According to research conducted by the Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University, there were more mass killings in the United States during 2019 than in any previous year on record. The database recorded 41 mass killing incidents, which resulted in 211 deaths.
Of the 41 killings, 33 involved firearms. The United States Department of Justice defines a mass killing as three or more killings in a single event.
The 41 killings during 2019 are the most recorded in the database since it began tracking such data in 2006. Other research going back to the 1970s indicates that no other year had as many fatal incidents as 2019. According to the study, the year with the second-most mass killings was 2006, with 38.
In August 2019, 22 people died in a shooting in El Paso, Texas. A similar incident claimed the lives of 12 people in Virginia Beach in May. Other deadly incidents with high death tolls occurred in Odessa, Texas, Jersey City, New Jersey and Dayton, Ohio.
Although 2019 had the highest number of mass killings, the total number of people killed was not as many as in 2017. In that year, mass killings resulted in the deaths of 224 people. 2017 also saw the worst shooting in US history, where a gunman killed 59 people at a festival in Las Vegas.
The database shows that almost half of every US state has experienced a mass killing incident. Of the 41 cases recorded, California has had the most, with eight.
In August 2019, two gun massacres combined killed a number of 31 people in El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio in a single weekend. Following the deadly attacks, President Donald Trump said he would have “serious discussions” with congressional leaders about “meaningful” background checks for gun owners.
Yet, any talks the president had did not result in the introduction of new gun control legislation. Instead, a matter of weeks after the El Paso and Dayton shootings, Trump dismissed the need for background check reform and said, “We have strong background checks right now.”
According to reports, the president seemed to change his stance on the issue following a phonecall with National Rifle Association (NRA) chairman Wayne LaPierre.
The president has also suggested that mass shootings are a “mental problem.” However, according to healthcare professionals, this viewpoint is “really just scapegoating people with mental health issues.” Rather than being the catalyst for violence, studies show that people with diagnosed mental health issues commit a relatively small percentage of violent crimes. Instead, experts believe that gun access rather than mental health issues facilitates mass violence.
Although a recent poll found 60% of Americans support stricter gun control laws, the spike in mass shootings has done little to persuade the current US government to introduce gun control reforms. Lawmakers and lobbyists on both sides of the gun control debate have also often failed to reach a consensus on how to curb mass shootings.
Democrats, who control the United States House of Representatives but not the Senate, have, however, called for tighter gun control measures. High-profile party members, including presidential candidates Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren, have reiterated their desire for gun control reforms while on the campaign trail.
Amidst fears that mass killings are becoming normalized, suggestions to restrict such tragedies include increased mental health evaluations, banning assault weapons and arming teachers.
Gun reform across the globe
According to research, a mass shooting occurs in the United States every 12 days. Only Yemen has a higher rate among countries with more than 10 million people. Despite being home to only 5% of the world’s population, roughly 31% of global mass shootings have occurred in the United States.
Furthermore, although Americans only make up 4.4% of the world’s population, the country owns 42% of the globe’s guns, with research suggesting that up to 42% of US households own at least one gun.
However, the United States is far from the only country to have experienced mass shootings. Countries such as Australia, New Zealand, Germany and the United Kingdom have suffered from gun violence. However, unlike the United States, these nations introduced comprehensive reforms following gun-related tragedies.
Following the Christchurch mosque massacre in March 2019, New Zealand’s parliament voted to ban military-style weapons. The perpetrator used an army-grade semi-automatic weapon in the attack that left 50 dead.
Australia also introduced significant gun reforms in 1996. After a gunman had killed 35 people in Tasmania, the Australian government banned high-caliber weapons like shotguns and rifles. A buy-back scheme also removed some 650,000 guns from the country.
After gun massacres had befallen the United Kingdom and Germany, both countries introduced laws that require the registration of firearms. The new legislation also banned handguns and semi-automatic weapons.