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For the third straight year, America hits grim milestone: 600-plus multiple victim shootings

The massacre at a Colorado Springs gay nightclub over the weekend continues the deadly and troubling trend.
People hold a vigil at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on Nov. 20, 2022, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
People hold a vigil at a makeshift memorial near Club Q on Sunday in Colorado Springs, Colo.Scott Olson / Getty Images

When the shooting was over and five bodies were removed from a Colorado gay bar that a gunman had turned into a killing zone, yet another sad statistic went into the books: This is the third straight year that there have been more than 600 multiple victim shootings in America.

The figure was recorded by The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks the spread of what has been called an American disease and which defines a mass shooting as a single incident in which at least four people — other than the person wielding the gun — are shot.

The deadly attack Saturday on Club Q in Colorado Springs was the 601st such incident in 2022, according to the group. The GVA includes any type of shooting in its analysis including domestic violence, shootings in private homes, gang violence among others.

When a shooter opened fire at Walmart Supercenter in Chesapeake, Virginia, on Tuesday night, killing six people, the number of multiple victim shootings climbed to 607.

“This is the third consecutive year and only the third time in GVA data history that the country has reached over 600 incidents with 4+ shot and/or killed,” the GVA tweeted.

The GVA recorded 610 multiple victim shootings in 2020 and 690 last year, when the pandemic was already easing and the pace of deadly violence increased across the United States. It has been keeping a tally of mass shootings since 2014, when it recorded 273.

“Same story, different year,” Christopher Herrmann, an assistant professor at the John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City, said. “Very sad.”

Lori Ann Post, director of the Buehler Center for Health Policy and Economics at the Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, uses a more conservative definition of mass shootings, which counts only incidents where four or more have been killed, not including the shooter and where the shooter goes to a place with the intent to kill as many people as possible. The GVA counts injuries and deaths in each incident.

But Post agrees that this kind of mass carnage has been on a rapid rise in the last three years.

“I fear we could get three more mass killings like this before the end of the year,” Post said, referring specifically to the attack on Club Q. “This was clearly a hate crime and these kinds of killings tend to happen in threes. One person will do one and inspire another.”

The experts weighed in on the same day that state prosecutors charged the suspect in the shooting with five counts of first-degree murder and five counts of bias-motivated crime-causing bodily injury. He was subdued by at least two people inside the club, but not before killing five people and wounding nearly two dozen more with a high-powered rifle, police said.

The carnage at Club Q, Herrmann said, echoed that of the 2016 massacre at Pulse in Orlando, Florida, a gay nightclub that became the setting for the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history.

The difference, Herrmann said, is that mass shootings, mostly by disgruntled men armed with deadly weapons, are much more common now than they were six years ago.

“Scary to think that in 2016 we recorded 382 mass shootings and now we will probably end 2022 with an estimated 680 mass shootings,” said Herrmann, who based his estimate on the fact that there has been an average of 13 mass shootings a week this year. “That would give you a 2016 to 2022 increase of 78%.”

As for the motivation, it’s not just bigotry that drives a person to commit a mass shooting, the experts said.

“I have observed a fair share of family disputes that turn into mass murder,” Herrmann said.

Post said we saw a dip in the number of mass shootings during the height of the pandemic as those responsible for these events went into lockdown with the rest of the country.

“They want and need attention,” Post said. “During Covid, the presidential election, during the various (former President) Donald Trump shenanigans, there was no oxygen left for mass shooters.”

This mass shooting hitting the LGBTQ community wasn't surprising to Sarah Kate Ellis, president of the civil rights group GLAAD, who said increasing anti-LGBTQ rhetoric is part of the reason her community has been “under attack.”

“We have been screaming from the tops of mountains of LGBTQ leadership that an environment like this is being created (to foster) violence against our community,” Ellis said on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe.”

report released in August by the Human Rights Campaign, the country’s largest LGBTQ rights group, and the nongovernmental organization Center for Countering Digital Hate found anti-LGBTQ rhetoric surged online earlier this year in the wake of the passage of Florida’s Parental Rights in Education law. Critics have dubbed it the “Don’t Say Gay” law.