Analysis | 2023 is experiencing mass shootings at a record rate

Every mass shooting incident occurs in circumstances that someone, somewhere would have considered inconceivable. For me, for example, the idea of ​​a mass murder at Half Moon Bay in California was difficult to comprehend. How did gun violence break out in this foggy Pacific city?

The answer, of course, is that gun violence accompanies guns, and guns are everywhere. But there is also a second circular answer: it happened there because such incidents spiked in 2023, in California in particular.

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As you probably already know, the definition of a “mass shooting” is subjective. Many observers have focused on the definition used by the Gun Violence Archive, which has been documenting mass shooting incidents since 2014. That definition holds that a “mass shooting” is one in which four or more people, excluding the shooter, are shot. or killed in a single incident.

By that standard, the country had seen an average of 22 mass shooting incidents as of late January from 2014 to 2019. In 2020, the number was 25, but shootings spiked that spring in the wake of pandemic restrictions. coronavirus. In 2021 and 2022, the average for the end of January was 33 incidents. (It should be noted that The Post uses the term “mass murder” for incidents in which four or more people, not including the shooter, have been shot dead.)

As of Tuesday, the Armed Violence Archive had already counted 40 incidents so far in 2023, 21 percent more than the average of the previous two years.

If we only look at the number of deaths each year, the pattern is similar. From 2014 to 2020, the average number of deaths in mass shooting incidents at the end of January was 31. In 2021 and 2022, it was 37. So far this year, 73 people have been killed in mass shooting incidents.

That’s largely due to the 27 deaths in California so far this year. From 2014 to 2022, the state averaged about three deaths from mass shootings by the end of January. This year there have already been 27.

Yet even without that increase in California, the United States would be ahead of its recent pace in mass shooting incidents. Take away the incident count and California death toll and the country is still 50 percent ahead of the average pace in 2021 and 2022.

This could be an aberration. There have been periods when mass shooting incidents increase rapidly; it may simply be the case that we are looking at that period at an unusually early point in the year.

It could also mean that this will be the deadliest year for mass shootings in at least a decade, with a rate of incidents and deaths easily exceeding even the increase seen in the early pandemic era. The trend with mass shootings, as with crime in general in 2022, was downward. The trend in 2023, unfortunately, is upward. Quickly.

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