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Why there has been a huge increase in mass shootings in the US

Sherif Saad

Mass ShootingsPhoto byVolodymyr HryshchenkoonUnsplash

This week's three horrific shootings have shocked California. In Half Moon Bay on Monday, a shooter opened fire at two plant nurseries, leaving seven dead and one injured. A few hours later, a second shooter opened fire at an Oakland gas station, 41 miles (65 km) away, injuring seven people and killing one.

On the eve of the Lunar New Year, 11 people who had gathered to dance in Monterey Park outside of Los Angeles perished on Saturday. Similar occurrences indeed seem to be happening increasingly often in the US.

There are several definitions of what defines a mass shooting, but the non-profit Gun Violence Archive has kept track of 40 such instances in the US since the year's beginning. It counts shootings in which four or more people are killed or injured, excluding the gunman.

The group that keeps track of gun-related fatalities and injuries in the US says that January saw the most mass shootings on record for any month. 34 was the previous high, reached only last year. An average of 25 mass shootings were reported per January between 2014 and 2022.

The rise in violence has reopened a US debate about gun ownership rights and laws that has become stale and extremely politicized. Some are also wondering what's behind the increase.

All forms of gun violence are increasing.

Data indicate that all forms of gun violence in the US, including homicide, suicide, and mass shootings, are generally on the rise. In the US, there were 33,599 gun-related fatalities in 2019. The number of fatalities increased by 31% to 44,290 in 2022.

Even though the majority of these fatalities are gun suicides, followed by murders. Mass shooting victims will comprise only 1.1% of all firearm fatalities in 2020, although they account for a sizable portion of gun-related mortality.

However, there has been a substantial increase in active shooter situations recently. Nine of the ten deadliest mass shootings in US history have occurred since 2007.

Because mass shootings frequently have unanticipated outcomes, experts believe it is challenging to identify the precise core reasons for the surge. However, there are a few things that could be causing the rising frequency.

Gun ownership is expanding.

One is that Americans today own more firearms than they did in the past. A record 23 million guns were sold in the US in 2020, a 65% increase from 2019; the number remained high in 2021.

When there was unrest, such as during the first COVID-19 lockdown in March 2020, the unrest following the police killing of George Floyd, and the riots at the US Capitol in January 2021, the FBI significantly increased the firearm background checks that are legally required whenever someone buys a gun.

The spike in purchases is related to "the concept that weapons make us secure, especially in uncertain times," according to Josh Horwitz, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.

A cycle of fear that pushes some individuals into buying guns is fueled by the spike in violence, particularly in public settings like gas stations, dance studios, and nightclubs, Mr. Horwitz continued. He claimed that people seek to allay their fears by purchasing guns.

ShootingsPhoto byPiotr WilkonUnsplash

Law, cultural tendencies, and distress can all have a role.

A surge in life pressures, both generally and as a result of the epidemic, according to some experts, includes difficulties with money, work, family, and relationships.

According to Jaclyn Schildkraut, interim executive director of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium at the nonpartisan Rockefeller Institute of Government, these problems might cause some people "to act out or respond violently."

An examination of 173 mass casualty assaults by the US Secret Service, of which about 75% used a firearm, reflects this.

The report, which was released on Tuesday, revealed that 10% of attackers responsible for mass casualty events between 2016 and 2020 committed suicide. It also revealed that nearly 93% of attackers had dealt with personal issues before their attacks, such as divorce, health issues, or problems at school or work.

According to Ms. Schildkraut, "toxic masculinity" may also be a problem because virtually all mass shooters (about 98%) are men. No matter who the intended victim of the injury is, Ms. Schildkraut said, "if we are attempting to understand the core causes of gun violence, we need to start by understanding why individuals pick up weapons in the first place."

Although it's crucial to note that California has some of the strongest gun restrictions in the US, some experts have suggested that laws governing who may buy a gun in the US may also be at play.

But according to Mr. Horwitz, federal law does not now mandate background checks for private gun purchases, including those done online or at gun shows.

He said that despite data demonstrating that safe gun storage lowers the total incidence of firearm fatalities, laws on the subject are inadequate in several places.

The one thing that other nations may not necessarily have that we do is just such easy access to weapons, according to Mr. Horwitz, when comparing what is happening in the US to other nations.

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