Aldrich killed five people and wounded 19 others at the LGBTQ+ bar Club Q. Aldrich, who identifies as nonbinary, pleaded guilty and was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences.

  • In Nashville on March 27, 2023, police said Audrey Hale entered The Covenant School, an elementary school, and shot and killed three children and three adults. Hale was fatally shot by police. He identified as a transgender male.

  • In Aberdeen, Maryland, on Sept. 20, 2018, Snochia Moseley shot and killed three people at a Rite Aid where Moseley was a temporary employee, authorities said. Moseley had recently come out as a transgender male and began receiving hormone therapy, a friend of Moseley's told The Washington Post.

  • In Highland Ranch, Colorado, near Denver, Alec McKinney and a fellow student at the Science, Technology, Engineering and Math School fatally shot one student and injured seven others on May 7, 2019. McKinney, who identified as a transgender male, and his co-defendant were sentenced to life in prison.

  • In Perry, Iowa, on Jan. 4, Dylan Butler entered Perry High School and fatally shot two people and wounded six others before killing himself, authorities said. Libs of TikTok, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and other conservatives claimed Butler was transgender or gender fluid because of pro-LGBTQ+ posts on Butler's social media accounts. But there is no solid evidence confirming how Butler self-identified, Newsweek reported. Authorities did not comment on his gender identity.

  • In Houston on Feb. 11, Genessee Moreno entered Lakewood Church with her 7-year-old son and began shooting. Moreno exchanged fire with officers who fatally shot her. Moreno's son and a 57-year-old man were injured. Police said Moreno had many male and female aliases, but according to documents and interviews, she identified as female.

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The post uses this group of incidents to assert a trend in shootings by transgender or nonbinary offenders.

There is no national data showing gender identity across all types of shootings, but experts who track mass shootings say there is no such trend.

“Whereas there are hundreds of mass shooters, you can count the number of transgender and nonbinary assailants on one hand and still have unused fingers,” said James Alan Fox, a professor of criminology, law and public policy at Northeastern University, who is also a contributing columnist to USA TODAY.

Fox, who leads the team that collects the mass shooting data reported by The Washington Post, said in an email that his team's database does not include categories for transgender or nonbinary shooters because there are “simply far too few to warrant separate classifications."

The Washington Post defines mass shootings as events in which four or more people are killed. Not all of the incidents listed on the post qualify as mass shootings under that definition.

Fox said his team has collected data on 500 mass shootings since 2006.

“I am not aware of other transgender or nonbinary offenders than the Nashville and Colorado Springs assailants,” Fox said.

Fox pointed to the statistics from the Violence Prevention Project, which collects data from public mass shootings – a subset of mass shootings where at least some of the people are killed in or near a public place. Of the 197 cases they documented since 1966, 192 of the shooters were identified as men four were women and one was a transgender person (The dataset is missing one shooting the Washington Post data includes).

"So given the rarity of transgender or nonbinary assailants, the focus on these cases by some offenders would appear to be an attempt further to demonize the transgender/nonbinary community," Fox said.

The Gun Violence Archive’s statistics, which includes shootings of all kinds, show four incidents involving transgender shooters in the past five years, none of which were categorized as mass shootings. That tally doesn't include the 2019 Colorado shooting mentioned in the post, an example of how gathering nationwide gun data can be difficult and inconsistent between various organizations.

Mark Bryant, the archive's founding executive director, told USA TODAY that it’s not easy to pinpoint data by shooter's sexuality because there are so few cases.

“Statistics show, based on the last five years of collecting data, that there have been four confirmed incidents of a trans suspect while at the same time 41 incidents where there has been a trans victim,” Bryant said in an email.

"I don’t know where this hate-filled meme began," Bryant said. "It has not now, nor ever had a basis in fact."

The post in the screenshot was first shared by Libs of TikTok, a conservative social media account that has previously spread misinformation.

USA TODAY reached out to the Media Research Center and Libs of TikTok for comment but did not immediately receive a response.

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This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Data shows transgender and nonbinary shooters are rare | Fact check