Posted on March 24, 2022

Nine Mass Shootings

David Leonhardt, New York Times, March 23, 2022

Many crime experts define a mass shooting as an event in which four or more people are shot. Last weekend, there were a shocking number of them — at least nine — across the U.S.

In Norfolk, Va., an argument outside a pizzeria led to a shooting that killed two people, including a 25-year-old newspaper reporter who was a bystander. In the farming community of Dumas, Ark., a gunfight broke out at an annual car show, killing one person and injuring 27. In downtown Austin, Texas, four people suffered gunshot wounds during the final weekend of the SXSW festival.

The burst of weekend violence continues a trend that began almost two years ago, early in the Covid-19 pandemic, and shows no signs of easing, as my colleagues Tim Arango and Troy Closson report. Murders have risen more than 30 percent since 2019, recent data suggests. They are still far below the levels of the 1970s, ’80s and early ’90s but have reached the highest point in more than two decades.

“We can’t endure this anymore, we just simply can’t,” Dan Gelber, the mayor of Miami Beach, said after two shootings last weekend led the city to impose a midnight curfew.

What explains the crime wave? There is no fully satisfying answer, but experts point to several plausible partial explanations. They include: Social isolation and frustration caused by the pandemic. A sense of lawlessness stemming from police violence (like the murder of George Floyd). Police officers’ timidity in response to recent criticism of them. And a rise in gun sales during the pandemic.


The closest thing that I have heard to a persuasive answer comes from history. Criminologists and historians who have studied past crime waves — like Gary LaFree, Richard Rosenfeld and Randolph Roth — point out that they often occur when people are feeling frustrated with society, government and their fellow citizens. This frustration can feed a breakdown in societal norms and a rise in what the sociologist Émile Durkheim called “anomie.”