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5 people have been killed in a mass shooting near Pittsburgh

Libby Nelson is Vox's policy editor, leading coverage of how government action and inaction shape American life. Libby has more than a decade of policy journalism experience, including at Inside Higher Ed and Politico. She joined Vox in 2014.

Five people were killed and three injured in a shooting at a backyard barbecue and house party in Wilkinsburg, a Pittsburgh suburb, late Wednesday night, according to local police.

Local police said there were at least two shooters, and police are still searching for them, the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette reported. Neighbors reported dozens of gunshots — one man said 26; another woman said the shooting continued for at least a minute.

Police haven't said what the motive for the shooting was, nor have they identified suspects. Wilkinsburg is a relatively high-crime area. It had the second-highest murder rate in Allegheny County in 2012.

This isn't the first mass shooting in Wilkinsburg, a town with only about 16,000 people. In 2000, a man named Ronald Taylor went on a shooting spree at the Burger King and McDonald's in town, killing two people and injuring three. The murders drew national attention, and Taylor is now on Pennsylvania's death row.

By some definitions, this is the 44th mass shooting this year

Since Wednesday's mass shooting in Wilkinsburg was at a house party rather than in a public place, it seems likely that people will debate whether it really counts as a "mass shooting," even though eight people were shot and two survivors remain in critical condition.

Counting any shooting where at least four people were shot in roughly the same place at the same time, the definition used by the Mass Shooting Tracker, the Wilkinsburg shooting is the 44th mass shooting in 2016.

But there's a debate about whether a "mass shooting" occurs anytime a large number of people are shot, or whether it only applies to a more specific subset of crimes that particularly terrify the public: shootings perpetrated by a lone gunman in a public place, often seemingly at random.

The distinction matters, because while shootings that kill at least four people aren't rising, mass shootings in a public place — like the massacres in Charleston, San Bernardino, and Aurora, Colorado — appear to be increasing. And the debate over what counts as a mass shooting is also a proxy war for the debate about gun control, as Vox's Dylan Matthews wrote: Supporters of gun control want to define the problem as broadly as possible, while opponents argue that certain types of shootings don't count.

But one thing isn't up for debate: America has a much higher gun homicide rate than other countries (that doesn't even take into account that two-thirds of gun deaths in the United States are suicides) — and a higher homicide rate in general, driven mostly by those gun deaths.

Experts say this is due to America's gun culture: We have more guns, more accessible guns, and more gun deaths — both suicides and murders, including domestic violence and violence against police.