It's Crazy What Counts As a 'Quiet' Week for Mass Shootings in America

Four dead and 14 wounded in one week of mass gun violence is still unacceptable.
October 7, 2016, 3:56pm

Over the past seven days, America witnessed four mass shootings that left four dead and 14 wounded. These attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 322 dead and 1,161 injured.

Meanwhile, Europe suffered zero mass shootings over the same period of time, holding the continent's body toll in such attacks so far this year steady at 43 dead and 140 injured.

This week's American mass shooting figures pale in comparison to the number of attacks and victims over the past few weeks. In fact, this was the quietest week for large-scale gun violence in the nation since the middle of spring: Although one week in mid-August tied it for the least number of mass shooting deaths, the past seven days saw the lowest number of large-scale shooting events and total victims in a week since the last full week of May.

On Saturday at about 8:45 PM, a shooting near a home in Fresno, California, left four injured. On Sunday at some point soon after 2 AM, a drive-by in a parking lot near a San Antonio, Texas, club left one person dead and four wounded. On Monday at about 1:30 AM, a street shooting in Minneapolis (which may have been linked to a second attack nearby) left four more people wounded. Finally, at about 9:30 PM on Tuesday, another street shooting, this one in New Orleans, Louisiana, left three dead and two injured.

It is possible that this week is a sign of a coming drop-off in the frequency of American mass shootings, spurred on by cooling weather. As experts have explained in the past, warmer months can see more large-scale gun violence thanks to the greater number of people hanging around outside, making it easy for would-be shooters to find targets—and to catch others in the crossfire as well. Conversely, as we all know, fall and winter tend to mean more time indoors, especially in cooler states, lowering (on average) the risk of street shootings or drive-bys striking large groups of people. However, this effect, in theory, does little to mitigate the risk of, say, mass shootings inside clubs or domestic violence–related mass shootings in homes.

It's also possible that this week's relative calm was just a fluke. Mass shootings are ultimately random and chaotic incidents, which are hard to predict, even if trends can give us some insights into their likelihood in certain contexts. Next week could bring another relatively peaceful respite—perhaps even a week with no mass shootings at all, if we're exceptionally lucky. Or happenstance could see a large number of shootings, whether indoors, in warmer parts of the country, or even in the places where people are still out and about in cooler states.

No matter what happens in the weeks to come, it's worth remembering that quiet weeks like this one are no license to stop working against America's mass shooting epidemic. Four such attacks and four lives lost in a week is still an absurdity by most global standards—and should be by American ones as well. The fact that these lives were lost in what many see as routine violence is no excuse to let them fade into background noise. Rather, the lack of headline-ready violence this week ought to open up more space for a national discussion of less-commonly-covered mass shootings that fall by the wayside. We need to have those conversations if we're ever going to tackle large-scale gun violence in America. Otherwise, we'll go on living the farce in which a week with four mass shootings is somehow a good one.