Mass Shootings Are on the Rise—and 2012 Has Been Deadlier Than Ever Before
“As a country, we have been through this too many times,” said President Barack Obama on Friday afternoon as he wiped tears from his eyes while addressing the horrific shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. He might have added, “this year.” Because it’s not your imagination—while mass shootings have terrified and grieved us over the past three decades, this year has been the worst by far. With more than 140 casualties (injuries and deaths), the toll from mass shootings in 2012 has been nearly twice that of any other year.
And that isn’t even counting other shootings that have captured national attention, such as the attack in a Portland-area mall this past weekend or the gunfire at a suburban Cleveland high school in the spring. The FBI defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are killed, not including the gunman, so those incidents don’t count in the statistics. It can be difficult to get a sense of the scope of mass gun violence when we look at individual tragedies—especially when, as now, it is so hard to get past the heart-stopping thought of all those children and all those families. So let’s look at the facts, the hard numbers.
As of today, there have been 70 mass shootings in the United States between 1982 and 2012, leaving 543 people dead (assuming the reports of 27 fatalities from today’s shootings are correct.) Seven of those 70 shootings occurred this year. Sixty-eight of those 543 victims were killed this year. If the scenes of horror and heartbreak are now familiar, it’s because the past six years have been particularly bloody. Fully 45% of the victims of mass shootings in America over the past three decades were killed since 2007. That is a crisis.