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At least 10 people were killed and 10 others injured after a mass shooting in Monterey Park, California, on Saturday night, which occurred as the city’s large Asian American community celebrated the Lunar New Year weekend.
Much remains unknown, but scenes of agony and horror are becoming increasingly familiar in America. In fact, Saturday’s mass shooting joins a staggering *32* others from just the first three weeks of 2023, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Communities from Goshen, California, to Baltimore, Maryland, are reeling as others prepare for the possibility of similar violence in their own backyards.
“A time of cultural celebration … and yet another community torn apart by senseless gun violence,” Vice President Kamala Harris told a crowd in Tallahassee, Florida, on Sunday. “All of us in this room and in our country understand that this violence must stop.”
But how that will play out with a divided Congress, vastly different policy prescriptions, and a deeply entrenched gun culture remains to be seen.
It’s bad any way you look at it.
Gunshot wounds are now the leading cause of death among people under the age of 24 in the United States, according to a study published in the December 2022 issue of Pediatrics, the journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics.
From 2015 to 2020, there were at least 2,070 unintentional shootings of children under 18 in the U.S., according to a report by Everytown. These shootings resulted in 765 deaths and 1,366 injuries.
Uneven burden. A study published late last year in JAMA Network Open analyzed gun deaths over the past three decades — a total of more than 1 million lives lost since 1990.
The researchers found that gun deaths have increased for most demographic groups in recent years — especially during the Covid-19 pandemic — but vast disparities persist. The homicide rate among young black men — 142 homicide deaths for every 100,000 black men ages 20 to 24 — was nearly 10 times higher than the overall rate of gun deaths in the U.S. in 2021.
Americans are armed like few others. There are about 393 million privately owned firearms in the U.S., according to an estimate by the Swiss-based Small Arms Survey. That makes 120 guns for every 100 Americans.
Although it is difficult to estimate the exact number of firearms owned by civilians due to a number of factors—including unregistered weapons, illegal trade, and global conflict—no other nation has more civilian guns than people.
About 45 percent of U.S. adults say they live in a household with a gun, according to an October 2022 Gallup poll.
The Gun Violence Archive, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people, excluding the shooter, are shot.
But what defines a mass shooting depends on who you ask.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation, for example, cited 2012 legislation that defined a “mass murder” as “three or more killings in a single incident.”
Mass Shooting Tracker, a crowd-sourced database, defines a mass shooting as “a single outbreak of violence in which four or more people are shot.”
Everytown For Gun Safety defines a mass shooting as any incident in which four or more people are shot and killed, excluding the shooter.
The lack of a firm definition does not help to address the problem. And the slipperiness opens up room for different interpretations of the data. The conservative Daily Caller, for example, cited a definition of “public mass shootings” included in a 2013 Congressional Research Service report that was so narrow it identified only 78 of them between 1983 and 2012.
A 2019 research paper published in Injury Epidemiology addresses this issue: “The Gun Violence Archive recorded the most mass shooting incidents at 346 incidents in 2017, while Mother Jones recorded only 11.”
The authors’ conclusion? “Establishing a definition of ‘mass shooting’ will improve the quality of the analyzes performed.” This could lead to an improvement not only in public awareness and understanding of the facts of mass shootings, but also in arguments for policymakers for legislation that could alleviate the burden that mass shootings place on society.
It certainly shouldn’t be. States that have enacted laws to reduce gun-related deaths have made significant changes, a previous, in-depth CNN analysis found:
Australia. Less than two weeks after Australia’s worst mass shooting, the federal government introduced a new program banning shotguns and shotguns and standardizing the licensing and registration of gun owners across the country. Over the next 10 years, gun deaths in Australia fell by more than 50%.
A 2010 study found that the government’s 1997 buyback program — part of the overall reform — led to an average drop in gun suicide rates of 74 percent over the next five years.
South Africa. Gun-related deaths almost halved over a 10-year period after new gun legislation, the Firearms Control Act of 2000, went into effect in July 2004. The new laws made it much harder to obtain firearm.
New Zealand. Gun laws were quickly amended following the Christchurch mosque shootings in 2019. Just 24 hours after the attack, which killed 51 people, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced the law would change.
New Zealand’s parliament voted almost unanimously to change the country’s gun laws less than a month later, banning all military-style semi-automatic weapons.
Great Britain tightened its gun laws and banned most private gun ownership after a mass shooting in 1996, a move that saw gun deaths drop by nearly a quarter in a decade.
But America’s gun culture is a global difference. For now, the deadly cycle of violence seems destined to continue.