What are the odds of getting shot at?

Unless you are in an usual occupation (combat military, high risk police, illegal drug dealer) the odds are generally pretty low to have someone shooting at you. It’s just certain occupations that are at serious risk of getting shot at.


What never occurred to me was that U.S. presidents get shot at a lot. Sure, I know, the Secret Service aren’t there just to keep the groupies away. But what are the actual odds of someone trying to shoot a U.S. president?


They are better than I realized:



  1. Abraham Lincoln was shot and killed on April 14, 1865.

  2. James A. Garfield was shot and killed on July 2, 1881.

  3. William McKinley was shot and killed on Sept. 6, 1901.

  4. John F. Kennedy was shot and killed on Nov 22, 1963.

  5. Ronald Reagan was shot and severely wounded on March 31, 1981.

  6. Andrew Jackson was shot at in the Capitol building on January 30, 1835, but avoided injury.

  7. Theodore Roosevelt was shot in 1912 while campaigning for president.

  8. Franklin Delano Roosevelt was shot at on February 15, 1933, in Miami, Florida, just three weeks before his inauguration.

  9. Assassins attempted to shoot and kill Harry Truman on November 1, 1950 but were stopped in a gunfight outside the Blair House.

  10. Not one, but two, disturbed individuals attempted to shoot and kill Gerald Ford during his brief time as president.

That’s four dead and 10 attempts. Since there have been 44 Presidents the odds are 4/44 or 9% of being shot and killed and 10/44 or 23% chance of being shot at. Of course that assumes the odds are constant through all time–which is a very poor assumption. But still it makes me think that’s got to be one of the riskiest jobs we have in this country. Taken as a whole, as opposed to just those in the “boots on the ground” infantry, I’ll bet being in the U.S. military today is a safer job.

10 thoughts on “What are the odds of getting shot at?

  1. Of course being in the military is safer.

    Soldiers are armed, and thus able to defend themselves, instead of being kept safe by the USSS.

    And if I’m not mistaken, Jackson then beat the bejezus out of his would-be assassin.

  2. Didja notice that 7 out of 10 of them were Republicans?

    I’m sure there’s some significance in that statistic.

  3. Oops, my mistake – you already included those killed. Shows why I don’t comment much…

  4. Don’t forget Robert F. (Bobby) Kennedy, who was shot and killed during his presidential campaign in 1968. Maybe we’re not counting those who never made it to the Whitehouse, but Bobby had a pretty good chance of it, had he survived.

  5. But Gerald Ford – that’s like shooting at Maxwell Smart – I mean c’mon, there’s in an inbuilt negative risk to a Cabbage Patch President, or ought to be.

  6. yeah, maybe, but I bet a cabdriver would exchange risks with either group.

  7. Actually, there have been only 43 presidents – Grover Cleveland (the guy residing on the $1000 bill), was elected non-consecutively (only one to do so), so he’s both #22 & #24, so the odds are 4/43 for KIO (9.3%) and 10/43 SAIO (23.3%).

    Sorry, I’m a history geek as well as a gun / science geek.

  8. IIRC, someone took a shot at Hayes through a window in his house–also a Republican. (If anyone thinks the 2000 vote was unique, read about the election of 1876.)

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