This week, Californians have awoken to reports of three separate mass shootings. Seven people were killed and one was injured when a shooter opened fire at two nurseries in Half Moon Bay on Monday.
A few hours later, a second shooter opened fire at a gas station in Oakland, 65 kilometers (41 miles) distant, wounding seven and taking one life.
Then, on the eve of the Lunar New Year, eleven individuals who had gathered to dance in Monterey Park, California, near Los Angeles, were killed.
These kinds of events are, unfortunately, on the rise in the United States.
Although there is no universally accepted threshold for what constitutes a “mass shooting,” the non-profit Gun Violence Archive has documented 40 such incidents in the United States since the beginning of the year (their definition of “mass shooting” is any shooting in which four or more people are killed or injured, not including the gunman).
According to the group that publicly records gun-related deaths and injuries in the US, this is the highest number of mass shootings for any January.
The prior record had been set the year before, at the age of 34. On average, January saw 25 mass shootings reported between 2014 and 2022.
Increases In Shootings Of All Kinds
Gun homicide, gun suicide, and gun mass shootings are all on the rise in the United States, according to available data.
There were 33,599 deaths in the United States that were caused by firearms in 2019. The number of fatalities reached 44,290 in 2022, up 31% from the previous year. Many of these shooting deaths are actually self-inflicted.
Despite the widespread attention that mass shootings receive, they only account for a modest percentage of firearm deaths (1.1% of all gunshot deaths in 2020).
Nonetheless, there has been a significant increase in the number of active shooter situations after 2007; nine of the ten deadliest mass shootings in the United States happened after that year.
Due to the unexpected nature of mass shootings, experts say it is difficult to pinpoint the exact core causes of the rise. Nonetheless, there are a few potential causes for the increasing regularity.
The Number Of Households With Guns Has Increased
For one, there are more firearms in the hands of American citizens today than ever before. As of 2020, the number of firearms sold in the United States had risen to 23 million, a 65% increase from 2019.
During times of heightened anxiety, such as the initial Covid-19 lockdown in March 2020, the protests after the police killing of George Floyd, and the US Capitol riots in January 2021, the FBI conducted a disproportionately large number of firearm background checks, as is required by law when someone buys a gun.
“the concept that weapons make us safe, especially in uncertain times,” as explained by Josh Horwitz, co-director of the Johns Hopkins Center for Gun Violence Solutions.
Mr. Horwitz further explained that an increase in violence in public locations like gas stations, dance studios, and nightclubs contributes to a cycle of dread that leads some people to seek refuge in firearms.
He explained that people want to buy guns because they are scared and want to feel safe.
The Difficulty, The Law, And Societal Shifts Are All Potential
In addition, the epidemic has been blamed by some experts for an increase in everyday stresses, such as those linked to money, work, and family life.
Some people’s reactions to these problems can be “violent,” as noted by Jaclyn Schildkraut, interim executive director of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium at the non-partisan Rockefeller Institute of Government.
This is supported by the US Secret Service’s examination of 173 mass casualty incidents, of which roughly 75 percent involved the use of firearms.
Nearly 93% of attackers had dealt with a personal issue previous to their attack, whether it was divorce, health problems, or issues at school or job, according to a report published on Tuesday, and 10% of attackers responsible for mass casualty events between 2016 and 2020 perished by suicide.
Ms. Schildkraut adds that “toxic masculinity” may also play a role, given that the vast majority (98%) of mass shooters are men.
“If we are attempting to understand the core causes of gun violence, we need to start by understanding why people pick up firearms in the first place to inflict harm,” Ms. Schildkraut said.
Some experts have speculated that restrictions on who can buy guns in the United States could be to blame; nevertheless, it is worth noting that the state of California has some of the tightest gun laws in the country.
On the other hand, Mr. Horwitz stated that under existing federal law, background checks are not required to be performed on private purchases of firearms, such as those conducted at gun shows or over the internet.
Some states’ laws on the safe storage of firearms are likewise lax, he said, despite studies demonstrating that doing so minimizes the number of deaths caused by firearms.
“When you compare what’s going on in the United States to what’s happening in other countries, the one thing they don’t necessarily have that we do is just such easy access to firearms,” Mr. Horwitz said.