The number of mass shootings have jumped 65 percent in the first six months of 2021 compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019.

Since the beginning of the pandemic, the number of mass shootings in the US has increased considerably, particularly in recent months.

274 mass shootings have occurred across the country in 2021, 40 percent higher than the same period last year according to Gun Violence Archive.

The youngest victims were an 18-month-old baby and 4-year-old child.

Compared to pre-pandemic levels at this point in 2019, the number of attacks have risen by 65 percent.

Compared to the first six month tally of 274 this year, there were an estimated 194 and 164 mass shootings during the same period in 2020 and 2019, respectively.

In the past weekend alone, at least 10 people were killed and 50 others wounded in nine mass shootings in Georgia, Illinois, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas and Washington.

There are several definitions of mass shootings. 

For example, the Congressional Research Service defines mass shootings as multiple firearm and homicide incidents involving four or more victims, whether they die or not, at one or more locations in close proximity. Meanwhile, CNN categorises it as four or more people shot, excluding the attacker.

Pandemic provides fuel to the fire

Researchers believe the novel coronavirus pandemic has likely fuelled gun attacks in the US. While state officials are trying to hinder the destructive effects of the coronavirus, security efforts against crime have been obstructed. 

Lockdowns and rising unemployment are potentially other factors.

“You have increased unemployment, the stress of the virus, the stress of having to be at home in communities with high infection rates,” Director of Guns Down America Igor Volsky said.

“All of that is like a pressure cooker,” he added.

In 2020, Gun Violence Archive found that nearly 20,000 Americans were killed from gun violence while 24,000 died by suicide with a gun.

What drives mass shootings?

Mental illness has long been attributed as the primary reason behind gun violence and mass shootings. However, just three to five percent of attacks are attributable to mental disorders according to Paul Appelbaum, MD, director of the Division of Law, Ethics, and Psychiatry at Columbia University Irving Medical Center.

“Compilations of incidents of mass shootings suggest that people with severe mental disorders may be overrepresented among the perpetrators, but given the possibility of bias in the nonsystematic collection of such data, firm conclusions are impossible at this point,” Appelbaum wrote.

In 2018, the FBI released a report that analysed the behaviours of 63 perpetrators who carried out shootings from 2000 to 2003.

The FBI “could only verify that 25 percent of active shooters in the study had ever been diagnosed with a mental illness. Of those diagnosed, only three had been diagnosed with a psychotic disorder.”

Some research has found a link between mass shooters and domestic violence, which has coincided with the rush for purchasing guns. According to police sources and domestic violence hotlines, 48 states have recorded an increase in domestic violence since the pandemic hit. 

In Colorado’s La Plata County, there was an 86 percent increase of domestic violence in April 2020 compared to a year before. And between 2014-2017, 28 out of 89 perpetrators were suspected of domestic violence, according to a study.

States having lax gun laws and greater ownership of firearms experienced more mass shootings than states which have more restrictive laws around gun ownership.

“Our analyses reveal that U.S. gun laws have become more permissive in past decades, and the divide between permissive states and those with more stringent laws seems to be widening in concert with the growing tragedy of mass shootings,” said senior author Charles Branas, chair of epidemiology at Columbia University.

“Gun laws, or lack thereof, have real potential to influence mass shootings,” he continued.

An overwhelming 98 percent of perpetrators are male, and 61 percent of them are non-Hispanic White. 

Nearly 82 percent of attackers are under the age of 45, while more than half of them are below 35.

Source: TRT World