Chesapeake. Colorado Springs. Highland Park. Uvalde. Buffalo.
The year 2022 is shaping up to be the worst year for mass shootings in decades, according to one metric, with a surge in violence in recent weeks pushing the tally beyond America’s already unparalleled levels.
According to a database maintained by Northeastern University, The Associated Press, and USA TODAY, there have been 36 mass shooting incidents in which four or more people were killed so far in 2022, surpassing the previous high set in 2019, when there were 33 such incidents. The number of victims this year is also the highest since at least 2006, with 185 people dead in mass shooting incidents.
And it’s only November.
While the United States tends to average about two mass killings a month, since October that pace has rapidly accelerated, with an average of about two mass killings per week, according to James Alan Fox, a Northeastern professor of criminology, law, and public policy who oversees the database. The vast majority of those mass killings are shootings.
In an interview with the Globe Wednesday, Fox cautioned against interpreting the spike as a definitive trend, saying that crime statistics are often lower the year following a surge.
Still, he acknowledged the troubling direction of the recent data.
“We’ve had a couple of really bad years,” he said. “Hopefully next year will be lower”
The database tracks all mass killings in the United States, which it defines as incidents with four or more victims killed. When accounting for all weapons, the number of mass killings is the second highest since at least 2006, with 40 incidents. The Gun Violence Archive, which includes nonfatal shootings in its count and thus has a much higher tally, has tracked 607 mass shooting incidents so far in 2022, lower than last year’s total of 690.
On Tuesday night, a manager at a Chesapeake, Va., Walmart opened fire in the store’s break room, killing six people. The shooting follows another deadly attack in Colorado over the weekend in which a gunman opened fire at gay nightclub, killing five before being subdued by a patron. A high-profile shooting in Virginia earlier this month that killed three University of Virginia football players is not included in the tally, which only counts incidents with four or more fatal victims — not including the assailant — as a “mass killing.”
The string of shootings this month came even as grief is still fresh in the communities of Uvalde, Texas, Buffalo, N.Y., and Highland Park, Ill. Dozens were killed in those locales earlier this year when shooters opened fire at an elementary school, a grocery store, and a Fourth of July parade, respectively.
Though mass shootings command enormous media attention, the Northeastern database makes clear that Americans are vastly more likely to experience gun violence at the hands of someone they know than from a stranger opening fire in a public location. Even in the cases of gun violence with multiple victims, the assailant is often a family member or intimate partner.
Private residences are the most common locations for mass killings, according to the data. In fact, deaths from public mass shootings make up fewer than one percent of all homicides, Fox said.
Still, mass shootings are a uniquely American phenomenon, as the country sees far more incidents than other developed countries. Those periodic onslaughts, where people are killed attending school, enjoying a night out, or shopping, wear on the psyche of citizens, according to Fox.
“It’s the public shootings that unnerve people because that can happen at any time, at any place, to anyone,” Fox said.