The Violence Project:

How to Stop A Mass Shooting Epidemic

Winner of the 2022 Minnesota Book Award (General Nonfiction)

Jillian Peterson & James Densley

Available at all bookshops

Abrams Press | September 7, 2021

U.S. $28.00 | Can. $35.00 | U.K. £19.99

Hardcover with jacket | 240 pages

6 x 9″ | ISBN: 978-1-4197-5295-7

Also available as an e-book and audio-book:


PUBLICIST: Andrew Gibeley, Abrams Books,

AGENT: Veronica Goldstein, Fletcher & Co,

SPEAKING: Tom Neilssen, BrightSight Speakers,


An examination of the phenomenon of mass shootings in America and an urgent call to implement evidence-based strategies to stop these tragedies.

Using data from the writers’ groundbreaking research on mass shooters, including first-person accounts from the perpetrators themselves, The Violence Project charts new pathways to prevention and innovative ways to stop the social contagion of violence. Frustrated by reactionary policy conversations that never seemed to convert into meaningful action, special investigator and psychologist Jill Peterson and sociologist James Densley built The Violence Project, the first comprehensive database of mass shooters. Their goal was to establish the root causes of mass shootings and figure out how to stop them by examining hundreds of data points in the life histories of more than 170 mass shooters—from their childhood and adolescence to their mental health and motives. They’ve also interviewed the living perpetrators of mass shootings and people who knew them, shooting survivors, victims’ families, first responders, and leading experts to gain a comprehensive firsthand understanding of the real stories behind them, rather than the sensationalized media narratives that too often prevail. For the first time, instead of offering thoughts and prayers for the victims of these crimes, Peterson and Densley share their data-driven solutions for exactly what we must do, at the individual level, in our communities, and as a country, to put an end to these tragedies that have defined our modern era.


"This is a thorough, groundbreaking work … A gripping book that will captivate anyone seeking to understand why mass shootings occur and what might be done to recognize and intervene with potential shooters before they act." Library Journal (starred review)

"Insightful and cautiously optimistic ... the authors’ nuanced portraits of mass shooters buttress the case that these tragedies ‘are not an inevitable fact of American life; they’re preventable.’ This is a sensitive and knowledgeable treatment of one of America’s most vexing social problems." Publishers Weekly

"A bracing compilation of mass shooter profiles and first-person accounts from violent criminals ... a multifaceted study that is alternately horrifying, depressing, and even hopeful ... A distressing, critical study in the understanding, processing, and prevention of mass-casualty gun violence." Kirkus Reviews

"A moving book that not only translates the authors’ years of research, but also synthesizes the available literature on mass shootings in an easily digestible, yet compelling format for the lay audience... an essential read." ACJS Today

"For teachers, business owners, parents, and health care providers, for anyone passionate about gun control laws, or anyone yearning to know more—this text is for everyone. The Violence Project tells you everything you need to know about the mass shooting epidemic in the United States and offers evidence-based solutions as to how this crisis can be abated. The authors discuss everything from live shooter drills to security products, explaining what works and what doesn’t based upon their extensive research." –True Crime Index

"[The] book identifies 34 potential solutions to the mass shooting epidemic...[it] focuses on understanding past mass shooters and preventing future ones by showing that our approach to mass shooters is flawed. By painting them as one-dimensional monsters, we avoid society's involvement. And that stops us from solving the problem."―Minneapolis Star-Tribune

The Violence Project work is a statement of hope in a time when it is easy to feel that Americans have become so inured to gun violence that we simply accept it as standard operating procedure –Pittsburgh Institute for Nonprofit Journalism

“It's a reframing of our mass shooting problem .... a reminder to open our eyes ... a courageous deep dive into a topic for public health that most researchers would rather forget.” Mitchell Daily Republic

In a groundbreaking new book, The Violence Project, two criminologists seek to reframe the public discourse around mass murderers and offer a prevention roadmap that could save lives. The 74 Million.

“Reading The Violence Project is like having the lights turned on in a dark stadium. Jillian Peterson and James Densley illuminate for us the darkest corners of our violent predilections. They’ve told us what to do; the rest is up to us. Groundbreaking!” bestselling author of No Visible Bruises, Rachel Louise Snyder

“If you ever wondered how can we stop mass shootings, this is the book for you. By mixing compelling first-person interviews with mass shooters and significant data analysis, The Violence Project illustrates the tangible ways we can intervene and prevent a tragedy from occurring. No one is helpless—read this book and help stop violence before it starts.” co-founder and managing director, Sandy Hook Promise, Nicole Hockley

For all GoodReads reviews, click here.

Meet the authors

Jillian Peterson, PhD

Dr. Jillian Peterson is a Professor of Criminology and Criminal Justice at Hamline University. Jill launched her career as a special investigator in New York City, researching the psycho-social life histories of men facing the death penalty. Jill has led large-scale research studies on mental illness and crime, school shooting prevention, and mass violence, which have received national media attention. She is a sought-after national trainer and speaker on issues related to mental illness and violence, trauma, forensic psychology, and mass violence. Jill earned her Doctorate in psychology and social behavior from the University of California, Irvine. She is trained in restorative justice, violence mediation, crisis intervention, de-escalation, and suicide prevention.

James Densley, PhD

Born and raised in England, Dr. James Densley is a Professor of Criminal Justice at Metropolitan State University, part of the Minnesota State system. James first moved to the United States to teach special education in the New York City public schools. After earning his Doctorate in sociology from the University of Oxford, he quickly established himself as one of the world’s leading experts on street gangs and serious youth violence, including cyber violence. James’ work has attracted global media attention. He has been an invited or plenary speaker on three continents. James is the author of seven books, 50 peer-reviewed articles in leading social science journals, and over 70 book chapters, essays, and other non-refereed works.

Based in St. Paul, Minnesota, Jillian and James run The Violence Project, a nonpartisan, nonprofit research center known worldwide for its work on mass shooting prevention. The Violence Project has been featured in CNN, Fox News, The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and other leading media outlets. Visit for details.