Fourth of July mass shootings increased over the past three years, group says

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(WASHINGTON) — Mass shootings are becoming more frequent during a holiday typically known for fireworks and barbecues, according to a nonprofit that tracks shootings.

There were 80 total mass shootings over the past three years between July 1-7, said Mark Bryant, the executive director of the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), a nonprofit which tracks shootings in the United States.

The GVA defines a “mass shooting” as a shooting that kills or injures four or more people not including the shooter.

There were 25 mass shootings over the July 4th week in 2021, 27 during that week in 2022 and 28 in 2023.

In Hayward, California, on July 4, 2023, a fight escalated between two groups of people in a crowded area where 4th of July celebrations take place — shots rang out and the shooting left six victims injured, according to police. All were eventually released from the hospital, according to local police.

A day later in the nation’s capital, a drive-by shooting in the city’s Northeast quadrant left nine people injured, including two children, according to the Metropolitan Police Department.

“What happens around the fourth is you have more gatherings, you have more heat, you have more agitate, and this is the big one, and I think this is what’s going to keep causing the numbers to go up, you have anger and proximity to weapons,” Bryant told ABC News.

Steve Casstevens, who retired as chief of police in Buffalo Grove, Illinois, and served as a past president for the International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) told ABC News the increase in shootings during the Fourth of July “happens every year.”

“On one side of it when you look at whether it’s family gatherings, so that’s one thing, you’re mixing that heat of July 4 weekend typically, and alcohol and sometimes a gathering of people who dislike each other. And then guns come out,” he said. “The other style is the mass gatherings of parades and parties so you’ve got situations like the Highland Park shooting couple of years ago, you’ve got a mass gathering of people. So many of these mass shootings over the years, the perpetrators are looking for an opportunity for mass gatherings.”

Casstevens urges people to say something to law enforcement if someone looks suspicious.

“During the large public gatherings, whether it’s parades and festivals and stuff like that. It’s just so easy for people to become complacent,” he said. “Just be aware. When you’re walking around and it’s 97 degrees out and some guys walking beside you with a long leather jacket, well, that’s what we call an indicator, that’s abnormal.”

In those mass shooting incidents, like the Highland Park, Illinois, shooting, there are indicators and warning signs that the FBI is trying to be proactive about before something happens, according to the head of the FBI’s Behavioral Analysis Unit.

“We know that these offenders that go on to commit these the mass attacks follow, a lot of times a very specific pathway, a very specific trajectory,” Dr. Karie Gibson, the unit chief of the BAU, told ABC News.

The FBI has a website which launched in May that is aimed at preventing mass shootings and alerting of indicators that someone could be headed down the pathway to violence.

Certain indicators, according to the FBI, are concerning jokes or comments, an interest in previous mass shootings and troublesome interactions with others.

“There has to be involvement before somebody has broken the law or before a crime has been committed. And so with this campaign, it’s really highlighting the importance of the bystanders and how important it is for them to come forward, the significant role that they have,” Gibson said.

The FBI urges people to contact their local field office. Sometimes, an arrest or law enforcement action is not even necessary.

“Many people don’t realize that law enforcement has a proactive prevention arm to deal with individuals that are on that pathway to violence, to deal with mitigating this targeted violence that we face,” Gibson said.

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