(AP) — Authorities say two people
were killed and at least 30 others were injured in overnight mass shootings
in three states, raising fears that a spike in gun violence
in the United States
will continue into the summer as coronavirus
restrictions relax and more people are free to socialize.
The attacks occurred in Austin
, Chicago, and Savannah, Georgia
, late Friday or early Saturday.
After a shooting early Saturday on a crowded pedestrian-only street packed with bars and restaurants
, authorities in Austin said they arrested one of two male suspects and were looking for the other. Fourteen people were injured, including two critically, in the gunfire, which the city's interim police
chief said began as a dispute between two parties.
In the other two shootings, no arrests had been reported as of late Saturday.
In Chicago, a woman was killed and nine others were injured when two men opened fire on a group of people standing on a sidewalk in the Chatham neighborhood on the city's South Side. The shooters also fled and had not been identified by mid-afternoon Saturday.
In the south Georgia city of Savannah, one man was killed and seven others were injured in a mass shooting Friday evening, according to police, with two of the injured being children
— an 18-month-old and a 13-year-old.
The shooting may be linked to an ongoing dispute between two groups, according to Savannah Police Chief Roy Minter, Jr.
, citing reports of gunshots fired earlier in the week at the same apartment complex.
“It’s very disturbing what we’re seeing across the country and the level of gun violence that we’re seeing across the country,” he told reporters on Saturday, adding, “It’s disturbing and it’s senseless.”
Many hoped that a spike in U.S. shootings and homicides last year was an aberration caused by pandemic-related stress amid a rise in gun ownership and debate over policing, but those rates are still higher than they were in previous years.
“There was a hope that this would simply be a statistical blip that would begin to decline,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research
Forum. “That hasn’t happened, and that is what really makes chiefs worry that we may be entering a new period where we will see a reversal of 20 years of declines in these crimes.”
Tracking ups and downs in crime is always difficult, but violent crime
typically rises during the summer months, with weekend evenings and early morning hours being popular times for shootings.
Many types of crime decreased in 2020 and have remained lower this year, implying that the pandemic, as well as the activism and unrest sparked by Floyd's death
, did not result in an overall increase in crime.
According to a database compiled by The Associated Press
, USA Today, and Northeastern University
, only three mass shootings occurred in public places in 2020, the fewest in a decade.
The database keeps track of all mass killings, including shootings, in which four or more people are killed, excluding the perpetrator.
According to that definition, 17 mass killings have occurred this year, with 16 of them being shootings, according to James Alan Fox, a criminologist and professor at Northeastern University.
The Gun Violence Archive, which tracks gun violence by monitoring media
and police reports, defines mass shootings as those involving four or more people who were shot, regardless of whether they died; according to its database, more than 8,700 people have died in the United States this year as a result of gun violence.
The GVA also discovered that mass shootings increased to around 600 in 2020, which was higher than in any of the previous six years it tracked the statistic. According to this year's count, there have been at least 267 mass shootings in the United States thus far, including the latest three overnight Friday into Saturday.
“It’s concerning,” Fox said. “We have a mix of people starting to go out in public. We have a lot of divisiveness. We have more guns and warm weather. It’s a potentially lethal combination.”
According to a database tracker, three mass shootings in public places in 2020 will equal the lowest annual total in a decade.