A database assembled by The Associated Press, USA Today and Northeastern University totals up more mass killings in 2019 than in any year dating back to at least the 1970s, punctuated by a succession of deadly rampages over the summer.
Some 41 mass killings occurred in total, with the term defined as four or more people being killed excluding the perpetrator. Of those, 33 were mass shootings. More than 210 people died.
Most of the incidents were barely national news because they didn’t occur in public places like massacres in El Paso and Odessa, Texas; Dayton, Ohio; Virginia Beach, Va.; and Jersey City, N.J.
The majority of the slayings involved people known to each other – family disputes, drug or gang violence or people with grudges toward coworkers or relatives. In many cases, what set off the perpetrator is not known.
That’s the case with the very first mass killing of 2019, when a 42-year-old man took an ax and stabbed to death his mother, stepfather, girlfriend and 9-month-old daughter in Clackamas County, Oregon. Two others, a roommate and an 8-year-old girl managed to escape; the rampage ended when police fatally shot the killer.
The incident in Oregon was one of 18 mass killings where family members were slain, and one of six that didn’t involve a gun. Among other 2019 trends:
- The 41 mass killings were the most in a single year since the AP/USA Today and Northeastern database began tracking such events back to 2006, but other research going back to the 1970s shows no other year with as many mass slayings. The second-most killings in a year prior to 2019 was 38 in 2006.
- The 211 people killed in this year’s cases is still eclipsed by the 224 victims in 2017, when the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place in Las Vegas.
- California, with some of the most strict gun laws in the country, had the most, with eight such mass slayings. But nearly half of U.S. states experienced a mass slaying, from big cities like New York, to tiny towns like Elkmont, Alabama, with a population of just under 475 people.
- Firearms were the weapon in all but eight of the mass killings. Other weapons included knives, axes and at least twice when the perpetrator set a mobile home on fire, killing those inside.
- Nine mass shootings occurred in a public place. Other mass killings occurred in homes, in the workplace or at a bar.