The rate of murder and manslaughter by firearms in the U.S. is the highest in the developed world, and about 40% of Americans say they own a gun or live in a household with one, according to a 2017 survey, the BBC reports. So, it’s probably not surprising, but still horrifying, that mass killings in the U.S. were the highest in 2019 than they have been in 40 years.
The Associated Press, USA Today, and Northeastern University compiled a database that shows there were more mass killings in 2019 than any year dating back to at least the 1970s.
Punctuated by a series of brutal mass murders over the summer, there was a total of 41 mass killings in 2019. For this database, mass killings were defined as four or more people killed, excluding the perpetrator. Of those, 33 were mass shootings. More than 210 people were killed in total.
The killings were the most in a single year since the AP, USA Today, and Northeastern database began tracking such events back to 2006, which had the second-most killings in a year with 38.
The 211 people killed in the mass murders in 2019 aren’t the largest number, however. The Las Vegas shooting of 2017, with 59 victims, remains the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history, and led to a total of 224 victims of mass killings that year.
The database also showed this isn’t a problem exclusive to big cities or small towns — it’s everywhere. Almost half of U.S. states have experienced a mass killing, from New York City to tiny towns like Elkmont, AL.
Yes, guns are part of the problem. In all but eight of the mass killings, guns were the weapon of choice. Other methods included knives, axes, and fire.
“What makes this even more exceptional is that mass killings are going up at a time when general homicides, overall homicides, are going down,” James Densley, a criminologist and professor at Metropolitan State University in Minnesota, told the Associated Press. “As a percentage of homicides, these mass killings are also accounting for more deaths.”
Densley feels the mass murders are partially due to the “angry and frustrated time” we live in. “This seems to be the age of mass shootings,” he said.