The deadly shooting in Boulder, Colo. on Monday, where 10 people were killed, including a police officer, was the second mass shooting in the United States in less than a week.
On Tuesday, a gunman shot and killed eight people — six of them women of Asian descent — at three spas in the Atlanta-area of Georgia.
Until that shooting in Atlanta, it had been a year since there had been a large-scale shooting in a public place. In 2018, the year that a gunman killed 17 people and injured 17 others at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Fla., there were 10 mass shootings where four or more people were killed in a public setting.
The following year, when a gunman targeting Latinos in El Paso, Texas, killed 22 people, there were nine.
“Those were the worst years on record,” said Jillian Peterson, an associate professor of criminal justice at Hamline University in St. Paul, Minn., and a co-founder of the Violence Project, a research center that studies gun violence.
But before the shootings in Atlanta last week, there had been no such killings since March 2020, according to the Violence Project.
Other types of gun violence did increase significantly in 2020, according to Gun Violence Archive. There were more than 600 shootings in which four or more people were shot by one person compared with 417 in 2019. Many of those shootings involved gang violence, fights and domestic incidents, where the perpetrator knew the victims, Professor Peterson said.
The early research suggests that widespread unemployment, financial stress, a rise in drug and alcohol addiction, and a lack of access to community resources caused by the pandemic contributed to the increase in shootings in 2020.
The police did not say what may have motivated the gunman in Colorado, who is in custody.
In Atlanta, the shootings touched off calls to stop hate crimes against Asian-Americans, which have been rising during the pandemic. Some have blamed that rise on words used by former President Donald J. Trump, who has repeatedly called the coronavirus, which was first identified in Wuhan, China, “the Chinese virus.” The police have not ruled out bias as a motivating factor in the shooting even as the suspect denied such racial animus, officials said.