2022, The New Normal
There was a time when one mass shooting would shock the conscience of much of America. However, those times are long gone.
America has grown accustomed to hearing news reports of mass shootings. Although the tragedy of these violent acts is never diminished, people in this country have grown accustomed to their occurrence.
Defining ‘Mass Shooting’
Before discussing why there are so many mass shootings in America, it’s important to understand what a mass shooting is. Despite the frequency of these events, there is not an official definition that is accepted as authoritative.
There are many definitions, but they only vary slightly from one another.
Number of Victims
Many of the definitions require four victims for a shooting to qualify as a mass shooting. However:
Congress legally defines a mass shooting as having three or more victims.
Using Congress’s definition, the total number of mass shootings is higher than if you used definitions necessitating four victims.
According to certain definitions, the shooting victims must also be homicide victims, whereas other definitions stipulate that they only need to be shot. According to the former, an incident with 40 shooting injuries and no deaths would fail to qualify as a mass shooting.
Other requirements of some definitions deal with the location of the shootings. For instance, Congress’s definition requires the shootings to be in one or more locations near one another.
Why Are There so Many Mass Shootings in America?
Determining why there are so many mass shootings in America is infinitely more difficult than coming up with a universally accepted definition for the term mass shootings. What most scholars and professionals agree upon is that there are many reasons for these shootings.
1. Accessibility of Guns
Estimates put the number of guns in civilian hands at nearly 400 million. Although gun laws regulate the buying, selling, and gifting of firearms, their sheer number contributes to their availability. In other words, there are so many guns in America that the law can’t effectively prevent them from being sold or acquired legally.
Between 2009 and 2002, the five deadliest mass shootings in the U.S. involved the use of assault weapons and/or high capacity magazines, often AR-15-style semi-automatic rifles. These rifles are capable of firing high-powered ammunition at rapid speed and are frequently equipped with high-capacity magazines.
AR-15-style assault rifles have proliferated quickly since 2004, when the 1994 federal assault weapons ban was permitted to expire under President George W. Bush. There are more than 20 million such rifles in circulation today.
While gun safety advocates and Democrats have long pushed for more stringent regulations on AR-15s and other semiautomatic firearms, Republican leaders have consistently refused to adopt stricter measures on sales. Republican-aligned industry lobbying groups like the National Rifle Association have long opposed virtually all new gun regulations, including proposals that would outlaw AR-15s and other assault weapons.
California has had a ban on assault weapons in some form since 1989, and has frequently updated its restrictions. Lawmakers are currently considering new regulations on so-called “ghost guns,” weapons produced outside of the regular manufacturing process that feature no serial numbers and cannot be easily traced.
Ironically, most of the guns — upwards of 77% — used in mass shootings over the past 50 years were legally obtained.
America is no stranger to hate crimes. With that being said, hate homicides, although shocking, are historically rare. However, hate against a group of people has been the reason underlying many of the mass shootings in the past few years.
The horrifying mass shooting in a Buffalo supermarket in a Black neighborhood in May of 2022 reminded the nation that many mass shootings are not random at all. Instead, they are carried out to purposefully destroy the lives of a particular group or groups of people.
3. Mental Health Issues
America is often criticized as woefully under-equipped to deal with citizens who have mental illnesses. Perhaps this explains why it is difficult to understand why some individuals become mass shooters. A long pattern of neglecting mental health problems in society has possibly made America blind to the connection mental health can have with shooters.
The fact that mental illness can sometimes lead to mass shootings is evidenced in the mental competency issues some shooters have during the legal process. In March of 2021, a mass shooter murdered ten people in a grocery store in Boulder, CO. The shooter, who is facing ten counts of murder, was judged incompetent to stand trial.
Not long before that, another mass shooter in Colorado was judged to be incompetent to stand trial. His case has been on hold from the time he shot and killed three people at an abortion clinic in 2015.
Regardless of the mental state of the shooter, these crimes are categorized as ‘depraved heart crimes‘ in the state of California.
4. Criminal Groups
It is not uncommon to see mass shootings occurring in the world of crime. Criminal groups across the country are armed to the teeth with both legal and illegal firearms. Due to the nature of criminality in this country, gun homicides regularly occur, and many have victims enough to qualify as mass shootings.
In these types of shootings, the motives are easily understood by authorities, experts, and the public. Rarely are the intended victims random individuals, as was likely the case at a flea market in Harris County, Texas, in May of 2022.
In that incident, two people were killed and several injured in a gun battle that arose out of an altercation between two groups of people. No bystanders were injured or killed, and enough people were shot to qualify this event as a mass shooting, according to some definitions.
With so many different reasons why mass shootings occur in America, it is impossible to come up with one solution to the problem. Gun legislation has not contained the problem, and neither have education campaigns. Nationally, there may not be a solution that can encompass the country as a whole. Locally, however, communities may be able to unite and protect themselves.
Effective Help After a Tragedy
If you have been affected by a mass shooting and would like help understanding your options, a dedicated attorney can help. Reach out to the team at Esfandi Law Group today to learn more.
Need an Attorney? CALL NOW: 310-274-6529
Seppi Esfandi is an Expert Attorney who has over 21 years of practice defending a variety of cases.