Since the start of 2023, the United States has averaged more than one mass shooting per day, according to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group that tracks gun violence using police reports, government sources, news coverage, and other public data.
No official, universal definition of what constitutes a mass shooting currently exists. Groups define it differently based on the number of victims, whether they are killed or injured, whether the shooting occurs in a public or private space, and whether the shooter targets specific victims. The Gun Violence Archive defines it as an event in which at least four people were killed or injured.
The lack of a consistent definition creates opportunities for people to interpret the data differently, making it difficult for lawmakers to establish a set of agreed-upon facts upon which to address the issue of gun control.
For example, using a much narrower definition of a mass shooting, security specialists who drafted a 2013 congressional report identified just 78 mass shooting events between 1983 and 2012. This figure starkly contrasts with the GVA’s findings for 2014, which determined 273 mass shootings had occurred that year alone.
As to more recent figures, the Gun Violence Archive recorded 647 mass shootings in the U.S. in 2022. Compared to this time last year, mass shootings in 2023 are outpacing last year’s rate.
Mass shootings have happened in gun-friendly states—and some stricter ones
Several of the states where mass shootings have occurred this year are those that don’t require gun owners to obtain permits to carry concealed weapons. However, some of the most high-profile mass shootings of this year, like those in Half Moon Bay and Monterey Park, California, and Washington D.C., happened in states with stricter gun laws.
Gun violence in the U.S. is a complex problem with many contributing factors beyond state laws; however, a 2022 study from Everytown for Gun Safety comparing state laws to rates of gun violence shows a correlation between the two. States with the most restrictions on gun users also have the lowest rates of gun-related deaths, while states with fewer regulations have a higher death rate from guns.
At 120 firearms per 100 residents, the U.S. is the only country in the world with more civilian-owned guns than people, according to the 2018 Small Arms Survey.
Mass shootings take place in nearly every type of public and private space
This year, shooters have attacked people at schools, cultural celebrations, gas stations, private residences, downtowns, highways, and most recently, workplaces.
The deadliest single event to date remains the Jan 21. shooting in Monterey Park, California, where a gunman killed 11 people and wounded nine others at a dance hall in an Asian American community during a Lunar New Year celebration.
Nine mass shooting incidents occurred between Feb. 17 and Feb. 19—the most of any weekend in 2023. That weekend, nine children were shot at a gas station in Georgia, six people were shot on I-57 in Chicago leaving one toddler dead, and five people, including a 4-year-old, were shot at a parade in New Orleans.