US on course for record year of mass shootings with one every 6.53 days

Gun Rights

FILE - Students at a nearby school pay respects at a memorial for the people who were killed, at an entry to Covenant School, Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Six people were killed at the private school and church yesterday by a shooter. The U.S. is setting a record pace for mass killings in 2023, replaying the horror in a deadly loop roughly once a week so far this year. The bloodshed overall represents just a fraction of the deadly violence that occurs in the U.S. annually. (AP Photo/John Amis, File)

Students at a nearby school pay respects at a memorial for the people who were killed, at an entry to Covenant School in Nashville (Picture: AP)

The US is setting a record pace for mass shootings this year, replaying the horror on a loop roughly once every week so far.

The carnage has claimed 88 lives in 17 incidents across 111 days in 2023. Each time, the killers wielded firearms. Only 2009 saw as many tragedies in such short a space of time.

Children at a Nashville grade school, gunned down on an ordinary Monday. Farmworkers in Northern California, sprayed with bullets over a workplace grudge. Dancers at a ballroom outside Los Angeles, massacred as they celebrated the Lunar New Year.

In just the last week, four partygoers were slain and 32 injured in Dadeville, Alabama, when bullets rained down on a Sweet 16 celebration. And a man just released from prison fatally shot four people, including his parents, in Bowdoin, Maine, before opening fire on motorists traveling a busy interstate highway.

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‘Nobody should be shocked,’ said Fred Guttenberg, whose 14-year-old daughter, Jaime, was one of 17 people killed at a Parkland, Florida, high school in 2018.

‘I visit my daughter in a cemetery. Outrage doesn’t begin to describe how I feel.’

The Parkland victims are among the 2,842 people who have died in mass killings in the US since 2006, according to a database maintained by The Associated Press and USA Today, in partnership with Northeastern University.

It counts killings involving four or more fatalities, not including the perpetrator, the same standard as the FBI, and tracks a number of variables for each.

NASHVILLE, TN - MARCH 29: A woman prays at a makeshift memorial for those killed in a mass shooting at the entrance of The Covenant School on March 29, 2023 in Nashville, Tennessee. Three students and three adults were killed by the 28-year-old shooter on Monday. (Photo by Seth Herald/Getty Images)

A woman prays at a makeshift memorial for those killed in a mass shooting at the entrance of The Covenant School (Picture: Getty)

MONTEREY PARK, CA - JANUARY 23: Mourners attend a candlelight vigil for victims of a mass shooting in front of the City Hall on January 23, 2023 in Monterey Park, California. At least 10 people were killed and another 10 people were injured during a mass shooting that took place at a dance studio in Monterey Park. (Photo by I RYU/VCG via Getty Images)

Mourners attend a candlelight vigil for victims of a mass shooting in front of the City Hall in Monterey Park, California (Picture: Getty)

HALF MOON BAY, CA - JANUARY 24: A woman holds candles at a makeshift memorial to honor mass shooting victims on January 24, 2023 in Half Moon Bay, California. Seven people were killed and one critically wounded in shootings at two separate locations in Half Moon Bay on January 23. (Photo by Liu Guanguan/China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)

A woman holds candles at a makeshift memorial to honor mass shooting victims in Half Moon Bay, California (Picture: China News Service/VCG via Getty Images)

MONTEREY PARK, CALIFORNIA - JANUARY 25: U.S. Vice President Kamala Harris walks to lay flowers at the memorial outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio where a deadly mass shooting took place on January 25, 2023 in Monterey Park, California. Eleven people died and nine more were injured at the studio near a Lunar New Year celebration last Saturday night. Harris also was scheduled to meet with families of victims in the predominantly Asian American community of Monterey Park. (Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images)

US Vice President Kamala Harris walks to lay flowers at the memorial outside the Star Ballroom Dance Studio where a deadly mass shooting took place on January 25 (Picture: Getty)

Girls embrace in front of a makeshift memorial for victims by the Covenant School building at the Covenant Presbyterian Church following a shooting, in Nashville, Tennessee, March 29, 2023. - A heavily armed former student killed three young children and three staff in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack at a private elementary school in Nashville on March 27, 2023, before being shot dead by police. Chief of Police John Drake named the suspect as Audrey Hale, 28, who the officer later said identified as transgender. (Photo by Brendan SMIALOWSKI / AFP) (Photo by BRENDAN SMIALOWSKI/AFP via Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

A former student killed three young children and three staff in what appeared to be a carefully planned attack at a private elementary school in Nashville on March 27 (Picture: AFP via Getty)

The bloodshed represents just a fraction of the fatal violence that occurs in the US each year.

Yet mass killings are happening with staggering frequency this year: an average of once every 6.53 days, according to an analysis of The AP/USA Today data.

The 2023 numbers stand out even more when they are compared to previous year tallies since data was collected.

There were 30 or fewer mass killings in more than half of the years in the database, so to be at 17 less than a third of the way through is remarkable.

From coast to coast, the violence is sparked by a range of motives.

Murder-suicides and domestic violence; gang retaliation; school shootings and workplace vendettas. All have taken the lives of four or more people at once since January 1.

Yet the violence continues and barriers to change remain.

The likelihood of Congress reinstating a ban on semi-automatic rifles appears far off, and the Supreme Court last year set new standards for reviewing the nation’s gun laws, calling into question firearms restrictions across the country.

The pace of mass shootings so far this year doesn’t necessarily foretell a new annual record.

In 2009, the bloodshed slowed and the year finished with a final count of 32 mass killings and 172 fatalities.

Those figures just barely exceed the averages of 31.1 mass killings and 162 victims a year, according to an analysis of data dating back to 2006.

Gruesome records have been set within the last decade.

The data shows a high of 45 mass killings in 2019 and 230 people slain in such tragedies in 2017.

That year, 60 people died when a gunman opened fire over an outdoor country music festival on the Las Vegas Strip.

The massacre still accounts for the most fatalities from a mass shooting in modern American history.

‘Here’s the reality: If somebody is determined to commit mass violence, they’re going to,’ said Jaclyn Schildkraut, executive director of the Rockefeller Institute of Government’s Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium.

‘And it’s our role as society to try and put up obstacles and barriers to make that more difficult.’

But there’s little indication at either the state or federal level — with a handful of exceptions — that many major policy changes are on the horizon.

Some states have tried to impose more gun control within their own borders.

DADEVILLE, AL - APRIL 16: Mourners attend a vigil at the First Baptist Church of Dadeville following last night's mass shooting at the Mahogany Masterpiece dance studio on April 16, 2023 in Dadeville, Alabama. At least four people were shot and killed at a teenager's birthday party, with as many as 20 injured, according to published reports. The reports say one of the victims was a Dadeville football player bound for Jacksonville State University in state. (Photo by Megan Varner/Getty Images) *** BESTPIX ***

Mourners attend a vigil at the First Baptist Church of Dadeville following a mass shooting at a dance studio on April 16 (Picture: Getty)

Robin Wolfeden prays in front of a makeshift memorial at the entrance to The Covenant School Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Three children and three school staff members were killed by a former student in Monday's mass shooting. (Mark Zaleski /The Tennessean via AP)

Robin Wolfeden prays in front of a makeshift memorial at the entrance to The Covenant School (Picture: AP)

Ivy Huesmann hugs Metro Nashville police officer Angeline Comilla before visiting the makeshift memorial at the entrance to the Covenant School Tuesday, March 28, 2023, in Nashville, Tenn. Three children and three school staff members were killed by a former student in Monday's mass shooting. (Mark Zaleski /The Tennessean via AP)

Ivy Huesmann hugs Metro Nashville police officer Angeline Comilla before visiting the makeshift memorial (Picture: AP)

Last week, Michigan Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed a new law mandating criminal background checks to purchase rifles and shotguns, whereas the state previously required them only for people buying pistols.

And on Wednesday, a ban on dozens of types of semi-automatic rifles cleared the Washington state Legislature and is headed to the governor’s desk.

Other states are experiencing a new round of pressure.

In conservative Tennessee, protesters descended on the state Capitol to demand more gun regulation after six people were killed at the Nashville private elementary school last month.

At the federal level, President Joe Biden last year signed a milestone gun violence bill, toughening background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keeping firearms from more domestic violence offenders and helping states use red flag laws that enable police to ask courts to take guns from people who show signs they could turn violent.

Despite the blaring headlines, mass killings are statistically rare, perpetrated by just a handful of people each year in a country of nearly 335 million. And there’s no way to predict whether this year’s events will continue at this rate.

Sometimes mass killings happen back-to-back — like in January, when deadly events in California occurred just two days apart — while other months pass without bloodshed.

FILE - A visitor prays at a memorial to the seven people killed and others injured in the Highland Park mass shooting, at the Highland Park War Memorial in Highland Park, Ill., on July 7, 2022. Smashing Pumpkins singer and guitarist Billy Corgan, who also owns the National Wrestling Alliance, is raising funds for victims of the Highland Park shooting. The NWA will run a pay-per-view event on Friday, April 7, 2023, and proceeds from that show and other wrestling events that weekend will go toward the Highland Park Community Foundation. (AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh, File)

A visitor prays at a memorial to the seven people killed and others injured in the Highland Park mass shooting (Picture: AP)

FILE - Family and friends gather around a makeshift memorial for the victims of the First Baptist Church shooting at Sutherland Springs Baptist Church, Nov. 10, 2017, in Sutherland Springs, Texas. The Justice Department said Wednesday, April 5, 2023, that it has tentatively settled a lawsuit over the 2017 mass shooting at a Texas church that will pay victims and their families more than $144 million. (AP Photo/Eric Gay, File)

Family and friends gather around a makeshift memorial for the victims of the First Baptist Church shooting (Picture: AP)

FILE - Women pause at a memorial at a vigil honoring the victims of a shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio on Monday, Jan. 23, 2023, in Monterey Park, Calif. A gunman killed multiple people amid Lunar New Years celebrations in the predominantly Asian American community. The U.S. is setting a record pace for mass killings in 2023, replaying the horror in a deadly loop roughly once a week so far this year. The bloodshed overall represents just a fraction of the deadly violence that occurs in the U.S. annually. (AP Photo/Ashley Landis, File)

Women pause at a memorial at a vigil honoring the victims of a shooting at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio (Picture: AP)

‘We shouldn’t necessarily expect that this — one mass killing every less than seven days — will continue,’ said Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, who oversees the database.

‘Hopefully it won’t.’

Still, experts and advocates decry the proliferation of guns in the US in recent years, including record sales during the first year of the Covid-19 pandemic.

‘We have to know that this isn’t the way to live,’ said John Feinblatt, president of Everytown for Gun Safety.

‘We don’t have to live this way. And we cannot live in a country with an agenda of guns everywhere, every place and every time.’

The National Rifle Association did not respond to the AP’s request for comment.

Jaime Guttenberg would be 19 years old now. Her father now spends his days as a gun control activist.

‘America shouldn’t be surprised by where we are today,’ Guttenberg said. ‘It’s all in the numbers. The numbers don’t lie. But we need to do something immediately to fix it.’

Get in touch with our news team by emailing us at webnews@metro.co.uk.

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