In the early morning of Sunday, June 12, shortly after the Pulse nightclub gunman was killed by police, Camarillo Pedro Lara, 48, was found shot to death in the passenger seat of a car in Little Rock, Arkansas.
Around the time that Orlando Mayor Buddy Dyer broke the news that the massacre at the venue had claimed 49 lives, making it the deadliest mass shooting on American soil in modern history, a woman in Fountain, Colorado, found a note tacked to her neighbor’s fence: “Call 911 killed Val and myself,” it read. Inside the home, police found 60-year-old Merwin Rowe dead of a self-inflicted shotgun blast. The body of Valerie Hills, 56, lay beside him.
On Sunday night, shortly before the names of victims began trickling out from news outlets, 24-year-old Perez Villa Rufino was unintentionally shot and killed by a friend while they were play-fighting with a rifle in Queens, New York.
The week wore on. Investigators sought clues, senators filibustered, lobbyists angled. And as during quieter times, shootings claimed dozens more lives every day.
On Monday, John Cloud, 81, was shot and killed by 80-year-old Edward Acquisto at a cemetery in Tiverton, Rhode Island. On Tuesday, Regginna Jefferies, 17, was killed in a shooting that wounded three others outside a vigil for teenaged drowning victims in Oakland, California. On Wednesday, Dr. Robert Sowers, 46, was shot and killed by the husband of his receptionist, who then killed himself, inside a chiropractic office in McKenna, Washington. On Thursday, Michael Wayne Jensen, 30, a clerk at a Shell station, was shot and killed during an armed robbery in George West, Texas. On Friday afternoon, a 4-year-old boy fatally shot himself in the head while visiting the home of his mother’s friend in Elgin, Iowa. From Friday evening to Sunday morning, another 10 people were killed by shootings in Chicago alone.
During the seven days between the end of the siege at Pulse and the following Sunday at the same time, at least 228 people were fatally shot across the country, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research collective which tallies gun deaths and injuries. As weekend reports trickle in, that tally will likely rise.
228 people were killed with guns in America during the week after Orlando
As at Pulse, where another 53 people were injured, the full toll that gun violence wreaked between 6 a.m. June 12 and the same time on June 19 encompassed another 536 who were shot but survived. That tally includes includes Lynn Herriott, shot six times by her ex-fiancé, a former police officer, as she got off work in Jacksonville, Florida. A 12-year-old and three teenagers — ages 13, 15, and 16 — were struck by bullets when someone opened fire as they played tag in Wilmington, Delaware. And the three people were hit by gunfire during a large gathering in a Buffalo, New York, parking lot early Saturday.
As much as mass shootings like Orlando devastate, they account for less than 2 percent of all deaths due to firearms. Annually, over the past five years, total gun deaths have ranged from 31,672 to 33,599, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), for an average of 32,964 annually.
Whether it’s a result of neighborhood conflict, domestic arguments, or suicide, Americans are killed by guns at a rate unparalleled in other advanced nations.
America records about 30 gun homicides a day — but the deaths hit one population much harder than others
“It’s hot. Hot. Mom, I’m hot,” the 28-year-old father of three murmurs into his cell phone as he livestreams a steamy late-spring evening with friends and family in the North Lawndale neighborhood of Chicago. Thirty-four minutes later, shots ring out, the phone falls to the ground, and Perkins is dead.
According an analysis of CDC statistics by FiveThirtyEight.com last June, black Americans are killed at 12 times the rate of people in other developed countries.
The firearm homicide rate among black men ages 15 to 34 is 68 per 100,000 residents, which is six times the national average, and is a large reason why homicide is the leading cause of death for their cohort. For white and Hispanic men in the same age group, the firearm homicide rate is 3 percent and 13 percent, respectively.
Most gun homicide victims know their killers — and many are killed by people they love
According to an analysis by the Violence Policy Center, 1,001 women were murdered in 2013 by men they were married to or dating, the most recent year such statistics were available.
Intimate partner homicide is largely an American phenomenon: The lion’s share of women killed by guns in high-income countries — 90 percent — are from the United States. An American woman is shot and killed by a current or former romantic partner every 16 hours, according to a February analysis of crime data.
The fatal combination of guns and domestic violence can sometimes ensnare other family members too. Michael Ratliff, 44, fatally shot his 44-year-old wife and their 15-year-old daughter at their south Houston, Texas, home early Thursday.
The biggest source of gun deaths is the least discussed and most often discounted
Any contemporaneous tally of gun deaths and injuries, such as the one provided here, is inevitably incomplete. The gap comes from the fact that 60 percent of all gun deaths are suicides, many of which are not recorded by the media reports and law enforcement sources from which the Gun Violence Archive culls its rolling totals. And no government agency tracks them in anything close to real-time.
When a suicide does get covered in the media, it’s usually because it’s a murder-suicide, or foul play is initially suspected. Early Tuesday morning in Oxford, Maine, 41-year-old Daniel Pulkkinen shot and killed himself during a domestic dispute with his wife. He’d barricaded himself in their mobile home and ended his life before police arrived. At least twice this week, someone killed himself during a police pursuit.
According to the CDC, 21,334 Americans shot themselves to death in 2014, a 28 percent jump from 15 years earlier. Because guns are responsible for half of all American suicides, these victims of gun violence form a forgotten majority, and some pro-gun advocates don’t believe that their deaths should be considered in statistics on gun violence. Even well-intentioned debates about America’s epidemic of shooting violence — like last week’s 15-hour Senate filibuster — don’t include suicide victims. That blind spot can be attributed in part to the mistaken belief that someone intent on taking their own life can’t be stopped.
But suicide is an impulse that’s often fleeting, and most people who survive rarely go on to re-attempt. “If you look at studies of people who’ve attempted suicide, only about 10 percent go on to die by suicide,” Catherine Barber, who directs the Means Matter Campaign at the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center, told The Trace last month. “For those making quick decisions, it really matters what’s available to them.”
And the means by which people attempt suicide do, in fact, matter — 85 percent of all suicide attempts by firearm are successful, while overdosing and wrist-cutting, two of the most common methods, have a success rate of just 3 percent.
[Photo: John J. Kim/Chicago Tribune/TNS via Getty Images]