Briefing

A weekend of mass shootings across America

Gun violence is on the rise all over the country

Mass shootings killed 14 people and wounded 39 over the weekend. Here's everything you need to know:

Buffalo

Ten people were killed and three wounded when a gunman opened fire with an AR-15 at a Buffalo supermarket on Saturday.

The shooter, 18-year-old Payton Gendron, drove to Buffalo from Conklin, New York, around 200 miles away. New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) told reporters that Gendron intentionally carried out his attack in a ZIP code with a high concentration of African-Americans.

In a 180-page manifesto, Gendron described himself as a white supremacist and said he was inspired by racially motivated mass shootings in Charleston, South Carolina, and Christchurch, New Zealand. Eleven of the 13 victims were Black.

Gendron's Bushmaster assault rifle had been purchased legally in New York, but he reportedly used high-capacity magazines that are prohibited in the state. Under New York's 2013 SAFE Act, it is illegal to possess a magazine with a capacity of more than 10 rounds.

Typical AR-15 magazines hold 30 rounds and can be purchased legally in Pennsylvania. Conklin is less than four miles from the Pennsylvania border. AR-15s sold in New York are fitted with locks that prevent full-capacity magazines from being inserted, but Gendron wrote online that he had used a power drill to illegally remove the state-mandated lock.

NPR reports that in 2021, Gendron was investigated by police and briefly hospitalized after issuing a "general" threat of violence against his high school. He purchased the AR-15 in January. According to The Washington Post, "[g]un-purchase background checks are supposed to flag individuals with a history of mental illness but usually prohibit sales only to people in severe cases, such as people who have been institutionalized by a judge."

Hochul told reporters that "[o]n Tuesday, in Albany, we had already planned to be announcing a comprehensive gun package to address further loopholes that exist in our laws." She also called for greater censorship of online hate speech.

Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.), a noted gun-control advocate,called for expanded background checks and federal limits on high-capacity magazines. "I mean, why on earth do you need a 30 round magazine, or 100 round drum of ammunition to protect your home or to shoot for sport?" he said Sunday.

Milwaukee

A shooting in Milwaukee's entertainment district wounded 17 people on Friday night. Four others were injured in a pair of separate shootings that took place at the same location. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, the "victims ranged in age from 15 to 47, and all are expected to survive." Eleven people were arrested and 11 firearms confiscated.

The shootings took place shortly after the Milwaukee Bucks lost to the Boston Celtics at the nearby Fiserv Forum, interrupting a "festival-like atmosphere" and sending hundreds of fans running for shelter.

Milwaukee police attributed the largest shooting to a "confrontation" between a "couple groups that exchanged in gunfire," suggesting the incident may have been gang related.

A local ABC affiliate reported that Milwaukee Mayor Cavalier Johnson imposed a curfew on Saturday, which remained in effect through Sunday evening. Anyone under the age of 21 found on the streets between 11:00 p.m. and 5:30 a.m. was subject to arrest and a $691 ticket.

The New York Times notes that Wisconsin's "rate of gun deaths has increased 59 percent over the period of 2011 to 2020, compared with a 33 percent increase nationwide."

Orange County

On Sunday, a man opened fire during a church picnic in Laguna Woods, California, killing one person and wounding five others. The shooting was stopped after the congregation's pastor struck the gunman with a chair as he paused to reload. Other members of the Irvine Taiwanese Presbyterian Church then tackled and hog-tied the attacker.

According to The Los Angeles Times, the "Orange County Sheriff's Department detained the suspect, an Asian man in his 60s, and recovered two commercially available handguns from the scene." Sheriff Don Barnes said Monday that the shooter was an American citizen born in China who was motivated by hatred of Taiwan.

The office of California Gov. Gavin Newsom (D) tweeted that "[n]o one should have to fear going to their place of worship."

Winston-Salem

In Winston-Salem, North Carolina, a series of related shootings on Sunday night wounded seven people. None of the injuries were life-threatening. Police spokesperson Kira Boyd said the shootings took place in "multiple locations" and appeared to be "related." From one scene, officers reportedly recovered more than 50 shell casings of various calibers.

Boyd also said the shooting was "not considered to be a random act of violence."

Texas

A pair of mass shootings took place in Texas, one in Houston and one in Amarillo.

ABC News reported that two people were killed and three injured at a Houston flea market on Sunday during a "fight between two groups of people." All five of the victims were reportedly involved in the altercation. The Houston sheriff's office said the shooting was "not a random act of violence."

In Amarillo, one person was killed and four injured in a shooting at a nightclub at around 4:00 a.m. Sunday.

What is a mass shooting?

According to CNN, there have been 201 mass shootings in the United States so far this year. CNN and the Gun Violence Archive "define a mass shooting as one that injures or kills four or more people." By that measure, there were 693 mass shootings in 2021, 611 in 2020, and 417 in 2019.

Other gun violence trackers use different definitions. In 2015, Mark Follman — an editor at the progressive magazine Mother Jones argued that it makes no sense to include, for example, "a 1 a.m. gang fight in a Sacramento restaurant, in which two were killed and two injured" in the same category as the "public mass murder" of 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

Outlets using the standard of four or more people shot concluded that, as of Dec. 2, 355 mass shootings had taken place in 2015. By Follman's standard of four or more people killed — which mirrors the FBI's definition of mass murder — only four mass shootings had taken place in 2015.

Update 4:35 p.m. ET: This story has been updated to include the Orange County shooter's motive.

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