MS Risk Blog

US Gun Violence

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How the July 4 2023 shootings exemplify why national holidays and public celebrations are a prime target for mass shootings and how global warming is adding to this problem.

Gun violence and mass shootings have been commonplace across the United States throughout 2023. Public holidays such as New Year’s Day and Thanksgiving are considered the most dangerous days for these shootings. The most dangerous of these holidays for mass shootings is the Fourth of July celebrations. This year there were sixteen mass shootings that occurred over the 30 June-5 July period resulting in twenty people killed and one hundred and twenty-six injured. These shootings have demonstrated further why public holidays are extremely dangerous in America and have become more common in recent years. These shootings present both a danger to the public and put a strain on the police force. Common celebrations such as birthday and house parties have also shown to be prime targets for gun violence in the US. On 23 April 2023, a shooting at an after-prom party resulted in eleven teenagers injured. This was the second shooting to occur that month with a mass shooting a week prior at a sweet sixteen party resulting in four dead and twenty-eight injured. Mass shootings at schools, shopping malls and churches have also occurred across America, though they are less common than shootings during celebrations, suggesting the need for an increased focus on security and monitoring the relationship between celebrations and gun violence. The increase in mass shootings in America over the last twenty years suggest that there may be some correlation between global warming and an increase in shootings.

The sixteen shootings from the 30 June-5 July were the largest amount of mass shootings that occurred within a one-week period so far in 2023. James Alan Fox, a criminologist in Northeastern University, using data from the Gun Violence Archive, found that there had been fifty-two shootings during Fourth of July celebrations over the last decade. This averages at just over five a year. Making the shootings during this year’s Fourth of July celebrations the worst in the last decade. Researchers and analysts, such as Jaclyn Schildkraut, executive director of the Regional Gun Violence Research Consortium at the Rockefeller Institute of Government, have attributed the increase in violence to large groupings in open spaces as well higher temperatures. It is likely that part of the reason this year’s violence was at such a high level was due to the increase in temperatures caused by the current wildfires occurring in Canada and the increase in global temperature. The trend of shootings occurring during public holidays appears to extend towards common celebrations such as birthday parties or prom/after-prom events. Two shootings occurred within one week of each other in April resulting in four dead and thirty-nine injured. Whilst there are no specific statistics available that indicate a connection between shootings and common celebratory events, the number of shootings occurring during these events in comparison to mass shootings occurring at schools, shopping malls, and churches are comparatively less common. Therefore, the common occurrence of such instances as well as the significant number of shootings that occur during public holidays indicate a need for research between mass shootings and small-scale parties.

The gradual increase in global temperature over the last decade, as well as more recently the Canadian wildfires which have further increased the temperature, can also be attributed as a cause for the Fourth of July mass shootings and the increase in shootings over this year. Data from the FBI shows that the number of mass shootings has increased from three incidents in 2000 to sixty-one incidents in 2021. Similarly, the global surface temperature for the U.S. has been increasing over the last twenty years, albeit with slight fluctuations. Nine of the top ten warmest years on record for forty-eight states have occurred since 1998, with 2012-2021 being the warmest decade on record world-wide since recordings began. Side-by-side these statistics show a correlation between an average increase in shootings alongside an increase in temperature. Whilst there are other attributing human factors that affect the occurrence of mass shootings, we are likely to see an increase in mass shootings as global warming continues to be an issue and temperatures rise.

Overall, the Fourth of July shootings demonstrate that celebratory events are prime targets for mass shootings, therefore increased surveillance and security need to be implemented during these events to counter this. The increase in temperatures caused by global warming, and subsequent disasters due to it such as the Canadian wildfires, will increase the likelihood of these shootings, causing more to happen during these events.