There have been 5 ‘mass shootings’ in Arizona so far in 2019, researchers say




Photo by Ankarino | Flickr/CC BY 2.0

Over the weekend, two mass killings by men in Texas and Ohio have re-ignited discussions on gun violence and gun control across the nation. 

In Arizona, Speaker of the House Rusty Bowers, R-Mesa, has said that he is looking forward to discussing possible legislation to address the issue next session. 

Bowers also stated that Arizona has been “fortunate” to not have experienced a similar event as to what happened in Dayton and El Paso. 

Dennis Welch, the political editor for CBS5 News and 3TV, noted that Arizona was the site of the attempted assassination of then-U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords in 2011. Giffords survived, but six people died and more than a dozen were injured when the gunman opened fire at a constituent event in Tucson.

A short time later, Bowers’ office acknowledged that he failed to remember the 2011 shooting. 

However, there have been more mass shootings than that in Arizona. Just this year, there have been five mass shooting events in the state, according to data compiled by researchers at the non-profit Gun Violence Archive

In all, seven people were killed and 21 were injured in those incidents.

Gun Violence Archive defines a mass shooting as any shooting that injures or kills more than four people. That definition is generally accepted within the law and among law enforcement agencies. Another group often cited in the media and by politicians, Mass Shooting Tracker, defines a mass shooting as an incident that kills or injures five or more people. 

“Everybody is looking at the same data,” Mark Bryant, Executive Director for Gun Violence Archive, told Arizona Mirror. “What we do is we do not have caveats.” 

Everyday, Gun Violence Archive’s team of researchers scour news and crime reports for shootings that fit the definition of a mass shooting, even if they are not what might be considered a mass shooting by the general public. 

Some researchers don’t count shootings that are gang related or due to domestic violence, according to Bryant. For example, 12 people were shot in Brooklyn in a shooting which has garnered little to no media attention, likely because it was allegedly gang-related. 

According to Mass Shooting Tracker’s data there have been 38 mass shooting incidents in Arizona between 2013 and 2018. In those shootings, 80 people were killed and 99 were injured.

“Speaker Bowers erred in stating that Arizona has never experienced a major mass shooting,” Matt Specht, a spokesman for Bowers, told the Mirror, “but that doesn’t change his message that there is work the Legislature can do to prevent major mass shootings from occurring again.”

The most deadly of the mass shootings that occurred in Arizona this year took place April 11. 

Phoenix police had petitioned to remove guns from Austin Smith’s home in 2018 after an incident in which he was armed and yelling that people were trying to kill him, according to a report by the Arizona Republic

A week after having his guns taken away, they were given back to him, as he had no outstanding warrants and was not deemed a prohibited possessor. 

Five months later, Smith shot and killed his wife and 5-year-old daughter before beating his 7-year-old daughter to death with a baseball bat. He then drove to an apartment complex where his brother was living, as he was convinced his brother had been in an affair with his wife. 

When he arrived, he shot and killed a family friend before shooting and wounding two others. He was later arrested and his bond was set at $2 million. 

The mass shootings that have taken place this year in Arizona have been different than those which have caught the attention of lawmakers over the weekend, as none of them were the pre-planned attacks that the FBI are now considering acts of terrorism

Two of the incidents happened at parties and another that took place near Downtown Phoenix occurred after a verbal altercation, while one in Yuma was due to a person defending themselves from a group of people breaking into their home. 

Firearm deaths in Arizona have been slowly on the rise, as well. 

From 2014 to 2017, firearm deaths in Arizona saw a 22 percent increase in the number of people killed by firearms, according to the Center for Disease Control

In 2017, 1,134 people were killed by firearms in Arizona, only about 400 less than the number of people who died of drug overdoses that year. Firearm deaths were the tenth-biggest killer of Arizonans, only three less than liver disease. 

Arizona ranks 18th in the nation for its firearm death rate of 15.8 of every 100,000 deaths. The firearm death rate ranges from 2.5 in Hawaii and to 24.5 in Alaska. 

For Bryant, mass shootings like the ones in El Paso and Dayton, while tragic, are not what he wishes the media and public would focus on. 

Mass shootings make up between three- and five-percent of all shooting deaths, and it’s the killings that involve only fewer than four people that Bryant said need to be addressed more, as they, along with suicides, make up the vast majority of the total deaths. 

As for the Arizona legislature, Bryant said that if lawmakers do intend to address the issue, they need to be working with the broadest dataset possible when looking at gun violence. 

“Depending on the types of problems, the solutions will vary,” Bryant said. 

Jerod MacDonald-Evoy
Reporter Jerod MacDonald-Evoy joins the Arizona Mirror from the Arizona Republic, where he spent 4 years covering everything from dark money in politics to Catholic priest sexual abuse scandals. Jerod has also won awards for his documentary films which have covered issues such as religious tolerance and surveillance technology used by police. He brings strong watchdog sensibilities and creative storytelling skills to the Arizona Mirror.

13 COMMENTS

  1. Your information is interesting and I have a few questions to help me put it into perspective.

    1. How many of the mass shootings in the data used were stopped by a gun?

    2. How many times has a life been saved by a citizen since this data was collected?

    3. How many of the gun deaths reported a result of suicide?

    4. How many of the mass shooting were random vs. targeted individuals.

  2. We must remember…. it was the person or persons holding the weapon NOT the gun by itself. I truly believe that we must focus more on the seller of these weapons….that they too should be held accountable to do the proper research before they sell the weapons.
    Therefore it is NOT the weapon itself but the troubled person that is creating the issue.

    • You dont think that access is a relevant factor? You’re fooling yourself. You and all 2nd Amendment defenders are willfully ignorant.

      • Ignorance is bliss and you must be very happy. This article is nothing more than anti-gun propaganda and you know it, or do you? You seem to not be able to research material on your own and depend on this rather biased site for information.

      • You say “2nd Amendment defenders” as if defending the Constitution is a bad thing. Kind of scary that you view that as a problem…

        The true problem lies in the issue that the vast majority do not understand the document. Gun control advocates seem completely unfazed by the idea of federal gun control and seem to have next to no care whatsoever for original intent, delegated powers, etc. Most “gun rights” advocates meanwhile have this idea in their head that the Bill of Rights was intended to apply against the States. Again, this is also disregard to original intent, and through the federal courts’ application, also violates their own intended limited jurisdiction.

  3. ANOTHER HYPED FAKE NEWS HEADLINE
    So if you have one incident where a family dispute involving infidelity resulted in three deaths and you have five total incidents that totaled seven deaths, your ability to connect kindergarten math with simple english definition is zero. 5 incidents = 7 deaths minus 1 incident = 3 deaths leaving 4 incidents with four deaths. Hardly mass murder incidents. When your biased irrational agenda driven hyperbole overrides kindergarten math, perhaps you should seek a new line of work.

    • Factual??? A homeowner protecting his property from a home invasion is now listed as a mass shooting when the context is the El Paso and Dayton mass shootings

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