Mass Shootings Have Already Killed More Americans This Year Than Guns Killed People in Japan in 2014
So far in 2016, these tragedies continue to occur on the weekend, and at night spots.
Over the past seven days, America witnessed another three mass shootings. Fortunately, none of the incidents caused any deaths, although they left 13 people wounded. That makes for a sharp contrast with last week, which was the bloodiest so far this year. But the three shootings still pushed America's mass shooting injuries up to 86 in 2016. Combined with the 29 lives claimed by large-scale shootings in recent weeks—a toll more than four times as high as the number of all gun deaths in Japan in 2014—that means America's already hit 115 casualties this year.
As we saw last week, mass shooting incidents over the past seven days all took place at parties or nightspots. The first struck a 17-year-old's birthday party on Saturday around 11:30 PM in Marrero, Louisiana, where shooters firing from the street hit four teens. About two hours later, at a nightspot in Union, Alabama, a shooter hit another five people. Then just five hours after that, a shooter at a Houston, Texas, club shot four more.
The prevalence of mass shooting events on the weekend so far this year is striking: 14 of the 22 mass shootings in 2016 (and 10 of 11 shootings this month) have taken place on weekends. Although experts warn against reading too much into trends in small data sets (like two months of mass shooting reports), it's hard not to wonder if this means weekends are just more prone to mass shootings—and why that might be.
Criminologists have long noted a "weekend effect" whereby general crime and violence spike on Saturdays and Sundays. Yet according to Deborah Azrael, associate director of the Harvard Injury Control Research Center, one kind of mass shooting—the Sandy Hook-style indiscriminate public rampage—is less likely on weekends than weekdays. She suspects that's because people gather more reliably in public places (like schools and offices) during the work week. But neither she nor any of the other experts VICE canvassed felt comfortable weighing in on mass shootings that stem from personal beefs, gang warfare, or other causes.
However, Azrael speculates that domestic shootings might be more common on the weekends because, as she writes in an email, "families are home together and the man (almost always the perpetrator in these shootings) is more likely to be inebriated." Professor David Hemenway, another Harvard gun violence expert who cautions that he does not specialize in mass shootings, muses that alcohol could play a role in other incidents as well—especially late night incidents. "Alcohol's a risk factor for lots of injuries, and especially violent injuries," he tells us. "So I wouldn't be shocked" if weekend consumption played some kind of role in a number of cases.
Still, without further research and more robust, long-term data, it's tough to determine whether weekends are when we face the greatest risk of a mass shooting. What is fair to say is that any occasion that brings people closer together than usual, especially when booze is involved, can lead to trouble. And the presence of a gun is a good way to escalate tensions rapidly toward mass-scale injury, death, and tragedy.