Over the past seven days, America witnessed 11 mass shootings that left 59 dead and 86 wounded, with the Orlando nightmare accounting for the bulk of the total. These attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 177 dead and 556 injured. This means that more Americans have been killed in such attacks this year than in Timothy McVeigh's 1995 bombing of an Oklahoma City federal building, the largest terrorist attack on US soil until September 11, 2001, which claimed a total of 168 lives.
Meanwhile, Europe suffered zero mass shootings over the same period, holding the continent's body count in such attacks this year steady at 20 dead and 70 injured.
The most significant of these mass shootings was, of course, Omar Mateen's terrorist assault on Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, between 2 and 5 AM on Sunday. Over that span, Mateen, with the aid of a Glock 17 9mm semi-automatic pistol and a SigSauer MCX .224-caliber assault rifle, mowed down more than a hundred people. He killed a total of 49 and injured 53 more, including one of the officers who eventually shot him to death in a raid. Details are still emerging regarding the circumstances of this atrocity and Mateen's motives for carrying it out. But it was almost certainly the worst mass shooting in American history.
This tragedy has been the focal point of global media coverage on the United States for almost a week now—and rightly so. It is an exceptional bloodbath that deserves exceptional mourning, dissection, and reflection. But Orlando is not an isolated catastrophe; it is the most galling manifestation of a wider epidemic of less deadly but still horrific mass shootings in America.
Beyond Orlando, this week saw ten other mass shootings that killed ten people and injured 33. On Saturday around 3 AM—about a day before the Orlando shooting—a shooting in an apartment complex in Charlotte, North Carolina, left one dead and three injured. About an hour later, a shooting at a house party in Webster, Minnesota, left four injured. Around 7:30 PM, a man in Panorama City, California, injured his girlfriend and her son, then shot her two daughters dead. Just about 45 minutes later, a gunfight at a park in Stockton, California, left one dead and three injured. Then, at around 11:15 PM, police suspect that a man in Roswell, New Mexico, shot his wife and four daughters dead.
On Monday at about 5 AM, about a day after the Orlando shooting, gunfire at a graduation party in Fresno, California, left four young people injured. That same evening, a shooting near a park in Brooklyn, New York, at about 5 PM injured five more teens. About 11:30 PM, yet another shooting near a playground in Chicago, Illinois, left five more injured. Then, on Tuesday, an argument around 6 PM on the edge of a vigil for two boys who drowned while swimming led to a shooting that killed one and left three more injured. And finally, at about 9:15 PM, a street shooting in Wilmington, Delaware, left four more teens injured.
The casualties from these shootings alone were intolerably high—the worst since late April, when 13 mass shootings over the course of one week (including the Piketon, Ohio, massacre) left 15 dead and 44 injured—and took a notably heavy toll on young people. Orlando's body count elevated what was already a harsh yet representative week into an unreal tragedy, one more than capable of demanding public attention in a way that most mass shootings do not.
In the wake of Mateen's attack, America has begun to speak more openly and frequently about its mass shooting epidemic. This is cause for celebration. However, many of the calls for action directly inspired by Orlando, from an assault weapons ban to regulations that would restrict people on terrorist watch lists from buying guns, are designed more to prevent a repeat of Orlando than to stem the overarching plague of mass gun violence—much of which is committed beyond the remit of those proposals.
Focusing on the issues raised by the unique circumstances of Orlando makes sense. But if that attack is to be a wakeup call regarding mass shootings writ large, then America needs to drive the conversation deeper, to look at the smaller but still brutal mass shootings that flanked the unprecedented horrors of Orlando and discuss the issues they point to as well, from gun access in domestic violence incidents to the tricky issue of gang beefs.
Some might worry that doing so could detract from the gravity of the Orlando tragedy by conflating it with "lesser" violence. But none of these shootings ought to be tolerable. Although some are pessimistic, Orlando may finally be an incident with the power to change the national discourse on guns as a whole. So it's almost imperative that this time is used to discuss broad and comprehensive solutions. Because if the United States cannot address mass shootings after Orlando, it's awfully hard to imagine the country ever will.
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