Shootings across the country this weekend could be a preview for a violent summer ahead, experts, community leaders and police are warning.
From Chattanooga, Tenn. to Philadelphia, to Saginaw, Mich., at least 11 people were killed while another 60 were injured in mass shootings during the first weekend in June.
Any given year, the summer months are usually when gun violence is at its worst in the country. “Unfortunately we’re likely to see more of this,” Thomas Abt, a senior fellow with the Council on Criminal Justice, a nonpartisan research organization, tells INM, arguing that the kinds of mass shootings that occurred over the weekend could continue as the summer days and weeks begin.
The Gun Violence Archive, which is a nonprofit that collects gun violence data in the country, defines a mass shooting as an incident where four or more victims are shot. So far, there have been 247 mass shootings this year, and 13 over the weekend. There have been nearly 19,000 deaths as a result of firearms in the U.S., which includes more than 8,300 homicides as of June 6.
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The vast majority of these gun deaths get little or no public attention, unlike the mass shootings in Uvalde, Texas, in which a gunman killed 19 children and two teachers at an elementary school on May 24, and Buffalo, N.Y., where 10 Black people were killed at a supermarket.
The Philadelphia shooting was an exception because it happened in a popular entertainment district on South Street on Saturday. There was reportedly an altercation between at least two men before shots were fired. A video circulating online shows one man punching another before the shootings started. Three people were killed, and another 12 were injured.
At least five guns were used in the incident, according to police, indicating that there were multiple shooters. Two suspects were arrested on Monday.
In Chattanooga, two people were killed and 14 were wounded in a shooting outside of a nightclub early Sunday morning. One other person died after being hit by a car while try to flee the scene. No one has been arrested.
In Saginaw, Mich. three people were killed early Sunday morning, including a 7-months pregnant woman (though the baby was later delivered and survived). Two others were injured.
Mass shootings in Arizona, Georgia and South Carolina over the weekend resulted in three more dead, and nine more injured.
As Abt puts it, there isn’t one gun violence problem in the country, there are four: suicides, community gun violence, domestic gun violence, and mass shootings.
Experts, community leaders and activists have consistently pointed to the stress of the pandemic as being a driving force behind the surge in violence over the last two years years. “I think that our institutions have not yet fully recovered from the pandemic,” Abt says.
In addition, the social unrest that followed the murder of George Floyd led to divisions among those who want to reform, defund or abolish the police and those who defend law enforcement at all costs. While defunding has not actually happened across the country, there is a belief among some community activists that police have taken a step back from their responsibilities as a result of the attention on police killings.
However, there is some consensus on several steps that cities and communities can take right now to address the community gun violence problem. This includes things like identifying exactly where the violence happens, policing strategically, investing in anti-violence programs and thoughtfully engaging with those who are at a high risk of engaging in violence.
With all of that said, guns remain in the streets as well. “I’m worried that as people go out more, because of the pandemic easing and because of the warm weather, we’re going to have another very violent summer. So I’m concerned about it,” Abt says.
There’s been a point of emphasis on addressing the root causes of gun violence, particularly community gun violence and implementing long-term solutions to it.
“Violence is concentrated in these poor communities of color. If we want to save the most lives we need to reduce shootings and killings in these neighborhoods,” Abt says.