On May 24, 2022, nineteen children and two teachers were killed in a school shooting at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas – the deadliest attack since the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, a decade ago.
The attack follows many other high-profile mass shootings in recent years, including several in Texas, such as a shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, one in a church in Sutherland Springs and another at Santa Fe High School.
Mass shootings show no signs of slowing down. After the coronavirus pandemic swept across the country in 2020, data shows both gun sales and gun violence surged.
Since 2018, the number of mass shootings had already been rising and has now reached over 2,000 incidents in just the last five years, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
It counts 42 mass shootings from May 1 through May 23, 2022, alone. That includes the racist attack on a Buffalo, New York, grocery store on May 14 in which 10 people were killed, most of them Black.
NBC defines a "mass shooting" as four or more killed, not including the shooter. The Gun Violence Archive definition is similar but includes those who have been shot and not killed. The FBI defines a "mass killing" as three or more people dead in a single incident.
More guns coupled with closed schools and child care centers also resulted in a rash of shootings involving children under 18, whether as victims or shooters.
More than 1,800 minors died, the Gun Violence Archive found, with the number of cases reaching a high level in 2020 and staying steady afterward.
A report from the research arm of Everytown for Gun Safety, a gun-control advocacy group that works to prevent gun violence, found the number of unintentional shootings by children is also on the rise.
“Preventable Tragedies: Findings from the #NotAnAccident Index,” from Everytown Research & Policy, reported that gun sales surged 64% in 2020. The number of unintentional shooting deaths by children was 31% higher from March through December 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. This year there were at least 103 such shootings by children as of May 11, resulting in 45 deaths.
Most often children are also the victims. In 91% of the shootings, those killed or injured by children were themselves under 18, and in seven in 10 cases the shootings occurred in homes.
“In 2021 children were homebound like never before because of the pandemic," said Sarah Burd-Sharps, Everytown’s senior director of research. "Adults were often distracted by responsibilities at work and at home. And undeniably record gun sales contributed to a significant increase in these very tragic incidents.”
In the decade through 2019, there were an average of 13.5 million guns sold each year. In 2020, there were 22 million guns sold, and in 2021, nearly 19 million. One possible reason: the uncertainty so many people faced.
Many American children are living in homes with unsecured guns, with 4.6 million in a home with at least one loaded, unlocked gun.
Researchers say that one way to keep children safe is by making sure guns are locked, unloaded and separate from ammunition. Parents can ask about guns in homes their children visit and make sure they are stored securely. Gun shops can disseminate information about safe storage.
States with laws mandating secure storage of guns, 23 in all, had the lowest rates of deaths and injuries while those with no such laws had double to triple the rates. Some resistance comes from owners who have their guns for self-protection, a misguided idea, Burd-Sharps said.
The 10 states with the highest rates of shootings, according to Everytown, were Louisiana, Alaska, Mississippi, Tennessee, Missouri, Alabama, Kentucky, South Carolina, Indiana and Georgia. Those where shootings were rare or never happened were Hawaii, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Wyoming, New York, Connecticut and Washington.
“The really hopeful news is that these tragedies are entirely preventable,” Burd-Sharps said.