US & World

Weekend Shootings In Texas And Wisconsin Add To Tally Of U.S. Gun Deaths

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a shooting Sunday in Austin. Police said three people were killed.
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a shooting Sunday in Austin. Police said three people were killed.
Jim Vertuno/AP

Three people were killed in a shooting in the Great Hills neighborhood of Austin on Sunday, police said.

Austin police said that while the suspect remains at large, the shooting appears to be a "domestic situation" and poses no risk to the general public. However, the police did urge residents to shelter in place.

Interim Austin Police Chief Joe Chacon told reporters the three victims were two women and a man.

"Obviously this is a tragedy. We have people who have lost their lives here," Chacon said, according to the Austin American-Statesman. "We'll do our best ... to get this person in custody ... and hopefully with no more loss of life."

It was the second shooting with multiple fatalities in the U.S. on Sunday.

Three others died in a shooting overnight Sunday at a college bar in Kenosha, Wis.; two more were injured. Police there described the attack as "targeted and isolated" and have said that they don't believe that there is an ongoing threat to the community.

The incidents follow several other recent mass shootings in the United States.

A Thursday attack in Indianapolis left eight dead and several others injured. Motive there has yet to be determined. A former FedEx employee is alleged to have killed several people at one of the company's facilities, four of whom were members of the Sikh faith.

Members of the Indianapolis area Sikh community joined with that city's mayor and hundreds of other residents at a vigil Saturday to honor the dead and push for gun regulation overhauls.

Other high-profile mass shootings happened in Boulder, Colo., and Atlanta in March. Other shootings with at least four deaths in just the last 30 days occurred in Rock Hill, S.C., Allen, Texas, Orange, Calif., and Essex, Md., according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The United States has a much higher rate of gun violence than most of its global peers.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a total of at least 19,394 people lost their lives due to gun violence in 2020. Including suicides, that number jumps to 43,550 people.

As of Sunday, the group tallied at least 5,517 non-suicide deaths in 2021, on track for a similar total to 2020.

The country as a whole saw about a 25% increase in non-suicide gun deaths in 2020 over 2019, though some places such as New York saw a much more pronounced increase.

Dr. Sonali Rajan of the Columbia Scientific Union for the Reduction of Gun Violence told NPR in January that one of the things that could have played a role in the increase was a diversion of public health resources due to the pandemic. She said that led to "violence interrupters, social programs and support services not being as readily available."

Another possible cause: the uptick in gun sales. 2020 marked the best year for gun sales ever.

The rush for firearms began with the first coronavirus lockdowns and continued through the summer's racial justice protests. At least 20 million guns were sold legally, up from about 12.4 million in 2019.

Experts, though, say that it can be a challenge to isolate any single cause, particularly during the pandemic with mass unemployment and closed schools.

Washington's capacity for a legislative response to gun violence remains limited. Though Democrats control both chambers of Congress and are broadly in favor of more stringent gun control legislation, their ability to get legislation through the Senate would require cooperation of at least 10 Republican senators to overcome an inevitable filibuster — something that has essentially no chance of happening on a gun bill.

While some Republican lawmakers support limited action on popular reforms including universal background checks for gun purchases, disagreement within the caucus and the party's perilous primary politics makes compromise legislation vanishingly unlikely.

Earlier this month, President Biden took a number of solo steps aimed at reducing gun violence via executive policy.

Those include a Justice Department effort to "help stop the proliferation" of so-called ghost guns, which can be assembled at home from kits and contain no serial numbers. As NPR reported, Biden wants to require serial numbers on certain parts and require buyers to undergo background checks.

The Justice Department will also issue an annual report on firearms trafficking, updating the last one from more than two decades ago. And the department has been directed to draft rules regulating stabilizing braces that make pistols more stable and accurate.

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