A relatively quiet week in America amounts to a horrific outlier of one in Europe.
Over the past seven days, America has witnessed three mass shootings that injured 12 but miraculously killed no one. Last Friday afternoon, four men in a residential Chicago neighborhood were shot under murky circumstances. Hours later, at 11:30 PM, an argument in an apartment entranceway in Denver escalated into a shooting wounding another four individuals. And on Thursday afternoon, a drive-by in Chicago wounded four more. Although still horrific by any abstract standard, with only three victims critically injured (two in the first and one in the second Chicago shooting), this was a one of the most mercifully quiet weeks for mass shootings in America so far this year.
Europe, meanwhile, suffered its second-bloodiest week for such events thus far this year, with one dead and 13 injured in three mass shootings. Last Friday, a London drive-by around 1:50 PM local time injured five. On Sunday at 8 PM, a neighborhood dispute elevated into a shooting in Yakovlevskoye, Russia, killing one and wounding three. On Tuesday at 8 PM, another such dispute in Lisbon, Portugal, left five more injured.
The attacks in America this week brought the nation's mass shooting body count to 72 dead and 224 wounded in 59 incidents to date in 2016. But Europe, while suffering more casualties than the United States this week, still has a drastically lower body count for the year: eight dead and 49 injured in 12 incidents.
Though two incidents came in Chicago, which is experiencing a massive surge (even by that city's standards) in gun violence—by one account this was the deadliest first quarter of a year in the city since 1999)—the nature of these three shootings was unexceptional by American standards. Europe's tally this week, on the other hand, is exacerbated by the fact that it follows both the Brussels airport suicide bombings and two notable mass shootings (one also in Brussels) the week before that.
Looking at the past three weeks, it's easy to read a trend of rising violence and instability into Europe's body count. It's even easier to do so given the publicity around both mass shootings and terrorism on the continent over that period. (It probably helps draw attention to Europe's violence that the US hasn't had a major headline-grabbing mass shooting since the Wilkinsburg, Pennsylvania, cookout attack, which killed six and injured three, about four weeks ago.)
But as James Fox, a mass murder and gun violence expert at Northeastern University, pointed out to VICE when we started our mass shooting tracker two months ago, it's impossible to extrapolate real trends out of such a tiny pool of data. Europe could be in the midst of a rising tide of violence, or about to snap back into relative tranquility while America suffers another major mass shooting. We can't really tell, given the jagged and quasi-random nature of these tragedies. And it's worth noting that the three mass shootings in Europe this week were dispersed and utterly unrelated to each other or to the continent's recent terrorist violence, which strongly suggests they were a tragic fluke rather than part of a violent tide.
Whereas the attacks in Europe this past week are likely unconnected, in many ways this week's mass shootings in America are part of an ongoing narrative. The two events in Chicago clearly speak to worrying trends in that city, while all three are part of the grueling, grinding manifestation of America's noxious gun violence epidemic and overall gun culture. They may not signal a rising tide of mass shootings in America, but they certainly are linked into a wider phenomenon with a perpetually growing collective body count—one we cannot lose sight of even in weeks where individual manifestations of that violence seem minor in comparison to other events in the world.
Follow Mark Hay on Twitter.