Over the past seven days, America witnessed three mass shootings that left three dead and 11 wounded. These attacks bring the US mass shooting body count so far in 2016 to 375 dead and 1,436 injured.
Meanwhile, Europe suffered two mass shootings over the same period of time that left four dead and four wounded, bringing the continent's mass shooting deaths so far this year up to 51 dead and 162 injured.
The relatively few mass shootings the US endured this week followed standard patterns of violence and flew largely under the national radar. At about 11:45 PM last Friday, a shooting outside a bar in Bloomfield, New Jersey, injured five. The following afternoon, at about 3:30 PM, a dispute at a wake in Los Angeles, California, escalated into a shooting that injured five more. Then at about 6:30 PM Monday, a man who'd broken into the home of a woman he'd had a brief relationship with ambushed her and her children, ultimately killing three kids and critically wounding their mother before shooting himself dead. The brutal details of this last shooting, which involved children—often seen as especially tragic mass shooting victims and therefore lightening rods for coverage—helped draw sustained local press attention over the past week. But it failed to gain traction nationwide.
Meanwhile, Europe suffered what was, by continental standards, a nasty week—the first with multiple mass shootings and the deadliest since October. Bizarrely, both mass shootings occurred at the hands of apparently unwitting security or police personnel.
At about 4 AM Sunday, a team of Ukrainian police from Kiev initiated a sting on a group of robbers in the nearby town of Knyazychy. Two plainclothes cops set up a surveillance post in an abandoned building near the target, but a tripped alarm in another building led local police, apparently uninformed of the operation, to track down the two men and arrest them as possible burglars. Thinking the plainclothes cops had been taken prisoner by the burglars they were stinging, at least one special police force officer opened fire on the local cops, initiating a gunfight that left one special officer dead on one side and two local officers and the two plainclothes cops dead on the other. In the commotion, the burglars the initial team had hoped to catch fled, but were later arrested for carrying weapons in Kiev anyway. There may have been more deaths or injuries as a result of this monumental fuck up, but as of publication, the incident was still undergoing a high-profile national review.
The following night, an armed security guard responded to a ruckus at the Ruble bar in Stavropol, Russia. He reportedly found three patrons getting rowdy after breaking a plate, refusing to pay for it, and being stopped from leaving by employees. The guard fired a warning shot, which apparently ricocheted off the ceiling into the gut of a bartender, then fired toward the ground, hitting the three disruptive patrons in their legs—as of publication, it remains unclear if he intended to hit them or was firing further failed warning shots. Authorities are reviewing the circumstances of this case as well and more details may emerge in the future.
Although police violence is a regular subject of national conversation in America, the Sunday shooting in Ukraine raises regionally specific questions about the competence of police forces and the deadly consequences of poor organization. But even if this aberration is unusual and therefore drawing extra coverage in Europe, it's worth bearing in mind how rare such events are on the continent.
America's mass shootings, on the other hand, are invisible because of their ubiquity. They point not toward something corrosive in a small body of security forces, but something corrupted in a nation at-large that fosters a hail of large-scale violence so dense it basically disappears into the background. Ukraine clearly needs to review the organization of its police force. But the US clearly needs to review the systemic conditions that make it so easy to blow away a handful of people at a bar or a wake or an entire family in fits of rage and horror, and so difficult to marshal attention toward such horrors. Failure to act on these tragedies as vigorously as Ukraine is now probing its police woes means America may not only be doomed to the occasional national debacle, but also condemned to the quiet scourge of a grinding mass shooting epidemic.
Follow Mark Hay on Twitter.