A gunman opened fire on a congressional baseball practice in Virginia on Wednesday morning, wounding at least five people, including Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.), a Republican staffer and a pair of Capitol Hill police officers. The shooter was reportedly killed during the incident.
Apart from the setting ― a tony neighborhood in Alexandria, Virginia, just outside of Washington D.C.― and the high-profile targets, the episode was sadly not all that remarkable. It was the 153rd mass shooting of the year, in just 165 days, according to a tally by the Gun Violence Archive, a not-for-profit organization that tracks shootings across the country. Hours later, the 154th appeared to be unfolding in San Francisco.
Mass shootings have only rarely made national headlines in 2017, but they are so far outpacing the rate seen in recent years.
Many of these incidents inflict more carnage than Wednesday’s shooting. Last week in Orlando, Florida, a gunman entered his former workplace and killed five employees, before turning the weapon on himself. The shooting attracted minimal media coverage at the time.
Although mass shootings often serve as a catalyst for broader discussions about guns, they are just a small piece of the much bloodier tapestry of gun violence in the U.S.
Gun Violence Archive has verified nearly 7,000 gun deaths so far this year, not including suicides, as well as more than 13,000 injuries. The overwhelming majority of this bloodshed passes without much publicity outside of local news.
Even Alexandria isn’t immune to the violence. A shooting at hotel there last month left one dead and two injured. It was the city’s first homicide of the year.
The number of mass shootings in the U.S. has become an increasingly heated point of debate over the past few years, as they’ve become more frequent.
The FBI doesn’t have an official definition of “mass shooting,” and there are disagreements over how to count them. The Gun Violence Archive defines mass shootings as incidents in which four or more people are shot (injured or killed) in a single event, at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.
Other sources like Mother Jones use a narrower definition. To be considered a mass shooting under the outlet’s guidelines, the perpetrator, or in rare cases perpetrators, must kill at least four people in a single location, usually a public place. Mother Jones also excludes most crimes that are primarily related to gang activity, armed robbery or domestic violence. Using their definition, there have been four mass shootings so far this year. Wednesday’s incidents are not among them.