An average of six times a year since 2015, a person with a firearm has committed mass murder in a public place in the U.S.
After each incident, people ask, could it have been prevented?
A bipartisan group of 20 senators agreed over the weekend to a framework of modest gun-safety reforms coupled with spending on school security and mental health programs. The accord now has won the endorsement of Republican Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, a longtime defender of gun rights.
The Washington Post fact checker analyzed 41 gun-related mass killings since 2015 alongside proposed restrictions that are backed by major gun-control groups.
The takeaway: Only about one-third of these mass killings might have been prevented by any major proposals.
Some proposals, such as not allowing people under 21 to buy assault rifles and banning ammunition storage and feeding devices known as magazines that hold more than 10 bullets — might have minimized the bloodshed.
Improvements to the background check system could make a difference, though it’s not clear how many lives would have been saved by the modest changes in the Senate agreement, which would require a mandatory search of juvenile justice and mental health records of buyers younger than 21 and seek to clarify who needs to obtain a federal firearm license.
It’s important to note that gun restrictions could help reduce overall gun violence even if mass shootings are not eliminated.
Some of the highest profile shootings involved semiautomatic rifles — AR-15 variants often called “assault weapons.” A much greater number took place with only handguns or the assailants included handguns as part of their arsenal.
The National Shooting Sports Foundation says nearly 20 million such weapons are now in circulation in the U.S. Prospects for reviving the ban are practically nil.
Existing state laws banning assault weapons or large-capacity magazines did not stop some shooters from obtaining them.
Federal laws failed to prevent the transfer of a weapon from a person with mental health issues, a felon or even a former soldier who had been dishonorably discharged who then became a mass shooter.
The occasional failure of existing laws does not mean those laws did not effectively thwart other dangerous people from obtaining firearms.
A new University of California-Davis study found that as many as 58 mass shootings might have been prevented in California after the state in 2016 implemented the first red-flag law, allowing a person’s firearms to be seized when the imminent risk of violence appears high.
The Post's analysis shows that a combination of new rules could have an impact in the effort to thwart potential mass killers. This package would include requiring secure gun storage, permits to buy a firearm, an increase in the legal age to buy a semiautomatic rifle and more robust red-flag laws.