A steady flow of high-profile shootings rocked the American public this year. What follows each murderous act is routine: The afflicted cities and towns are blanketed in wall-to-wall coverage that reaches every home in the United States. Almost no detail is overlooked; the victims’ stories, the shooter’s motive and background, the gun that was used, each dissected for public consumption. But such obsessive chronicling sidesteps crucial context for each story — that for many of these places, the reality of gun violence extend well beyond incidents of exceptional carnage.
On Tuesday, The Trace published an interactive map of American gun violence in collaboration with Slate. Using data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), the map illustrates the more than 30,000 fatal and non-fatal shootings that have taken place in the last 12 months. It shows almost all incidents of gun violence, from multi-casualty events to accidental shootings. (Suicides are the major omission, because those shootings do not show up in the sources from which GVA mines its data.)
Shown below are five locations that have been burned into the American consciousness for their association with shocking mass shootings. High-profile attacks claimed 53 lives in these locations, according to GVA data. An additional 74 people were injured. But since December 4, 2015, these five locations have also lost a combined total of 79 people to routine shootings, and an additional 227 have been wounded. On the images below, blue pins mark the location of the high-profile shooting, the red indicate fatal incidents of gun violence, and yellow show incidents that did not result in a death. Put together, they show that when the cameras leave, the daily drumbeat of gun violence continues.
On July 16, Muhammad Youssef Abdulazeez opened fire on a military recruiting center in Chattanooga, killing five service members and wounding two others. The attack singlehandedly elevated the murder rate in the city; excluding the rampage, the overall homicide rate dropped by 33 percent this year. According to the most recent figures, 19 people were killed and 118 were injured in gun violence in the city of 173,366 in 2015.
Overall gang violence, however, held steady, even forcing school buses to switch up their routes. “It’s every single day,” Satedra Smith, who lost her son Jordan to a bullet in August, told the Times Free Press. The wounded include two 4-year-old girls. They were struck by bullets sprayed from a passing car as they played in a residential area on June 11.
“I’ve been a police officer for three decades, and I cannot imagine what kind of sociopath it takes to endanger two 4-year-olds,” Chattanooga Police Chief Fred Fletcher said.
Gun deaths topped traffic deaths for the first time in Tennessee in 2013.
Colorado Springs, Colorado
The dueling imperatives of gun rights and gun safety collided head-on this year in Colorado Springs. On Halloween, 33-year-old Noah Harpham, who struggled with alcohol and drug addiction, opened fire at a busy intersection just east of Downtown, killing three before killing himself. When a neighbor of Harpham’s called police and said she recognized him, “a dispatcher explained that Colorado has an open carry law that allows public handling of firearms,” The Denver Post reported. Lieutenant Catherine Buckley of the Colorado Springs Police Department later told Mother Jones that the call “wasn’t the highest priority.”
Less than a month later, on November 27, Robert Lewis Dear opened fire in the only remaining Planned Parenthood in the city, killing a police officer and two civilians, and injuring five police officers and four civilians.
Aside from these high-profile incidents, this town of 439,886 saw 27 gunshot fatalities and 56 injuries in 2015. Among the victims were Josh and Leah Cabrera, a married couple. On May 11, Josh, 35, shot and killed Leah, 33, before setting their house ablaze and turning the gun on himself. Police said they had never been called to the house for a domestic violence complaint. The couple left behind two children, 8 and 15.
Charleston, South Carolina
The city of Charleston, population 127,999, was rocked by the deaths of nine black parishioners at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on June 17 at the hands of a gunman who said he wanted to start a race war. The shooting convulsed the city, which has lost more than half of its black population to gentrification over the past 30 years. Before the attack, homicides were up 40 percent, and eight out of every 10 killings was perpetrated with a gun.
In Charleston, as elsewhere, guns were fired not just in city streets. More than half of the city’s gun deaths are suicides. Charleston Police Sargent George Hildebidle, 33, took his own life in April following a domestic dispute with his wife at their residence. Some of his fellow officers responded to the call.
“This is a tragedy not only for his family but his co-workers,” Charleston Police Chief Greg Mullen said of the father-of-two. “Something happened and he chose to end the situation in his own way.”
The small town of Roseburg, population 21,968, suffered its second school shooting in a decade when a writing student at Umpqua Community College killed nine of his classmates and injured seven before shooting himself in the head.
There were only two other shootings in the vicinity of UCC this year. On March 5, 27-year-old Jeried Christopher Wiliker shot himself in the groin at the Idle Hour Tavern. He had been playing video poker and when he went to stand up and the gun in his pants discharged. Last Friday, December 5, a man was arrested after he negligently discharged a handgun in a motel room, striking his finger.
When John Houser opened fire at a screening of Trainwreck on the night of July 23, killing two women and injuring nine others before killing himself, another movie theater shooting was very much in the news. A jury in Colorado had just unanimously decided that James Holmes could face the death penalty. By the time first responders reached the scene, the town of 124,276 found itself uttered in the same breath as Aurora.
The following week, two people were killed and two others were wounded in three separate incidents. In all, 19 others died at the other end of a gun in Lafayette this year. Twenty-three others were wounded.
“Lafayette is really going crazy,” Lester Logan, who lives near one of those crime scenes, told The Advocate less than a week after Houser’s rampage. “People are scared to go places because you never know what’s going to happen.”
The movie theater shooting is the city’s only multiple-fatality homicide so far in 2015.