The coronavirus pandemic may have ushered in a mass shooting epidemic according to a new report that marks 2020 as the worst year on record for mass shootings.
Mass shootings are typically defined as a gun incident with four or more victims.
Nearly all major U.S. cities saw an uptick in gun violence in 2020, particularly Midwestern cities like Chicago, Illinois, and Minneapolis, Minnesota — also the epicenter of anti-racism and anti-police brutality protests during the summer.
“From Oakland to Chicago to New York City, homicides and shootings crept toward — and sometimes exceeded — all-time highs. The sudden upswing reversed decades of progress, and provides a prism for the intersecting crises that characterized 2020,” The Trace, a gun violence investigative outlet, reported in December. “While researchers are still picking over the causes, the consequences of the violence are plain: Thousands of communities, families, and parents [were] forced to manage terrible voids — and saddled with the knowledge that at any moment, more gunfire could tear open new ones.”
Now, USA Today notes, it’s clear the number of multiple-victim shootings rose in 2020 as well.
“Mass shootings jumped nearly 50% in 2020, due in large part to a pandemic year rife with crippling unemployment, violent protests and idle youth,” the paper reported Sunday.
“A USA TODAY analysis of Gun Violence Archive statistics from 2020 shows that mass shootings surged by 47% as many states reported unprecedented increases in weapons-related incidents,” the outlet said. “In 2020, the United States reported 611 mass shooting events that resulted in 513 deaths and 2,543 injuries. In 2019, there were 417 mass shootings with 465 deaths and 1,707 injured.”
USA Today’s study did not look at the root causes of the increase in gun violence, but the study’s authors speculate that rampant unemployment and available opportunity led to an increase in both gun and gang activity.
The outlet also suggests, based on interactions with Everytown for Gun Safety, that a record increase in gun sales may have also led to the spike, but there does not appear to be any evidence to suggest legal gun owners contributed to 2020’s gun violence epidemic.
Areas like Chicago, Illinois — the second worst city for mass shootings in 2020 — also have strict gun control measures in place.
“The most dramatic increases in mass shootings last year were found in states with cities that boast large Black and Latino populations, groups that traditionally are disproportionately impacted by crime and gun violence as well as, more recently, COVID-19 cases and deaths, along with high unemployment rates driven by the pandemic,” USA Today said.
”New York saw a jump in mass shootings from nine to 38; Illinois, from 41 to 69; Florida, from 15 to 34; Pennsylvania, from 19 to 34; South Carolina, from 10 to 22; and Tennessee, from seven to 19,” according to the study.
It does not appear the gun violence trend is slowing in 2021. In Chicago, the Sun-Times reports, there have already been dozens of shootings. This weekend alone, 20 people were shot and four killed between Friday afternoon and Sunday morning.
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