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Weekend Gun Violence Sparks Concerns in United States

Two people were killed and at least 30 injured in a spate of mass shootings over the weekend in the United States. The ongoing rise in gun violence has stirred up fears that a spike in shootings could continue into the summer as coronavirus restrictions ease and social gatherings become more common, the Associated Press reported.

In Austin, Texas, two men allegedly fired into a crowded pedestrian-only street packed with bars and restaurants in the early hours of Saturday morning. A 25-year-old man died from his injuries and more than a dozen others were injured, according to the AP. At least one suspect has been arrested, and an investigation is ongoing.

In Chicago, Illinois, a woman was killed and nine other people injured when two men opened fire on a group standing on a sidewalk. The shooters escaped and—as of Saturday—had not been identified.

In Savannah, Georgia, one man was killed and seven others wounded—including two children—in a mass shooting on Friday evening.

While U.S. shootings and homicides rose in 2020, many hoped that the spike was due to the unique conditions—pandemic-related stress, a rise in gun ownership, racial tensions, a debate over policing—and once stressors dissipated, so would the higher rates of violence. But unfortunately, that does not appear to be the case.

“There was a hope this might simply be a statistical blip that would start to come down,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive Research Forum, to the Associated Press. “That hasn’t happened. And that’s 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.”

Over Memorial Day weekend in late May, gunmen in South Florida sprayed bullets into crowds at two Miami venues, killing three people and injuring at least 20. Earlier in the weekend, a drive-by shooting in Miami killed one person and injured six.

While Florida does have a Red Flag Law—which enables law enforcement agencies to seek a judge’s order to seize the firearms of anyone shown to be a danger to themselves or others and hold them for a year—it often depends on other people to come forward with tips about a threat. A gunman who stalked and fatally shot a grandmother and her 1-year-old grandson in a Florida supermarket on 10 June had been threatening to kill people on his Facebook page, but no one reported him.

“He has said, ‘I want to kill people and children,’” said Palm Beach County Sheriff Ric Bradshaw at a press conference. “He’s got friends. Obviously, they saw that. His ex-wife said that he has been acting strange. He thinks he is being followed. He’s paranoid. Do you think a damn soul told us about that? No. If it sounds like I’m angry, I am.”

In early June, Miami-Dade County commissioners unanimously approved a proposal for a nearly $8 million plan to reduce gun violence, focusing on jobs for troubled teens and increasing funding for law enforcement, the Associated Press reported. Funds will also go to technology for law enforcement, including surveillance cameras, license-plate readers, and additional social media threat monitoring.

So far in 2021, there have been 17 mass killings (four or more people dead, not including the perpetrator), including 16 shootings. According to the Gun Violence Archive, there were around 600 mass shootings in 2020—higher than any of the previous six years. There have been at least 272 mass shootings in the United States this year.