Over the past seven days, America saw six mass shootings that killed three and left 22 more injured. The attacks bring America's mass shooting tally so far in 2016 up to 69 deaths and 198 injuries. But the latest round of shootings attracted relatively little popular attention, especially when compared to the flurry of media coverage hoisted on domestic mass shootings earlier this month.
Europe witnessed two such incidents this week that left one dead and nine injured. Despite the lower tally, those tragedies seemed to receive more media attention, in part because of the grossly mismatched threshold for what constitutes a gun atrocity on each continent.
Meanwhile, both in terms of their settings (mostly drive-bys on the street and night spot or party shootings) and timing (mostly on the weekend), America's mass shootings this week were depressingly routine.
Last Friday afternoon, a drive-by shooting in Detroit, Michigan, killed two men and wounded two more on a residential street. On Saturday evening, four teens were injured in a shooting at a Portland, Oregon, birthday party. Hours later, one individual was shot dead at a bar and three more were injured in Wichita Falls, Texas. On Sunday, another party—this one at a park in Fort Myers, Florida—came under fire, leaving four injured. On Tuesday, yet another shooting hit a strip club in Atlanta, Georgia, wounding five more.
The only unusual incident occurred when four were injured in an Oakland, California shooting on Saturday. But that event, a drive-by attack on a moving party bus, was more notable for victims' apparent refusal to cooperate with first responders—a reminder that some mass shooting may go entirely unreported—than its body count.
In fact, this was the least bloody seven-day span for mass shootings in America since the period between February 27 and March 4. That week, which saw three killed and ten wounded in three incidents, was one of the quieter and more peaceful weeks this year.
Europe's two mass shootings, on the other hand, were both exceptional—even by jaded American standards. On Sunday night, a 22-year-old man shot up a crowded Kurdish wedding at an event center in Vahrenheide, Germany, killing a 21-year-old woman and wounding five others before taking off. On Tuesday, several shooters opened fire on a group of police in Brussels, Belgium, who were investigating last year's terrorist attacks in Paris. With tantalizing connection to one of the largest news stories of the past year, the Brussels shooting drew inevitable and understandable interest both for its immediate bloodshed and potential implications.
Even if the attacks in Europe hadn't been unique, they would likely still have drawn more attention than those in America if only because of the rarity of mass gun violence on that continent. These were only the eighth and ninth such incidents recorded in Europe this year—the 2016 mass shooting body count there currently stands at just seven dead and 36 injured. These were also the first European mass shootings in almost three weeks. The Brussels incident accounted for the first European mass shooting death since a shootout in Russia killed two people in January—and was the first western European mass shooting death all year.
The fact that six mass shootings can make for a blasé week in America reflects a cultural problem as much as a criminal one. It also highlights the ease with which Americans, who like all humans seem to have a limited bandwidth for processing tragedy and mobilizing it into outrage, can become calloused. We can only hope the relative rarity of these events in Europe—and the more pronounced reactions to those that do take place—encourages Americans to confront their own complacency.
Follow Mark Hay on Twitter.