The ubiquity of mass shootings has led many Americans to accept them as unfortunate facts of modern life. By one popular measure, the United States endured 372 mass shootings last year. The number of fatalities resulting from these incidents was 475, with at least 1,870 more people wounded. That toll exceeds the total number of gun homicides in the course of a year in Belgium, France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain, and Switzerland combined as tallied by the Washington Post in 2012 using the most recent data available.
In hopes of encouraging America to grapple with—and challenge—the brutality of all this violence, VICE is launching a new project aimed at tracking every mass shooting in the United States in 2016. By way of comparison, we will be keeping tabs on mass shootings in Europe, too, and the tally will be frequently updated with brief descriptions of individual shooting incidents. We will also publish weekly round-ups, as well as comparisons to other tragedies and common fears to offer a sense of the scale of this problem. In addition, VICE will be tracking the number in a physical space, with the details to be announced in the coming days.
Our tally will follow the example of the Gun Violence Archive, labeling any shooting in which four or more people are killed or injured, excluding the perpetrator(s), a mass shooting. Because "mass shooting" is a fairly young term, this definition is far from universal. The FBI, for example, only counts something as a "mass killing" if it involves three or more deaths (the threshold was four until 2013), excluding perpetrators killed by law enforcement officials or committing suicide. We've decided to rely on the Gun Violence Archive's definition because we believe people who are shot should be counted among the victims of mass gun violence even if they don't lose their lives.
The scale this metric captures is even more frightening when you consider that it represents a conservative tally. For lack of comprehensive nationwide research on gun deaths, Americans often have to cull information from local news sources that may not always be perfectly reported. And even when an event is thoroughly documented, we know that wounded victims sometimes flee the scene and avoid hospitals, obscuring true mass shooting injury counts. Some incidents are never reported at all.
With those caveats in mind, one month into 2016, America has suffered 12 mass shootings, leaving 23 dead and 34 injured.
That means more Americans have died in large-scale shootings this year than died in combat in the Afghanistan conflict in all of 2015. (That number stands at 22 according to the news and press release compiler iCasualties.)
By comparison, Europe—which collectively houses more than double America's population—has suffered only two mass shootings (one each in France and Russia), with four killed and seven injured. Just a few weeks into the New Year, the imbalance is already wide and stark. The challenge, especially as warmer weather threatens to give way to more gun violence, is to use the real-time number of mass shootings in the United States to shine a sustained spotlight on this plague—and pressure the powers that be to take aggressive steps to rein it in.
Visit the VICE Mass Shooting Tracker 2016 now.