2023 is officially over and we’re starting to get used to writing 2024 when we write the date. We’re not there yet, but we’re starting to get it right automatically.
Throughout January, we’re going to see people try to compare 2023 to previous years for various things including violent crime, gun purchases, and probably even cow farts or something. Mass shootings, with all the media attention they garner, were always going to be on someone’s agenda.
And, sure enough, Axios decided to take a look.
What they found was that “gun deaths” were down in 2023, but mass shootings were up.
The big picture: The data, which reflects the prevalence of gun violence in the U.S., shows a slight increase in mass shootings from 2022 to 2023 as compared to steeper increases in years prior.
By the numbers: There were 656 mass shootings in 2023.
- That’s up from 647 mass shootings in 2022 but down from a record 689 in 2021, data from the research group shows.
- 2023 saw an 8-10% overall decrease in deaths and injuries from gun violence, per GVA. There were 42,987 gun violence deaths last year.
- That’s down from 47,430 the previous year.
Meanwhile, there were 36,366 injuries in 2023, down from 38,578 injuries in 2022.
Obviously, we’re going to take issue with using the Gun Violence Archive’s numbers. What most people think of as a mass shooting and how GVA defines them aren’t remotely similar and that leads people to a very skewed idea of what’s happening.
Yet there is a fairly decent database that we can use, and that’s from USA Today. They use a very different definition and track not just mass shootings but mass killings in general. They also differentiate between those inside the home and “public mass shootings,” which tend to be those we think of as mass shootings.
It’s no surprise that their numbers for mass shootings is far, far lower than GVA’s. They don’t count gang fights where no one actually dies, for example.
Yet they, too, found an increase in public mass shootings over 2022.
In 2022, there were a total of seven public mass shootings. That’s a far cry from any 656 claims, but this is a far narrower definition, one more in-line with how people think of such incidents.
Last year, however, there were 10 public mass shootings.
That’s a significant increase.
However, as the USA Today database notes that public mass shootings are only part of the story, we should mention that they also tally non-public mass shootings–those that take place in a home, for example–and other mass murders.
On that note, while public shootings might have been higher, the total number of mass killings stayed the same from 2022 to 2023.
Both years had 42 total mass killings. That’s still lower than the pre-pandemic high of 46 in 2019.
Now, it should be noted that non-public mass murders tend to be the result of different motivations to public mass killings. For example, non-public killings tend to be things like a man killing his wife and kids before turning the gun on himself and are often motivated by a weird desire to not leave them behind to deal with the fallout.
Mass shootings as we tend to think of them are motivated by rage, insanity, or a desire to be famous, if not a combination of these factors.
At least, that’s what we think motivates these people. We can’t get researchers to actually try and figure out what’s wrong with these people.
Regardless, they’re all different, and it would be dishonest to say otherwise.
Still, the numbers seem to suggest that overall “gun deaths” are down while mass shootings are still up.
That’s a little troubling, but they’re nowhere near as bad as GVA wants us to believe.