USA Today, January 2021
The end of the calendar year is routinely the time when journalists reflect on the political and social trends that emerged over the previous twelve months, including upward or downward swings in crime statistics.
So, what did 2020 signal in terms of our nation’s scourge of mass shootings, which some observers had described as an epidemic before attention shifted over to a pandemic of far deadlier proportions? With apologies to Charles Dickens, the answer is seemingly (but not actually) contradictory: It was the best of times; it was the worst of times. It was a tale of two databases.
The past year has seen the fewest number of mass shootings in over a decade, according to statistics from the Associated Press/USA Today/Northeastern University Mass Killing Database. Using the long-standing definition of four or more victims killed within a 24-hour time frame, there were 19 mass shootings in 2020, down from 32 the year before. Nearly half of the incidents involved family members. Several others were associated with ongoing criminal activity, such as gang conflict and drug trade.Only two mass shootings were the type that embody the perceptions and fears of Americans — an indiscriminate assault at a concert, restaurant, or other public setting. In this regard, 2020 had the fewest incidents since 2002.