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5 Major Shootings Last Week Align With Recent U.S. Gun Violence Trends

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

We're going to turn now to a subject that is, unfortunately, a part of our lives in the United States, and that is gun violence. This holiday week was no different. There were five high-profile shootings this week in Chicago, Denver, St. Louis and Philadelphia and, Thanksgiving night, in Birmingham, Ala. And that seems extraordinary, but we wondered if it is. So we decided to consult the Gun Violence Archive. It's a nonprofit group formed in 2013 to provide accurate up-to-date information about gun violence in America. Mark Bryant, the executive director, is with us now to tell us more. Mr. Bryant, thanks so much for speaking with us.

MARK BRYANT: Thank you.

MARTIN: So this seems like a shocking number, five major shootings in just the last week that we know of, three of them being mass shootings. And mass shootings means at least four or more victims. But is this actually unusual?

BRYANT: It really is not. We are trending toward the same approximate number of 340 shootings where four or more people were injured or killed over the last five years.

MARTIN: According to your group's research, there have been 318 mass shootings so far in 2018. And does that number tell us something about the prevalence of gun violence in this country?

BRYANT: Well, I think two things are happening. I think it's that - we're having a consistent number of shootings, but we're having more high-profile public shootings. When Columbine happened, it was a absolute staggering number. And, now, 13 is not really - sadly, not really a large number when we're looking at large public shootings.

MARTIN: And you notice a couple of things that happened this week. For example, in Chicago, this was an emergency room, and it started out as two people who knew each other, apparently. One person was the target. But, then, for whatever reason, the shooter decided to kill other people as well. In Thanksgiving night, in Birmingham, we don't know the complete circumstances, but, you know, a shopping mall, for example. It's a crowded shopping mall on a holiday. That's certainly kind of a public event. Does the data indicate whether some statement is being made by people choosing these kinds of locations?

BRYANT: I honestly don't believe that we can glean that kind of an assumption. They're actually an outlier. Mostly, what we see at Gun Violence Archives (ph), mass shootings only account for 1 percent of the incidents, and they only account for about 4 percent of the total number of victims. So what we see is that they get a lot more attention. And I think it's good that they get attention, but I think they maybe get outsized attention. And we're seeing more of them, so we're getting more attention more often.

MARTIN: Is there any other trend in the data that you'd want to point out to us?

BRYANT: For mass shootings, we really don't see any trends other than we're seeing more AR-15s with magazines, with extended magazines. So we will see guns that normally would have a 20- or 30-round magazine that has up to a hundred rounds. So that's the trend that we're seeing.

MARTIN: So, finally, does your data point to solutions for how this country can address the problem of gun violence? That's assuming that people agree that this is unacceptable. Does your data point to any particular direction of policy?

BRYANT: If I were looking at how to quickly reduce mass shootings, the large number of shootings - the Pulse, the Las Vegas, the Sutherland Springs shooting - reducing the size of magazines and rifles and pistols would be the fastest way to do it because when you're having an adrenaline dump, when you're having a stressful situation, when you're - in shooting someone, your motor skills change. And if you have not had a tremendous amount of practice, changing magazines is the vulnerable part of your shooting. And that's the time people can escape, or that's the time somebody can stop the shooter.

MARTIN: That was Mark Bryant, the executive director of Gun Violence Archive. Mr. Bryant, thank you so much for talking to us.

BRYANT: Well, thank you for having me. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.