The U.S. has surpassed 400 mass shootings in 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive — which defines such events as four or more people injured or killed, excluding the shooter — and reached that bleak milestone just over 200 days into the year. At least 2,161 people were killed or injured in these shootings, which took place in 41 states and Washington, D.C. As of July 25 last year, there had been just 371 mass shootings; according to a CNN analysis, there have been more mass shootings recorded at this point in 2023 than during the same period of any year over the past decade. This year’s pace averages out to about two mass shootings per day, and, per CNN, puts the country on track for a record-breaking year.
The U.S. is also breaking records by another metric. According to the Mass Killings Database — which defines such events as four or more people killed, not including the perpetrator, with the same weapon within a 24-hour period — there have been more mass killing incidents so far in 2023 than at the same point in any other year since at least 2006. All but one of this year’s incidents were carried out with a firearm.
Mass shootings, and mass killings, are still a fraction of overall American gun violence, but as the numbers show, they’re becoming more frequent. It’s difficult to make sense of these high-fatality shootings, but research has started to shed some light on how and why they happen: As The Trace has reported, domestic violence often foreshadows mass shootings. Northeastern University professor James Alan Fox, who manages the Mass Killings Database, told Slate in May that the pandemic-era surge in gun ownership, firearm laws, and social and economic conditions can help explain the increase. Fox was careful to point out, however, that the anxiety of becoming a victim of a mass shooting is still “way out of proportion with the risk”: “The epidemic is fear of mass shootings,” he said, “not the mass shootings themselves.”
Chip Brownlee contributed to this report.
What to Know Today
American firearms manufacturers, enabled by the federal government, are selling record numbers of semiautomatic handguns and rifles to international buyers — and the weapons have increasingly been linked to violent crimes across the globe. No company has benefited more than SIG Sauer. [Bloomberg]
California is the epicenter of the nation’s gun violence research, thanks largely to its detailed records on gun ownership and firearms data. But now, firearms rights activists are suing to block California from sharing its data with researchers, and Republicans in the U.S. House want to scrap the entire field’s federal funding. [Los Angeles Times] Context: Studying gun violence is difficult, and expensive. But intervention programs need research to survive.
In Baltimore, young people are being killed and shot at the highest rate in a decade. At the same time, the Police Department is failing to rebuild community trust: Victims of a recent mass shooting in South Baltimore say officers seized their personal items as evidence, breaking a promise from city officials that police would reform how they treat gunshot survivors. [The Baltimore Sun/The Baltimore Banner]
Pennsylvania law requires domestic abusers to relinquish their firearms once a judge grants a final order of protection against them. But in Philadelphia, enforcement is uneven: The Sheriff’s Office has seized guns in just 13 percent of cases since the measure took effect in 2019. [The Philadelphia Inquirer]
A sheriff’s deputy in Somerset County, Maine, filed a new lawsuit claiming that his department-issued SIG Sauer P320 pistol fired into his leg without him pulling the trigger. The suit alleges the gunmaker designed a defective product and negligently marketed it to customers. [The Maine Monitor] Context: SIG Sauer’s P320 pistol has wounded more than 80 people who say they didn’t pull the trigger, and no U.S. agency has the power to intervene. Lawsuits are one of few ways to hold the company accountable.
Between 1985 and 2001, young people convicted of murder were more likely to be sentenced to life without parole than adults charged with the same crime. Today, it’s far more rare for a minor to face a lifetime in prison. What changed? [The Conversation]
A new study found that having a concealed handgun permit increases the likelihood that its holder will become a victim of property crime by nearly 50 percent. Most of the time, that crime is having a firearm stolen. [Journal of Public Economics]
Are Mass Shootings Contagious?: High-fatality shootings are becoming more frequent. A reader asks if the public spectacle could be making things worse. (February 2023)