On the morning of Wednesday, June 14, a gunman opened fire on a baseball field in Alexandria, Virginia, at a congressional baseball game practice. Reports suggest that five people were shot in the attack — including House Majority Whip Steve Scalise, lobbyist Matt Mika, and two members of Scalise's security team — although mercifully, there haven't been any reports of deaths yet. The grisly, high-profile incident in Alexandria follows a dire trend of mass shootings, marking the 154th such attack in America in 2017 alone.
Given the U.S.'s status as the gun violence capital of the developed world, acts of political violence have a much bigger reach in the news than random acts of violence do. It's worth noting that the motivations (if any) behind the attack have not yet been determined by law enforcement, so it's too early to say whether the GOP congresspeople were targeted for being politicians, or Republicans, or whether politics entered into the gunman's thought process at all.
But when you run the numbers, as the Washington Post noted on Wednesday morning, it becomes clear that while a potential act of political violence is hugely worrisome, these kinds of acts of mass violence are terribly common. In fact, according to the Gun Violence Archive, the GOP baseball shooting marking the 154th mass shooting incident in the United States in 2017 lags just a bit behind one shooting per day so far.
The pace of the mass shootings is slightly less than what it was in 2016, when a total of 384 mass shootings took place, according to the Gun Violence Archive. To be clear, the Gun Violence Archive defines “mass shooting” as any incident in which four or more people are shot, not including the shooter, regardless of whether any of them are killed. Under certain federal definitions, deaths are a prerequisite for the “mass shooting” label, although many observers and outside groups believe that to be a misleading standard.
The current 2017 pace, assuming it continues as it so far has, would make this year a slightly less violent one for mass shootings than 2016, but only barely. Not to mention, summer months sometimes see spikes in gun violence, meaning that the pace could pick up as temperatures rise.
In the case of the GOP baseball shooting, there’s an added dimension of the victims being elected representatives. This marks the first time a national politician has been fired upon since the nearly fatal shooting of former Arizona Representative Gabrielle Giffords in 2011, and from the sounds of things, it’s already causing some lawmakers to consider additional security measures.
It’s also worth noting that two potential Democratic political candidates have abandoned their intentions to run in recent weeks, citing death threats made against them. And with this latest shooting in Alexandria, the political climate appears to be going down a dangerous path.