As the long Fourth of July weekend drew to a close, a final spasm of gun violence close to midnight left four people dead and seven others wounded at an outdoor party in Shreveport, La., following earlier shootings in Philadelphia, Baltimore, Fort Worth and other cities.
All told, the shootings left at least 15 people dead, and injured more than 50 others. Among those killed was a 7-year-old boy in Tampa, Fla., whose grandfather was trying to shield him from bullets fired by two groups who were arguing over someone recklessly driving a jet ski, the police said.
None of this was particularly unusual for the holiday that marks the birth and independence of the United States, at least in recent years. The period from June 30 to July 7 has seen about a dozen mass shootings every year since at least 2014, according to the Gun Violence Archive.
Gun violence tends to increase during the summer months. And while the reasons have been the subject of debate among criminologists, some speculate that, in a country bristling with weapons, more people gathering for parties and barbecues may lead to more disputes that result in deadly gunfire.
“During summer months, people are getting together in ways they aren’t in colder months,” said Natasha C. Pratt-Harris, an associate professor and past coordinator of the criminal justice program in the Sociology Department at Morgan State University in Baltimore, where two people were killed and 28 others were wounded at a holiday block party on Sunday.
While access to guns does not change in the summer, the opportunity to use them does.
“Individuals who have conflict with one another — be they teenagers or adults — when they come together at block parties or other events, it could be a crime of opportunity,” said Johnny Rice II, chairman and associate professor of criminal justice at Coppin State University in Baltimore.
In Shreveport, officers responded to a report of shots fired shortly before midnight on Tuesday after at least one person opened fire at a gathering of about 100 people in the northwest section of the city, Sgt. Angie Willhite of the Shreveport police said on Wednesday.
Two people were pronounced dead at the scene, a third died at a hospital, and the police discovered another body in a nearby field on Wednesday morning, Sergeant Willhite said. All four were adults.
A motive for the shooting was not immediately clear and no arrests had been made. Sergeant Willhite said the police found rifle shell casings at the scene, but it was unclear whether the casings were from the same gun.
Sergeant Willhite said the neighborhood is within the Shreveport city limits, but is in an area known as “the country city,” where pastures with horses are interspersed with apartment complexes and big clearings or open lots. She described it as a place with “a lot of horseback riding, a lot of family, always a lot of get-togethers.”
The party was advertised on posters in the neighborhood, she said. When the police arrived, Sergeant Willhite said, officers had difficulty getting through the streets because of the crowds, so they parked their cars and ran to the scene. One of the injured victims was in “extremely critical condition,” she said, and six others had non-life-threatening injuries.
Sergeant Willhite said investigators were interviewing people who had attended the party.
“There was a large crowd, so we know somebody has information,” she said. “It’s been challenging so far.”
In Tampa, Fla., a 7-year-old boy was fatally shot on Tuesday after two groups of people started arguing over the reckless driving of a jet ski near an area where children were playing in the water, the police said.
The argument escalated when some members of each group began firing at each other, the police said. During the shooting, the child’s grandfather tried to shield the boy from the gunfire but they both were struck. The boy died from a gunshot wound to the head. The grandfather was shot in the hand.
The number of shootings was not unusual for this time period in recent years. From 2014 to 2018, there were about a dozen mass shootings annually from June 30 to July 7, according to the Gun Violence Archive. The data project defines a mass shootings as an event with a minimum of four victims shot, either injured or killed, not including any shooter.
That number doubled to nearly two dozen in 2019, and spiked to about 40 in 2020, before leveling off to 29 in 2021 and 2022. This year, so far, has not been an anomaly, with 22 as of Wednesday morning.
President Biden condemned the violence in a statement on Tuesday, urging states to follow the example of Illinois, which banned certain high-powered guns and high-capacity magazines after seven people were killed by a gunman firing at a July 4 parade in Highland Park last year.
“Over the last few days, our nation has once again endured a wave of tragic and senseless shootings in communities across America,” he said. “Today, Jill and I grieve for those who have lost their lives and, as our nation celebrates Independence Day, we pray for the day when our communities will be free from gun violence.”
David Kennedy, a professor of criminal justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York, said it’s almost certain that, with the exception of the Philadelphia shooting, all or most of the other shootings were “ordinary but horrific” examples of gang violence, domestic violence or other types of “fairly ordinary disputes” that account for the majority of shootings in the United States.
But by looking at them purely in terms of the number of people injured and killed and then labeling them mass shootings, the public connects them to active shooter attacks like the ones that killed 19 children and two teachers at a school in Uvalde, Texas, or 11 worshipers at a synagogue in Pittsburgh.
That framing makes the shootings appear “uniquely toxic and frightening and almost by definition unpredictable and random and difficult to prevent,” Professor Kennedy said.
“We are participating in a shell game that is really, really socially damaging,” he added. “This systematically devalues the victimization and experience of communities of color and victims of intimate partner violence while recasting those victimizations in ways that centner the concerns of the mass of white Americans, terrifying them in ways that facts don’t support.”
Remy Tumin contributed reporting.