Eight days after the Umpqua Community College shooting in Oregon left 10 dead and nine wounded, there has been yet another school shooting — this time, near a residence hall in Northern Arizona University in Flagstaff, Arizona.
One person died and three were wounded in the shooting, according to a statement from the university. The suspect, 18-year-old student Steven Jones, is in custody.
The Northern Arizona University shooting is the 47th school shooting this year, according to Everytown for Gun Safety, an advocacy organization that supports stricter gun laws.
The shooting is a devastating tragedy, but unfortunately one Americans are increasingly familiar with. And as more and more of these events end up in the news on what feels like a weekly basis, the country is being forced to consider why the US, more than any other developed nation, suffers from such extraordinary levels of gun violence.
"Somehow, this has become routine," President Barack Obama said after the Oregon shooting. "The reporting is routine. My response here at this podium ends up being routine. The conversation in the aftermath of it. We've become numb to this."
What we know about the Northern Arizona University shooting in Flagstaff, Arizona
A student killed one person and wounded three others around 1:20 am at a parking lot near the Mountain View residence hall in Northern Arizona University, according to CNN. Gregory Fowler, the school's police chief, said the shooting was the result of a physical confrontation between two groups of students, in which one student pulled a gun and shot four others.
Fowler identified the shooting suspect as Steven Jones, an 18-year-old student. He reportedly stopped shooting and things calmed down as authorities arrived, and police took him into custody. Jones is cooperating with police, Fowler said.
Reuters identified the victims as Colin Brough, who was killed, and Nicholas Prato, Kyle Zientek, and Nicholas Piring, all of whom were injured. The wounded are being treated at Flagstaff Medical Center, but their conditions are unknown.
Delta Chi fraternity told CNN that some Northern Arizona University chapter members were involved in the shooting. The fraternity said it "was not a chapter-related incident."
Was this a mass shooting? It depends on which definition you use.
There's some debate about how to define mass shootings. But under one definition — shootings at a public place in which the shooter murdered four or more people, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence — they appear to be getting more common, as the chart above from Mother Jones, based on an analysis from Harvard School of Public Health, shows.
But not everyone agrees with this definition. Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, for example, defines mass shootings as any shooting in which at least four people were murdered. Under those terms, mass shootings don't appear to be increasing. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health call that definition too broad, since it includes domestic, gang, and drug-related shootings that may not be considered mass shootings in layman's terms.
The Northern Arizona University shooting doesn't count as a mass shooting on either of these definitions, since fewer than four people died. It would count as one for the crowdsourced Mass Shooting Tracker, however, which only considers if four or more people were shot, not necessarily killed.
But this debate is extremely arbitrary. A shooting is a shooting. The debate over which definition to use misses the broader problem with gun violence in America: Compared with other developed countries, the US has extraordinary levels of gun violence.
America has extraordinary levels of gun violence
In fact, no other developed country comes close to the levels of gun violence, including suicides, that America has, as this chart from Tewksbury Lab shows:
The correlation this chart demonstrates — more guns mean more gun deaths — has been backed by a lot of research. Whether at the state or country level, reviews of the evidence by the Harvard School of Public Health's Injury Control Research Center have consistently found that places with more guns have more deaths after controlling for variables like socioeconomic factors and other crime. "Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide," David Hemenway, the Injury Control Research Center's director, wrote in Private Guns, Public Health.
This is widely believed by experts to be the consequence of America's relaxed policy approach to and culture of guns: Making more guns more accessible means more guns, and more guns mean more gun deaths. Researchers have found this is true not just with gun homicides, but also with suicides, domestic violence, and even violence against police.
Maybe some Americans can look at these statistics and studies and still decide that the right to bear arms should be protected and gun control is a bad policy. But given the research, America's policies and attitudes toward guns have clear, deadly costs.