Weekend of mass shootings highlights rise in gun deaths

(NEW YORK) — Over the holiday weekend, 12 people were shot at a Columbia, South Carolina, mall. In nearby Hampton County, nine people were shot outside a nightclub. And in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, two juveniles were killed and eight were injured after a shooting at a birthday party.

The recent incidents are just the latest examples of mass shootings that have been occurring at a sustained pace across the United States for the past two years and counting and which coincide with an increase in fatal shootings overall. Fatal shootings, not including suicides, jumped by more than 4,000 from 2019 to 2020 — a 26% increase in one year, according to statistics compiled by the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit which identifies mass shootings as cases in which four or more people are shot and tracks them through public data, news reports and other sources.

“These two devastating shootings will leave permanent scars on survivors and entire communities, and unfortunately, they represent only a fraction of the gun violence that impacts South Carolinians on a daily basis,” said the advocacy group Everytown for Gun Safety in a statement responding to the South Carolina shootings. “Just weeks ago, a twelve-year old was killed in a shooting at Greenville’s Tanglewood Middle School. Days after that, five people were wounded in a shooting along a rural road in Colleton County.”

While the rate of increase in fatal shootings slowed last year, the total number of fatal shootings still grew — to nearly 21,000, according to the GVA. And as the overall number of fatal shootings has increased, there has also been a rise in mass shootings. In 2019, there were 417 mass shootings, and just two years later, there were 693. Through April 17, the pace of mass shootings has slowed, but there have already been 139 such incidents (compared to 148 by the same date last year). Meanwhile, the number of non-mass shootings is on the rise from 5,445 through April 17 last year to 5,451 for the same period this year.

In an effort to address gun violence, President Joe Biden announced earlier this month an initiative to combat ghost guns — a firearm that comes packaged in parts, can be bought online and assembled without much of a trace.

“Anyone could order it in the mail, anyone … Terrorists and domestic abusers can go from a gun kit to a gun in as little as 30 minutes. Buyers aren’t required to pass background checks because guns have no serial numbers,” Biden said.

The new rule essentially expands the definition of a “firearm,” as established by the Gun Control Act, to cover “buy build shoot” kits that people can purchase online or from a firearm dealer and assemble themselves. It will make these kits subject to the same federal laws that currently apply to other firearms.

The goal, officials said, is to keep untraceable guns off the streets and out of the hands of those prohibited from possession.

Biden also nominated former U.S. Attorney Steve Dettelbach to become the next director of the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives — a role that includes enforcing and implementing gun laws.

The White House and gun control advocates, however, have argued that substantive gun control measures will require legislative action through Congress, but that is unlikely given Republican opposition.

“The United States is not the only country with mental illness, domestic violence, video games, or hate-fueled ideologies, but our gun homicide rate is 25 times higher than our peer countries. The difference is easy access to guns,” according Everytown for Gun Safety, which applauded and had called for the recent moves by the Biden administration.

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