On the morning of July 4, President Joe Biden hailed the day as a day to “celebrate the goodness of our nation.”
Less than an hour after his 9:25 a.m. EST tweet, a gunman on a rooftop opened fire on a crowd of onlookers who gathered to watch a 4th of July parade in a Chicago suburb. He killed seven people and injured dozens.
Monday’s mass shooting in Highland Park, Illinois, brought fresh anguish to a nation already rocked this year by the murders of school children in Uvalde, Texas, and black shoppers in Buffalo, Illinois. New York State.
If it appears that mass shootings have become more frequent, that hunch is correct, according to analysis of data from the Marshall Project.
According to one of the most conservative definitions of “mass shootings”, in which a gunman shoots four or more strangers in a public place, the number of such crimes has indeed increased in recent years – and they have a number of dead higher, as well.
Mass shootings are only a fraction of the daily gun death toll in the United States, where an estimated 124 people die each day in other acts of gun violence.
Our analysis is based on data from the Violence Project, a nonprofit research group that uses a narrow definition of mass shootings adopted by the Congressional Research Service, which advises federal lawmakers.
Thirty-one of these massacres took place from 2017 to 2021, compared to 24 from 2012 to 2016, according to data from the Violence Project. We compared five-year periods so we could measure trends over time, rather than focusing on the drop in two incidents in 2020, which the researchers attributed to the Covid-19 lockdown, or the spike caused by the 2017 mass shooting in Las Vegas that left 58 dead. The past five years have seen more mass shootings than any comparable period dating back to 1966.
The Violence Project defines mass shootings as single incidents in which four or more people are killed (not including the shooter), in public places, such as schools, stores or workplaces. It excludes murders that occur due to domestic violence or as part of another crime, such as armed robbery or gang violence.
By this definition, there have been four mass shootings so far in 2022: Highland Park, Uvalde, Buffalo and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where a gunman stormed a doctor’s office in a hospital complex, killing four people before committing suicide. The tally puts 2022 on pace with last year, when there were a total of six mass shootings.
As mass shootings in the United States have reached an all-time high, the number of dead and injured has also risen. From 2017 to 2021, the perpetrators killed 299 people, about a third more than the 221 deaths during the five-year period that ended in 2016. The number of people injured was five times higher.
Much of the rise in death and injury is attributable to the deadliest mass shooting in modern US history, which occurred in 2017 at a music festival in Las Vegas. A gunman, armed with multiple assault weapons, killed 58 people. According to the Violence Project, an additional 887 people were injured, including dozens in a stampede. But even excluding Las Vegas, the death and injury toll was still higher in the past half-decade than the five years ending in 2016.
The July 4 mass shooting was the fourth in less than three months. In all four cases, the gunmen used high-powered weapons, law enforcement authorities said. President Biden last month signed the most significant gun safety measure in decades, though the new law does not include a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines, a provision that Biden and the Democrats had wished.
Our analysis shows that over the past five years, assault weapons have been used in nearly half of mass shootings, up from one-third in the previous five years.
There is no national legal definition of a “mass shooting”. Several organizations track mass shootings, but use different criteria: some only count incidents in which three or more people are killed; others measure incidents with four or more people killed or injured.
The lack of consensus on what constitutes a mass shooting makes the problem difficult to address, let alone try to solve, said Jacob Kaplan, a criminologist at Princeton University’s School of Public and International Affairs. .
“If you have one definition of a mass shooting and I have a different definition, it’s hard to even have a conversation,” Kaplan said. “It’s not like we’re obviously right or obviously wrong. It’s just that you have to be very specific about what you’re talking about. And that’s something that tends to get lost in the media and certainly in politicians.
Some researchers emphasize the importance of including injuries as well as deaths when analyzing mass shootings. Jaclyn Schildkraut, a criminal justice professor at the State University of New York at Oswego, said in recent years victims are more likely to be injured than killed due to faster responses from police and paramedics. paramedics and medical advances. Schildkraut is the acting director of the Regional Armed Violence Research Consortium, based at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, a public policy think tank based in Albany, New York.
She defines a mass shooting as an incident in a public place with multiple victims, injured or killed, and the shooter targets the victims either randomly or “for their symbolic value”, such as black worshipers in a church. According to this count, there were 402 mass shootings with 3,590 dead or injured from 1966 to 2020, with a sharp increase in recent years. More than half of those shootings – 219 – took place at the perpetrator’s workplace or school.
Other measures of mass shootings have also increased in recent years.
The Gun Violence Archive, an independent research group, uses a broad definition of a mass shooting: an incident in which four or more people are killed or injured, not including the shooter. It includes shootings related to gang activity, street fighting or domestic violence.
The group counted 2,403 mass shootings from 2017 to 2021, with 2,495 dead and 10,225 injured. The group’s data reveals a sharp increase in recent years: 692 mass shootings in 2021, up 66% from the total of 417 in 2019.
The group counted 318 mass shootings as of 3 p.m. on July 5. This puts 2022 on track to end as one of the deadliest years since the group began monitoring such crimes in 2014.
Like the Violence Project, Everytown for Gun Safety defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are killed with a firearm, excluding the perpetrator. Everytown counts incidents that “occur in public and private spaces, have an unlimited number of shooters, and result from a myriad of motives, such as group violence, domestic violence, or terrorist violence.” According to the group’s tally, there have been 110 incidents in the past five years, down from 96 from 2012 to 2016.
The FBI tracks what it calls “active shooters”: one or more individuals actively engaged in the murder or attempted murder of people in a populated area. These cases have nearly doubled since 2017, to 61 incidents in 2021 that left 103 dead and 140 injured.
This article was published in partnership with The Marshall Project, a nonprofit news organization covering the US criminal justice system. Sign up for their newsletters and follow them on TwitterInstagram and Facebook.