In the decade beginning in 2010, an average of 5.5 mass shootings occurred each year in the United States.
During 2020, when much of the country was under coronavirus lockdowns, the number of mass shootings sharply declined, with only two recorded during the year.
Now that coronavirus restrictions are lifting across the country, mass shootings are again on the rise. The Violence Project’s database has yet to include shootings from 2021, though media reports have chronicled several shootings for the year.
Mass shootings are defined by the Congressional Research Service as having four or more victims, not including the shooter, and taking place, at least in part, in a public location. Excluded from the count are murders attributable to any other underlying criminal activity, such as gang violence or armed robbery, as well as domestic violence.
James Densley, a professor of criminal justice at Metropolitan State University in St. Paul, Minnesota, and co-creator of The Violence Project’s database, said mass shooters “often target people and places that are somehow representative or symbolic of their grievances.”
In March, two mass shootings a week apart in Georgia and Colorado were part of a growing number of such attacks carried out at retail establishments.
The March 16 shooting at Atlanta-area beauty spas raised concerns of violence against Asian Americans, as well as gender-based violence. Six of the eight victims were Asian American women.
According to media reports following the Atlanta-area attacks, the shooter appeared to have many traits that are commonly shared by other mass shooters as shown in data collected by The Violence Project — including the means to carry out an attack, having suicidal thoughts and having an identifiable crisis point. Media reports said the 21-year-old suspect had recently been kicked out of his parents’ house.
The shooting in Boulder, Colorado, on March 22 took place at a grocery store. Ten people were killed, including a responding police officer. A motive for the shooting, allegedly carried out by a 21-year-old man, is still not clear.
Three other mass shootings in spring 2021 took place at workplace locations. On March 31, four people, including a 9-year-old boy, were killed at an Orange, California, business complex. Police said the 44-year-old suspect knew his victims, having a “business and personal relationship” with them.
On April 15, eight people were killed at a FedEx facility in Indianapolis, Indiana. The suspected shooter, a 19-year-old former employee at the facility, was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at the crime scene. Police have not released information about a possible motive for the shooting.
On May 26, nine people were killed at a rail yard maintenance and dispatch center in San Jose, California. The suspected shooter, 57, worked at the company. He also was found dead of an apparent self-inflicted gunshot wound at the scene.