'Mass shootings' or not, gun violence toll grows in Georgia

Considering how commonly the term is used in 21st-century America, it seems odd that “mass shooting” has no official definition.

Generally, the FBI defines “mass murder” as a case involving at least four fatalities, not including the perpetrator. Many researchers don’t count domestic-violence shootings, or those that take place during another crime, such as a robbery.

Others – especially advocates for stronger gun-control laws – point out that the narrow definitions minimize injuries suffered in many shootings: If four or five people are wounded at the same time and location, doesn’t that constitute a mass shooting?

So, with that in mind, it is accurate to draw two very different conclusions about gun violence in Georgia in 2015:

One, the state experienced no mass shootings.

Two, there were 20 such shootings, killing 27 people and wounding 71.

The latter is the conclusion drawn from shootingtracker.com, a nationwide gun-violence database. It compiles information from news reports and law enforcement documents on shootings with multiple victims – on average, more than one a day somewhere in the United States.

A look at the database shows that most of the Georgia shootings involved people who were either related or acquainted: Eighteen of the 27 deaths occurred in domestic disputes.

Just three of the 20 shootings appear to have entirely random, with gunmen firing upon strangers for no apparent reason.

Here’s a look at the Georgia cases included in the shootingtracker.com database:

   Jan. 2, Savannah

   One dead, four wounded

A domestic dispute left five people shot, including two children.

   Jan. 28, DeKalb County

   One dead, three wounded

Four shooting victims – one already dead – were discovered inside a home in south DeKalb County. It was not clear whether one of the victims was also the shooter.

   Jan. 31, LaGrange

   Four killed

Thomas Jesse Lee was charged with killing five family members inside their home. Four of the victims died from gunshot wounds; one child was suffocated.

   Feb. 7, Douglasville

   Five killed, two wounded

Cedric Prather shot and killed his former wife, her boyfriend and two of his children before killing himself. Two other children were wounded.

   Feb. 22, Clarkesville

   Three killed, two wounded

A former Habersham County deputy sheriff killed his wife and a male friend at her home, then wounded two law enforcement officers who responded to the shooting. The former deputy died in the ensuing shootout.

   March 10, Columbus

   Five wounded

Shots were fired outside two strip clubs near Fort Benning. No life-threatening injuries were reported.

   March 14, Atlanta

   Five wounded

Five men were injured from gunshots fired outside an apartment complex in the Adamsville neighborhood.

   April 7, Rome

   One killed, three wounded

Two people were charged with killing a resident and wounding three of his guests during a home-invasion robbery.

   May 31, Conyers

   Three killed, two wounded

A man armed with an assault-style rifle and two handguns opened fire at a liquor store, killing the owner and a customer. Another customer opened fire on the gunman, who escaped. Later, the man shot and wounded both his parents before he was killed in a shootout with police.

   June 13, Milledgeville

   One killed, three wounded

A man was found shot to death outside a bar at closing time. Three other victims were inside the establishment.

   June 13, Fayetteville

   One killed, four wounded

Gunfire erupted at a pool party attended by as many as 200 teenagers. A 19-year-old in the crowd died from a gunshot wound to the chest.

   July 15, Atlanta

   Five wounded

An argument among as many as 20 neighbors over a children’s football game escalated to gunfire. No children were wounded.

   July 22, Suwannee

   Five killed

Matthew Kyle Fields shot and killed his wife; her sons, ages 9 and 8; and her 75-year-old father before killing himself.

   Aug. 2, Savannah

   Five wounded

An early morning fight between two men in Ellis Square led to gunfire, wounding five bystanders. One was 16 years old. Another was a soldier stationed at Fort Stewart.

   Sept. 8, Colquitt County

   Four wounded

A man reportedly using drugs opened fire with a shotgun and a rifle, wounding four acquaintances. All four declined medical treatment.

   Sept. 23, Norcross

   One killed, three wounded

Several shots were fired when a late-night fight broke out among as many as 20 young men. A 19-year-old died.

   Sept. 27, Meriwether County

   10 wounded

Two people opened fire on an adult’s birthday party after what police described as a dispute over gambling. The victims’ ages ranged from 16 to 29.

   Oct. 12, Decatur

   Four wounded

A 14-month-old boy was seriously wounded, along with his father and two of his uncles, when a gunman opened fire on a group standing in a breezeway at an apartment complex on Glenwood Road.

   Dec. 2, Savannah

   One killed, three wounded

A 34-year-old woman died after two people opened fire on a group at a Savannah home.

   Dec. 12, Savannah

   Four wounded

Several people leaving a nightclub got into a fight in a downtown parking garage, leading to gunfire. One of the victims was shot as he tried to drive past the fight.

Regardless of whether these cases constitute mass shootings, they represent a tiny fraction of Georgia’s firearms deaths. Totals for 2015 are not available, but more than 1,200 people have died from gunshot wounds each of the past several years in Georgia.

Nearly three in five were suicides.

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