Mass Killings Reach Highest Point Since 2006

Death toll for first half of 2023: 140 people
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jul 15, 2023 5:15 PM CDT
Death Toll in Mass Killings for First Half of 2023: 140
The victims of a shooting in Goshen, California, are displayed during a news conference in January in Visalia, California.   (Ron Holman/The Times-Delta via AP, File)

Slain at the hands of strangers or gunned down by loved ones. Massacred in small towns, in big cities, inside their own homes or outside in broad daylight. This year's unrelenting bloodshed across the US has led to the grimmest of milestones: the deadliest six months of mass killings recorded since at least 2006. From Jan. 1 to June 30, the AP reports, the nation endured 28 mass killings, all but one of which involved guns. The death toll rose just about every week, a constant cycle of violence and grief. Six months. 181 days. 28 mass killings. 140 victims. One country.

"What a ghastly milestone," said Brent Leatherwood, whose three children were in class at a private Christian school in Nashville on March 27 when a former student killed three children and three adults. "You never think your family would be a part of a statistic like that." Leatherwood, a prominent Republican in a state that hasn't strengthened gun laws, believes something must be done to get guns out of the hands of people who might become violent. The shock of seeing the bloodshed strike so close to home has prompted him to speak out. "You may as well say Martians have landed, right? It's hard to wrap your mind around it," he said.

A mass killing is defined as an occurrence when four or more people are slain, not including the assailant, within a 24-hour period. A database maintained by the AP and USA Today in partnership with Northeastern University tracks this large-scale violence dating back to 2006. The 2023 milestone beat the previous record of 27 mass killings, set in the second half of 2022. James Alan Fox, a criminology professor at Northeastern University, never imagined records like this when he began overseeing the database about five years ago, per the AP. "We used to say there were two to three dozen a year," Fox said. "The fact that there's 28 in half a year is a staggering statistic." The chaos of the first six months of 2023 doesn't automatically doom the last six months; the rest of the year could be calmer. Or, one expert said, "This could be part of a trend."

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Experts attribute the rising bloodshed to a growing population with an increased number of guns. Yet mass killings represent just a fraction of the country's overall gun violence. Nearly all of the mass killings in the first half of this year, 27 of 28, involved guns. The other was a fire. Despite unprecedented carnage, the National Rifle Association maintains fierce opposition to regulating firearms, including AR-15-style rifles. "Joe Biden and Kamala Harris' constant efforts to gut the Second Amendment will not usher in safety for Americans; instead, it will only embolden criminals," NRA spokesman Billy McLaughlin said. Andre and Jordan Anchondo died shielding their 2-month-old son in the 2019 mass shooting at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas. Paul is now 4 years old. Tito Anchondo, Andre's brother, worries about the boy's future. "It's just a little unnerving to know that he's eventually going to go to school with kids that also may bring a gun to school."

(More gun violence stories.)

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