The stream of mass shootings around the U.S. comes amid a grim backdrop of increased gun violence nationwide, at a time when mayors, police chiefs and mediators working to curb the bloodshed were already reporting a disturbing shift.
Grievances or minor slights that might have once led to fistfights, they said, were instead escalating to gunfire, reports the Washington Post. “It’s heartbreaking,” Scott E. Schubert, the Pittsburgh police chief, said of the deadly shooting there on Easter Sunday in which two teens were killed at a party.
In some of the shootings that left numerous people dead or injured, officials said the gunfire appeared to be tied to disputes among people or groups gathered in public or crowded areas. This violence underscored that shootings leaving several people injured or killed are up significantly compared with before the pandemic, and the ongoing toll has public officials and others fearful heading into the summer months.
Columbus, Oh.,, Mayor Andrew J. Ginther said the recent string of shootings from Sacramento to Pittsburgh left him feeling horrified, angry and frustrated that “we’re continuing to see these things happening over and over and over again.”
So far this year, the number of shootings that killed or injured at least four people is much higher than it was at this point just a few years ago, says the Gun Violence Archive. The group categorizes “mass shootings” as cases in which at least four people are killed or wounded, not including the shooter.
There were 144 such shootings so far this year through Monday. That is down slightly from 149 over the same period last year, but starkly up from the three preceding years, when there had been fewer than 100 by that date.
Overall, In New York, there were 488 killings in 2021, compared with 319 two years earlier, before the pandemic. That remains well below the agonizing toll seen a few decades ago — in 1990 alone, the city had more than 2,200 murders — but the increase has left some New Yorkers fearful about safety in their city.
The mayor of Savannah, Ga., Van Johnson, said the rise in gun violence in his city is “unlike anything we’ve ever seen.”
He attributes the phenomenon to the availability of illegal guns, a lack of maturity in settling disputes and a critical shortage of resources to address mental health and substance use disorders.
Public mass shootings like the Brooklyn subway attack tend to get the most attention, though such rampages are actually outliers relative to how gun violence typically unfolds in America, said April Zeoli, an associate professor of criminal justice at Michigan State University.
“Mass shootings are absolutely the minority of gun deaths in the United States,” Zeoli said. “Single-victim shootings are far more common. Many, many more people die per day, per month, per year, in homicides that do not meet the level of mass shootings, than people who are shot in mass shootings.”
Despite the intense focus on shootings that hit strangers in public places, “almost no shootings are random,” noted Daniel Webster of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Prevention and Policy. “Yes, a few, but they’re incredibly rare. Those are the ones that get the most attention because they seem like there’s no rhyme or reason, like what happened in the subway in Brooklyn recently.
“More commonly, shootings, whether they are mass shootings or just one individual shot, you can often boil it down to something pretty basic,” Webster said. “Grievances and guns.”