Baltimore gun battle highlights surge in US mass shootings

July 3 (Reuters) – A shooting at a holiday block party in Baltimore over the weekend that left two people dead and 28 injured highlights a sustained surge in mass shootings in the United States since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020.

As of Monday, 340 mass shootings have taken place across the country so far this year. At that pace, the United States will experience 679 mass shootings in 2023, the second most in a calendar year since 2014, according to the Gun Violence Archive.

In 2019, the year before the pandemic caused far-reaching changes in the way Americans work, play and interact with one another, the number of mass shootings reached 417, or about 61% fewer than the projected total for 2023.

Just after midnight on Sunday, gunfire erupted at the scene of an outdoor neighborhood block party in South Baltimore’s Brooklyn Homes community. Fifteen of the injured victims were between the ages of 13 and 17, and the rest were over 17, Baltimore’s acting police commissioner Richard Worley told reporters on Monday. The two people killed were 18 and 20.

Seven people were still hospitalized on Monday, four of whom were in critical condition, officials said. Investigators have asked for the public’s help in tracking down multiple suspects. Police said they were concerned about retaliation for the shootings.

The rise in mass shootings over the last three years is partly due to the impact the pandemic has had on Americans, according to James Alan Fox, a criminologist at Northeastern University.

“Lots of people are struggling, financially and emotionally, from the pandemic,” Fox said, adding that gun sales have increased since the beginning of COVID-19. “Then you also have the tremendous divisions now and polarization in our country.”

Gun ownership, guaranteed under the second amendment of the Constitution, is widespread in the United States, and it is a contentious political issue that heats up after particularly shocking shootings such the one that took place in Baltimore.

Reuters Graphics


“This is the United States of America. This is our longest standing public health challenge,” Baltimore Mayor Brandon Scott said at a Monday news conference, urging more gun control at the national level.

“We pride ourselves on being the leaders of the free world, but we cannot seem to get to a point where we’re going to have the lives of American citizens meaning more than American citizens’ ability to have guns,” he said.

At the pace of the first half of this year, mass shootings over the 2023 calendar year would reach 679 or about double the 336 recorded in 2018. That would mark the second highest annual total over the last nine years, behind only the 690 recorded in 2021, according to data collected by the nonprofit group that tracks shootings.

The past weekend alone saw five other mass shootings, including one that wounded eight at a Wichita, Kansas, nightclub early on Sunday, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as any in which four or more people are wounded or killed, not including the shooter.

Among the deadliest mass shootings in 2023 was an attack in a Monterey Park, California, ballroom that left 11 people dead on Jan. 21 and another in Allen, Texas, where eight people were killed at a mall on May 6.

The definition of a mass shooting differs among organizations and media outlets that track gun violence.

For example, the online database Mass Shooting Tracker defines a mass shooting as any in which four or more are shot, including the shooter or shooters. The FBI defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are murdered with a gun.

Reporting by Brendan O’Brien and Gabriella Borter; editing by Grant McCool

Our Standards: The Thomson Reuters Trust Principles.

Gabriella Borter

Thomson Reuters

Gabriella Borter is a reporter on the U.S. National Affairs team, covering cultural and political issues as well as breaking news. She has won two Front Page Awards from the Newswomen’s Club of New York – in 2020 for her beat reporting on healthcare workers during the COVID-19 pandemic, and in 2019 for her spot story on the firing of the police officer who killed Eric Garner. The latter was also a Deadline Club Awards finalist. She holds a B.A. in English from Yale University and joined Reuters in 2017.

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