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Understanding The Scale Of Gun Violence In America

MICHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Now we want to get a better understanding of the scale of gun violence in America. For that, we've called Mark Bryant, director of the Gun Violence Archive. That's an independent online archive of gun violence incidents in the United States. And he's with us from Lexington, Ky.

Mark, thanks so much for joining us.

MARK BRYANT: Thank you for having me.

MARTIN: And I understand you are going to stay with us for at least a - the half hour to kind of help us understand the context of this, so we thank you for that. But let's just start with this week. I think a lot of people feel that this has been a particularly violent week. You've been tracking all known instances of gun violence in the United States since 2013, so what do you think? I mean, does this week stand out?

BRYANT: The last eight days really do. We've had four incidents of over 10 killed or injured, and that's unusual in an eight-day, 10-day period. We've had nine incidents over the last year and four of them in the last eight days.

MARTIN: And the archive home page keeps a list of statistics. And I do want to mention to people that this is available to the public. That's part of the purpose of your archives - so that the public can have sort of a shared set of facts here. It lists 253 total mass shootings in 2019 as of today. First of all, how do you define mass shooting? And secondly, how does this year compared to others so far?

BRYANT: Well, we define mass shootings as any incident where four or more victims are shot or killed. And we make that distinction because we believe that it's very important that we look at the injured as well as those killed. So anything that is four or more, that reaches that threshold - that's considered a mass shooting.

MARTIN: And comparing this year to last - and I don't want to use these numbers to sort of deemphasize the human cost, the pain of this, the - you know, just everything that this imposes on our society. But I think the facts do matter, so I just sort of want to emphasize that. We're not using these numbers to kind of take away from the enormity of this. But how does this year compare to other years so far?

BRYANT: I think as far as mass shooting's concerned, we're trending higher. Now, mass shootings only count for about 5% of the work that Gun Violence Archive does, so it's not a large amount. But 5% of - when you have people that are 10 or 12 or 20 or 30 or 40 people shot or killed, those start piling up.

MARTIN: Do we have any sense of why the lethality of these shootings seems to be increasing? Is it that people are using, as we heard from Dayton, this - the shooter there, the police have told us, had this large magazine, a double-drum magazine. They showed it to us. It had - it could hold up to 100 rounds. Is that - are people - what is happening here, that the lethality of these incidents seems to be increasing?

BRYANT: Well, because folks - AR-15s is a gun that a lot of hobbyists use and they build up like you build up a Jeep or you build up a hot-rod car or other hobbies. And one of the things that you do is as you build larger magazines into the system. And when you use them for nefarious purpose, they dump a lot of lead into a room very, very quickly. A hundred-round magazine literally will pull - will shoot as fast as you can pull your finger. You pull your finger a hundred times, that's maybe 10 seconds.

MARTIN: That's Mark Bryant, CEO of the Gun Violence Archive. As I mentioned, he's going to stay with me for the first half of this hour as we try to make sense of this week's mass shootings. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.


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