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Three days of gun violence in America


Three people were killed and 11 injured in Philadelphia last night, when multiple people started shooting into a crowd of typical Saturday night revelers on South Street. This incident qualified as a news story because of the level of carnage, but the overwhelming majority of incidents of gun violence in the USA are lucky to even make the local news, since they are common to the point of banality.

The Gun Violence Archive is an Internet site that is trying to do something about that, by compiling statistics on gun violence in America, not counting suicides committed with guns, which account for tens of thousands of deaths every year, but which are very difficult to track on a daily basis (About half of all suicides are impulsive rather than planned, so the relative availability of guns is a huge factor in the suicide rate).

From the archive, we learn that there were 3,443 mass shootings in America between 2014 and 2021. The site defines a mass shooting as one in which four or more people are shot, not counting the shooter or shooters, which seems like an odd choice to me — shooters who are shot or shoot themselves are victims of gun violence too. But I suppose shooters have to be excluded because of our Ethos of Personal Responsibility requires it.

That’s an average of more than one per day, and the trend is sharply upward, moving from 272 mass shootings in 2014 to 692 last year.

But mass shootings themselves are a small subset of shootings in general. For instance, the archive reports 82 shootings — again this doesn’t include suicides or suicide attempts — in the last 72 hours, of which only two qualify as mass shootings. In addition to the Philadelphia story, five teenagers were shot at a high school graduation party in El Paso last night, which doesn’t even count as a news story unless you live in El Paso, because none of them have died yet.

Overall, 30 people died in the course of these incidents, while more than 100 were injured. That’s in the last three days, which were completely ordinary days in America.

On a grimly related note, one of the strangest things that’s happened in American politics over the past quarter century is that we’ve moved from a wildly undemocratic system of governance that required 50 votes to pass legislation in the Senate, to an even more extreme version of anti-democracy that requires 60 votes to pass anything in the Senate that Republicans want to block. (Republicans don’t want to block tax cuts or GOP judicial nominations, so those things still only require 50 votes). Thus the 1994 assault weapons ban passed with 52 votes in the Senate, because it hadn’t been discovered yet that our Ancient and Sacred Traditions of Governance require 60 Senate votes to pass anything Republicans don’t want to pass.

It’s a sad comment on the fecklessness of our political media that this absolutely massive change in the basic governance structure of the nation has gone as unremarked as almost all of the dozens of shootings in this country in the past three days.

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