Europe Had Almost as Many Mass Shootings as America This Week

What's unusual and even incredible in Europe is standard fare for Americans accustomed to mass gun violence.
October 28, 2016, 6:11pm

Over the past seven days, America witnessed four mass shootings that left five dead and 14 wounded. These attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 340 dead and 1,227 injured. That means two more people have been killed in American mass shootings so far this year than national records indicate were killed between the lead-up to and aftermath of the Arab Spring in Tunisia, the nation that catalyzed the wider movement across the region.


Meanwhile, Europe suffered three mass shootings over the same period of time, which left two dead and ten injured. These attacks bring the continent's mass shooting body toll so far this year up to 46 dead and 153 injured.

This week was fairly standard by America's twisted mass shooting norms, though one unusual attack drew a degree of national media attention: At about 6 AM Tuesday, a 35-year-old Kenyan refugee entered an American FreightCar facility in Roanoke, Virginia, where he'd been employed until this March. He fired several rounds from a 9mm semi-automatic pistol at the workers inside, killing one and injuring three before shooting himself dead. Calling up images of incidents like the infamous 1986 "postal" attack in Edmond, Oklahoma, workplace shootings are uncommon, totemic, and often headline-grabbing. Yet this attack was more limited in scope and casualties than other famous workplace shootings, like Cedric Ford's spree at Excel Industries in Hesston, Kansas, this February, which likely helped limit its news cycle duration.

Beyond Roanoke, the week's three other American shootings were less sensational. At about 11:45 PM Saturday, a street shooting in Oakland, California, left seven injured. At about 11:45 PM Tuesday, another street shooting in Dayton, Ohio, left one dead and three more injured. And finally a shooting in a rural home in McDonough, Georgia, at about 2 AM on Thursday left three dead and one injured. These shootings left far fewer victims than those from last week, and were similar in scale and form to violence that accumulated throughout the month.

For Europe, this week was particularly nasty, even though the continent suffered one less attack than America. At about 3:50 AM Sunday, a street shooting in Melitopol, Ukraine, left two dead and two injured. The following night, a shooting at a cafe in Pyt-Yakh, Russia, left four more injured. Finally, at about 9 AM Wednesday, a man opened fire on the police who came to evict him from his home in Langladure, France, injuring two cops and two of his neighbors before being subdued.

None of these attacks were especially brutal, especially when compared to other European mass shootings this year like 18-year-old David Ali Sonboly's massacre in a Munich, Germany, shopping mall in late July. But the continent rarely sees so many mass shootings within one week; the last time it happened in 2016 was in March. When multiple shootings—which seem mundane in America but are uncommon in Europe—accumulate on the continent, they quickly turn into benchmark periods of violence that stand out in a way Americans might find hard to fathom.

This spate of violence is tragic for Europe, as is any loss of life or instance of large-scale gun violence. But when transposed into an American frame of reference, a freakish week of violence transforms into nothing more than a blip—a standard manifestation of a baseline level of violence US residents implicitly or explicitly take to be normal and acceptable. This gap between the two experiences when it comes to mass gun violence is actually jaw-dropping. It's probably a logical difference of reception, necessary for Americans to maintain sanity in the face of an epidemic of large-scale gun violence. At the same time, it's jading. Yet if Americans were able to see their mass shooting violence through a European lens, even just occasionally, then perhaps they would be inspired to tackle the issue with the vigor and horror it so desperately merits.

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