Four of the deadliest mass shootings in modern American history took place in 2018: at high schools in Florida and Texas, a bar in California, and a synagogue in Pennsylvania.“Deadliest Mass Shootings in Modern US History Fast Facts,” CNN, updated December 15, 2018.
Different organizations define what constitutes a “mass shooting” differently, but no matter how they are counted, the numbers for 2018 are horrifying.Kevin Schaul, “The Number of ‘Mass Shootings’ in the U.S. Depends on How You Count,” Washington Post, December 4, 2015.
The Gun Violence Archive, which counts all incidents in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter, tracked 340.Gun Violence Archive (GVA), “Past Summary Ledgers.” For how the GVA defines “mass shootings,” see GVA, “General Methodology.”
This year, victims of gun violence rallied. After the February mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, its young survivors refused to allow the news cycle to move on. Lisa Marie Segarra, Katie Reilly, Eli Meixler, and Jennifer Calfas, “Sheriff's Office Had Received about 20 Calls Regarding Suspect: The Latest on the Florida School Shooting,” Time, February 18, 2018; and “March for Our Lives Highlights: Students Protesting Guns Say ‘Enough Is Enough,’” New York Times, March 24, 2018. In March, they organized “March for Our Lives,” drawing hundreds of thousands of protestors to Washington, DC.“March for Our Lives Highlights,” 2018. Another more than 800 associated protests spanned the globe, with the student organizers delivering powerful speeches calling for action, legislation, and protection.“March for Our Lives Highlights,” 2018. One image stood out: that of teen Parkland survivor Emma González silently weeping at the podium as a timer ran for six minutes and 20 seconds, forcing those watching to confront the amount of time it took to end 17 lives.“March for Our Lives Highlights,” 2018.
The year saw three more high profile mass shootings.“Deadliest Mass Shootings,” 2018. In May, 10 were killed—eight students and two teachers—when a 17-year-old student opened fire in an art classroom in Santa Fe, Texas, a suburb of Houston.For the shooting, see Brittney Martin, Mark Berman, Joel Achenbach, and Amy B. Wang, “‘Overwhelming Grief’: 8 Students, 2 Teachers Killed in Texas High School Shooting,” Washington Post, May 20, 2018. For the aftermath and victims’ names, see Amir Vera, “These are the Victims of the Santa Fe High School Shooting,” CNN, May 22, 2018. On October 27, 11 people were killed at Pittsburgh’s Tree of Life Synagogue during morning Shabbat services, believed to be the deadliest attack against the U.S. Jewish community in history.Dakin Andone, Jason Hanna, Joe Sterling, and Paul P. Murphy, “Hate Crime Charges Filed in Pittsburgh Synagogue Shooting that Left 11 Dead,” CNN, October 29, 2018; and Tom Winter, Dennis Romero, and Saphora Smith, “How a Deadly Shooting Unfolded at Tree of Life Synagogue in Pittsburgh,” NBC News, October 28, 2018. Prosecutors filed hate crime charges against the shooter, who had made anti-Semitic statements during the shooting and on social media.Andone, et al., “Hate Crime Charges Filed,” 2018. Less than two weeks later, 12 more people were killed when a 28-year-old man opened fire at the Borderline Bar & Grill in Thousand Oaks, California.Faith Karimi, Jason Hanna, Joe Sutton, and Steve Almasy, “Thousand Oaks Bar Patrons Scrambled in Fear as Gunman Killed 12,” CNN, November 9, 2018.
Congress took no action on gun control during 2018, but both Democrat- and Republican-controlled state legislatures did: 26 states and Washington, DC, enacted 69 laws that restricted access to firearms, triple the number in 2017.Maggie Astor and Karl Russell, “After Parkland, a New Surge in State Gun Control Laws,” New York Times, December 14, 2018. Nine states, however, expanded gun rights.Astor and Russel, “After Parkland,” 2018. The Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, which monitors firearm legislation, tracked 1,638 firearm bills nationwide in 2018.Allison Anderman, Gun Law Trendwatch: 2018 Year-End Review (San Francisco, CA: Giffords Law Center, 2018).