A slew of mass shootings as the nation re-opened from the COVID-19 pandemic were the worst on record, the Wall Street Journal reports.
Officials worry there’s more to come.
From March through May, there were five attacks in which four or more people were killed in public places; that matches the highest three-month total going back to 1966, according to the Violence Project, a database run by two criminology professors, the Journal reports.
For almost a year amid the COVID-19 outbreak, there were no shootings where four or more people were killed in public places, the data found.
Then on March 16, eight people were killed in an attack on spas in the Atlanta area, followed by mass shootings at a Colorado supermarket, a Southern California office building, an Indianapolis FedEx facility and at a San Jose, Calif., rail yard.
A total of 39 people have been killed.
“We’ve got people that have been sitting around for over a year with nothing but time to plan; all they need is that point that pushes them over toward violence,” Mike Sena, director of the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center, told the Journal.
The center is a federal law-enforcement hub that identifies threats in the region and shares information with local law enforcement.
“There’s been people that have had a lot of angst, there’s a lot of people who’ve been acquiring a lot of weapons.”
Researchers think some attackers are inspired by others: In 2015, data scientist Sherry Towers found that in the 13 days after a mass shooting there was a temporary increase in probability that another would occur, the Journal noted.
“It’s probably because there are people who are already experiencing difficulties and tensions, and one of these things happen, they read about it, they learn about it, and they may start to identify themselves with the perpetrator,” Bryan Vossekuil, a retired Secret Service agent who co-authored studies on assassinations and school shootings, told the Journal.
Mass shootings are still a small fraction of the nation’s homicides, which surged last year and are rising in some cities this year as well, the Journal reports.
According to the FBI, mass shootings have increased in frequency and deadliness since the bureau began tracking them in 2000. Last week, the FBI published a study showing that 1,062 people were killed in 333 active-shooter incidents from 2000 through 2019.
The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group that tracks mass shootings, defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more victims are wounded or killed by gunfire, the Journal reported, pointing out that by that measure, there’s been 254 this year compared with 610 for all of 2020.
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