Mass shootings topped the headlines in 2022, and local and federal officials are perplexed about how to stop the mayhem heading into 2023.
The Gun Violence Archive classifies an incident as a mass shooting when at least four victims are shot, either injured or killed, not including any shooter who may also have been killed or injured.
More than 611 mass shootings occurred across the nation in 2022, with over 6,000 children killed or injured by gunfire, the most ever recorded in the nine-year history of the Gun Violence Archive.
The findings mark the first time that mass shootings topped 600 in three consecutive years. There were 690 in 2021 and 610 in 2020.
Researchers at the Gun Violence Archive found that 6,023 American children 17 years old or younger have been killed or hurt in gunfire in 2022, surpassing the 5,708 killed or injured in 2021.
The Gun Violence Archive said it was the most children to die or be injured by gunfire in a year since it started keeping track in 2014.
Further, at least 306 children 11 years old or younger were killed by gunfire in 2022, while another 1,323 children between the ages of 12 and 17 died in shootings, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
The first year the Gun Violence Archive began to track shootings in 2014, it recorded 2,859 children 17 years old or younger killed or injured by gunfire.
President Joe Biden signed what historians had called the most sweeping gun violence bill in decades, a bipartisan compromise following a series of mass shootings that included the Tops Supermarket murders in Buffalo and the massacre of 19 students and two teachers at an elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
“Time is of the essence. Lives will be saved,” Biden declared upon signing the measure.
“Their message to us was, ‘Do something.’ How many times did we hear that? ‘Just do something. For God’s sake, just do something.’ Today we did.”
Lawmakers expect the bill to toughen background checks for the youngest gun buyers, keep firearms from more domestic violence offenders and help states put in place red flag laws that make it easier for authorities to take weapons from people judged as dangerous.
Before the legislation, the Justice Department issued a final rule to rein in the proliferation of ghost guns, which are un-serialized, privately made firearms increasingly recovered at crime scenes.
The U.S. Attorney General directed every U.S. Attorney’s Office nationwide to increase resources dedicated to district-specific violent crime strategies, and the Department of Justice issued a proposed rule to regulate better when devices marketed as firearm stabilizing braces turn pistols into short-barreled rifles subject to the National Firearms Act.
In the District of Columbia, a frustrated Mayor Muriel Bowser has increased efforts to rid the nation’s capital of gun violence.
Bowser has emphasized teen violence.
“If I see a teenager who has been shot, it’s more than likely it’s a teenager who did it,” Bowser said earlier in 2022.
“And so, we have to really focus on those young people that we know have been involved in violent crime or victims of violent crime.”
Jamie N. Schenker, the interim program director at The California Wellness Foundation, called gun violence a preventable public health epidemic.
In an op-ed, Schenker said gun violence “devastates communities and disproportionately harms communities of color.”
“We know that these unthinkable – yet near-constant – mass shooting tragedies are connected to the larger problem of gun violence that plagues this country,” she declared.
Schenker outlined things that lawmakers could do heading into 2023.
- Make policy changes that end easy access to guns.
- Support violence-reduction programs informed by the community.
- Address the trauma experienced by people exposed to gun violence.
“Guns are shockingly easy to obtain, and most guns used in crime and shootings are purchased legally,” Schenker asserted.
“The proliferation of assault weapons and “ghost guns” must be dealt with using policy change. And we know that the narrative of a good guy with a gun stops a bad guy with a gun’ is false,” she continued. “The bottom line is that we need fewer guns, not more,” Schenker said. “We also must encourage additional support and funding of gun violence research programs, such as the Violence Prevention Research Program at UC Davis, which works on evidence-based research that informs decision-makers.”