Jan 9, 2024 - Politics & Policy

Mass shootings increased while gun violence deaths dropped in 2023

A crowd gathers during a candlelight vigil honoring the victims of the Lewiston shootings in Maine on Nov. 2, 2023. Photo: Craig F. Walker/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

There was an average of 118 deaths per day due to gun violence last year, according to new data from the research group Gun Violence Archive.

The big picture: The data, which reflects the prevalence of gun violence in the U.S., shows a slight increase in mass shootings from 2022 to 2023 as compared to steeper increases in years prior.

By the numbers: There were 656 mass shootings in 2023.

  • That's up from 647 mass shootings in 2022 but down from a record 689 in 2021, data from the research group shows.
  • 2023 saw an 8-10% overall decrease in deaths and injuries from gun violence, per GVA. There were 42,987 gun violence deaths last year.
  • That's down from 47,430 the previous year.

Meanwhile, there were 36,366 injuries in 2023, down from 38,578 injuries in 2022.

Context: The Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as a situation in which at least four people are shot and either injured or killed, not including the shooter.

  • Data from the group shows a mostly steady incline in mass shootings from 2014, when there were 272 mass shootings.
  • The record since then was set in 2021 with 689 mass shootings.
  • The number of gun violence deaths has also shot up from 12,356 in 2014. There were nearly quadruple as many deaths in 2021 and 2022, with each year seeing more than 47,300 deaths.

Of note: Some of the deadliest shootings in U.S. history have occurred in the past decade, like the 2017 Las Vegas shootings that left 60 people dead and more than 850 injured.

What they're saying: Experts say there are various explanations as to why mass shootings have increased over the last decade.

  • Douglas Kellner, a professor of education at UCLA, attributes the high number of mass shootings to "an out-of-control gun culture."
  • "There are progressively more guns in circulation all the time so there are more killings," he told Axios.
  • David Hemenway, professor of health policy at the Harvard School of Public Health, told Axios that mass shootings "seem to be contagious."

What's happening: "They are in the news, so it becomes something that more people may contemplate actually committing," Hemenway said.

  • He also explained that there are more guns and more lethal ones readily available to almost anyone.

The bottom line: "As mass shootings have been increasing, we as a country have done little to prevent them from occurring," Hemenway said.

  • Repeated attempts to pass gun control laws have failed in Congress.
  • In fact, state legislators around the country have passed more laws expanding gun access than they have gun control measures in the year since the Uvalde, Texas, mass shooting that left 19 children and two teachers dead, Axios' Russell Contreras and Erin Davis found.

Go deeper:

Go deeper