A mass killing is defined as an event in which four or more people are killed by gunfire, not including the shooter. The mass killing that happened in Allen, Texas on May 6 is the twenty-second mass killing of 2023. It killed eight people and put America on track to surpass the total number of mass killings from 2022. Last year, we had a total of 36 mass killings and at least 186 deaths. At this point in the year, one year ago, we’d only had eight mass killings. So far, with less than half of the year over, we’ve had 22 mass killings that have collectively caused at least 115 deaths. If this trend continues for the rest of the year, we will have the highest number of mass killings since 2006, when the data on these incidents started being tracked. The shooting that recently took place is the third mass killing in Texas of the year. In 2022, Texas recorded six mass killings in total, surpassing any other state.
The Allen gunman killed eight people and wounded seven with an AR-15-style rifle and handgun. It is currently still unknown how he obtained the gun. The Pentagon has confirmed that the gunman had been discharged from the Army for mental health reasons in 2008. So far, police suspect that the motive was ideology. This mass killing comes right on the heels of another one, also in Texas. Bare]\ly a week ago, on April 28, a man killed five people in Cleveland, Texas with an AR-15 style weapon.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) told Fox News that his priority in response to mass killings has been to address mental health crises instead of tightening gun restrictions. He has long been a defender of gun rights and does not support measures like expanding gun buyer background checks, raising the minimum age to buy a firearm or flagging people who could be a danger to themselves. Instead, he has voiced support for finding ways to further penalize people who possess guns illegally, alongside putting more money into mental health programs. In response to the most recent shooting, Abbott has said “We are working to address that anger and violence by going to its root cause, which is addressing the mental health problems behind it. People want a quick solution. The long-term solution here is to address the mental health issue.”
While mental health is an important part of the gun problem, gun control activists argue that equally important are things like background checks and banning assault weapons. Assault weapons have become the weapon of choice for mass killings because of their dangerous features that make them uniquely good at facilitating mass shootings.
The state of Washington just banned the sale of assault weapons on April 25, joining nine other states. WA is banning the sale of assault weapons while allowing people already in possession of them to continue owning them. Currently, there are no restrictions in place that would make somebody surrender their assault weapon. However, in Texas, buying assault weapons is still legal. In fact, Texas is generally perceived as having some of the most lax gun laws in the U.S. The state does not require background checks for private sales of firearms and has no laws regarding possession of a firearm, regardless of age. Those who disapprove of gun control argue that banning assault weapons is an unnecessary, unconstitutional measure that would keep Americans from being able to protect themselves and fail to stop mass shootings from happening.
In 1994, Congress passed a 10-year ban on assault weapons, and a 2019 study found that this ban decreased the likelihood of mass-shooting fatalities by 70%. While this expired in 2004, President Biden has said that he would reinstate this ban. Gun rights activists maintain their opinion that this would infringe on the Second Amendment.
While public shootings are a worry for many Americans, the good news is that these are fairly rare events statistically. In 2022, 23 of 36 mass killings took place in residences. This year, 15 of the 22 have been in residences. However, when gun violence is constantly in the news, it can put Americans on edge and make them feel like they need to constantly take their guns with them when they leave the house. It could also scare people with no previous experience with guns into going out, buying them and carrying them everywhere. This cycle only increases the risk of gun violence, a problem that America has contended with for decades with no clear end in sight yet.