The United States has surpassed 400 mass shootings in 2023, setting the stage for a record-breaking year in gun violence without any significant federal firearm legislation on the horizon.
America reached the grim figure by Saturday — the earliest in a year 400 shootings have been recorded since at least 2013, according to the Gun Violence Archive. Like CNN, the GVA — a non-profit group formed in 2013 to track gun-related violence — defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.
With five months remaining in 2023, the US has already eclipsed the number of mass shootings recorded each year from 2013 through 2018. Should the current pace continue, 2023 will see more mass shootings than in 2019 through 2022. The Gun Violence Archive started tracking these numbers in 2013.
In 2019, it took 356 days — nearly the entire year — to hit 400 mass shootings. This year and in 2021, however, the United States reached that marker in just seven months.
The rate of mass shootings in 2023 has consistently outpaced that of past years, with an average of nearly two mass shootings a day.
Nearly 1 in 5 US adults has had a family member killed by a gun, including homicides and suicides, according to a 2023 survey from KFF (formerly known as the Kaiser Family Foundation). About the same proportion of adults have been personally threatened with a gun, and about 1 in 6 adults has witnessed an injury from a shooting, the survey found.
“This is the only country in the world where men who are having breaks with reality exorcise their demons through mass slaughter,” Democratic Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut, who has made gun safety legislation central to his work following the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, told CNN earlier this year.
“We’re not the only place in the world with mental illness. We’re not the only place in the world where people are paranoid. But only in America are we so casual about access to weapons of mass destruction and only in America do we fetishize violence so much that we end up with all the mass shootings,” he added.
The US also reached 100, 200, and 300 mass shootings more quickly this year than any other year since 2013. One hundred shootings were recorded by March; 200 by May.
Behind the scenes, Biden administration officials have been developing ways in which the federal government can respond in the short- and long-term after a mass shooting, recognizing the physical, mental, and economic ramifications.
But following passage of last year’s bipartisan gun safety law there’s been little political momentum for more gun safety legislation, even as the rate of mass shootings has picked up.
Shootings meet stubborn divide
Research published this year suggests that the effects of mass shootings on mental health may extend beyond the survivors and their communities to a much broader population.
In the days after a school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, in May 2022, a mental health crisis line received a spike in messages that referenced grief, guns and other firearm-related terms, according to a study funded by the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The study did not track callers’ locations, but the Crisis Text Line — a non-profit organization offering free confidential crisis intervention — serves people nationwide.
In remarks at the National Safer Communities Summit in Connecticut last month, President Joe Biden delivered an impassioned speech arguing that he believes the movement has reached a “tipping point.”
“Whether we’re Democrats or Republicans, we all want families to be safe. We all want to drop them off at the house of worship, a mall, a movie, the school door without worrying that it’s the last time we’re ever going to see them. We all want our kids to have the freedom to learn, to read and to write instead of learning how to duck and cover in a classroom,” Biden said in remarks at the National Safer Communities Summit last month.
White House officials have been clear- eyed about the political realities Democrats face with the current makeup of Congress, where Republicans in control of the House of Representatives have rejected Biden’s calls for an assault weapons ban.
Even during the first two years of Biden’s term, when both chambers of Congress were controlled by Democrats, an assault weapons ban gained little traction, in part because of the 60-vote threshold needed to break a filibuster and advance bills through the Senate.
A uniquely American tragedy
tates with weaker gun laws have higher rates of gun deaths, including homicides, suicides and accidental killings, according to a study published in 2022 by Everytown for Gun Safety, a non-profit focused on gun violence prevention.
The political debate on gun control in America, though, is untethered from that data.
And gun violence is still rising. Per the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the firearm homicide rate was 8.3% higher in 2021 than it was in 2020. Firearm suicide rates among people 10 years old and older also increased by 8.3% from 2020 to 2021. And the percentage of homicides attributed to firearm injuries rose from 79% in 2020 to 81% — the highest percentage in more than 50 years.
Countries that have introduced laws to reduce gun-related deaths have seen significant progress, a previous, in-depth CNN analysis found:
Australia. Less than two weeks after Australia’s worst mass shooting, the federal government implemented a new program, banning rapid-fire rifles and shotguns, and unifying gun owner licensing and registrations across the country. In the next 10 years gun deaths in Australia fell by more than 50%. A 2010 study found the government’s 1997 buyback program — part of the overall reform — led to a drop in firearm suicide rates that averaged 74% over the five years that followed.
South Africa. Gun-related deaths dropped by almost half over a 10-year-period after new gun legislation, the Firearms Control Act, went into force in July 2004. The new laws made it much more difficult to obtain a firearm.
New Zealand. Gun laws were swiftly amended after the 2019 Christchurch mosque shootings. Just 24 hours after the attack, in which 51 people were killed, then-Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced that the country’s gun laws would change. New Zealand’s parliament voted almost unanimously to reform the country’s gun laws less than a month later, banning all military-style semi-automatic weapons.
Britain. [The country] tightened its gun laws and banned most private handgun ownership after a mass shooting in 1996, a move that saw gun deaths drop by almost a quarter over a decade.
But America’s relationship to guns is unique, and its gun culture is a global outlier. For now, the deadly cycle of violence seems unlikely to abate.
CNN’s Curt Merrill and Deidre McPhillips contributed to this report.