It Was Another Brutal Week for Mass Gun Violence in America

As usual, the seemingly random mass shootings in unusual locations drowned out the more routine ones often set in communities of color.
September 30, 2016, 6:01pm
A previously created memorial, right, stands as Baltimore police work at a scene where multiple people were shot in Baltimore, Saturday night, Sept. 24, 2016. (AP Photo/Steve Ruark)

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Over the past seven days, America witnessed eight mass shootings that left seven dead and 32 wounded. These attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 318 dead and 1,147 injured.

Meanwhile, Europe suffered one mass shooting over the same period. On Sunday, gunmen opened fire on a car after chasing it through the southern neighborhoods of Malmo, Sweden, injuring four people before fleeing. This attack brings the continent's body toll in such attacks so far this year up to 43 dead and 140 injured.


This past week actually witnessed fewer American mass shootings and saw fewer people hurt in such attacks than the previous one. But the past few days still felt more brutal than any span of time in the last few weeks, thanks in large part to a rapid succession of eye-catching attacks that drew sustained national and international media coverage.

Last Friday at about 7 PM, a gunman, currently believed to have been a man named Arcan Cetin, entered the Cascade Mall outside Seattle, Washington and opened fire on a group of people near a Macy's makeup counter, killing five. The shooter then fled the scene, prompting a massive manhunt that lasted almost a full day before authorities located Cetin on foot a few dozen miles away and apprehended him in a reportedly listless state. Then on Sunday at about 12:40 AM, a fight near the University of Illinois campus in Champaign, Illinois, led to a shooting that left one bystander dead, three suffering from gunshot wounds, and another wounded by a car while trying to flee the attack. Finally, on Monday at about 6:30 AM, a possibly mentally unstable lawyer wearing a military getup with a Nazi insignia named Nathan Desai opened fire on cars passing near his condominium building in Houston, Texas. He used a handgun and submachine gun, along with a massive cache of ammunition stashed in his Porsche. Desai wounded nine—six with gunshots and three with glass shrapnel—before being shot dead by responders.


These attacks involved totemic elements for an American audience: The apparent randomness of the shooting victims in each case made them seem as if they could have happened to anyone, imparting the sense of imminent and universal threat posed by mass shootings. Their highly public locations increased their visibility, as did the level of detail and personal intrigue surrounding the shooters in the Cascade Mall and Houston shootings, especially. None of these shootings were quite so archetypal and bloody as an attack like the Newtown, Connecticut, massacre of 2012, but they all involved enough hot-button variables to grab headlines.

The week's remaining mass shootings lacked such visibility-boosting features: On Friday at about 5 PM, a robbery in Houston, Texas, evolved into a shooting when the thief opened fire from his car as he was fleeing, injuring four. On Saturday at about 8:30 PM, three men carried out a coordinated ambush on a street in Baltimore, Maryland, likely in retaliation for a previous shooting, injuring eight individuals before fleeing. On Monday at about 3:30 PM, a drive-by at a house with a history of violent incidents in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, left four people inside injured. About three-and-a-half hours later, a street shooting among a group of teens in Humble, Texas, left four people injured. Finally, on Thursday at about 1 AM, another street shooting in San Francisco, California, left one dead and three injured.

Attacks involving murky assailants and seemingly tied to routine forms of violence—and sometimes in areas the public associates with violence—these mass shootings largely fell by the wayside of America's collective radar. Unfortunately, their perceived banality masked the fact that these attacks were in many ways as terrible as those that drew widespread notice: The Baltimore attack had the greatest number of victims this week, including a three-year-old girl and her father who were mere bystanders to the violence. Meanwhile, the shooting in Humble, Texas, which is not far from Houston, involved mostly juveniles and left two very young boys, who happened to be playing soccer on the street, injured as well.

It's understandable that apparently random rampages stoke more personal concern than other attacks, and that novel settings and lurid details catch audiences' eyes. But focusing the bulk of our attention on such attacks blinds us to the real epicenters and some of the worst incidences of America's mass shooting epidemic. And it magnifies fear of rare—if terrible—incidents, while jading us to the common large-scale gun violence ripping through the country almost daily.

Follow Mark Hay on Twitter.