It's difficult to tell, exactly, which gunman pushed America past a milestone of violence in the early hours of Saturday morning this past weekend. Was it the unknown man who opened fire at a house party in Charlotte, injuring four? Or the home invader in Peoria, Ill., who shot a 14-year-old student athlete dead and wounded three other teens? Or the gang members who shot and injured five people at a shopping plaza Memphis?
Regardless, some time between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m. Eastern time on Saturday, somebody pulled the trigger on what would be America's 1,000th mass shooting incident since January 2013. This figure comes from the crowdsourced Mass Shooting Tracker, maintained by a community of redditors with an aim toward drawing attention toward gun violence. The tracker defines a mass shooting as any single incident in which four or more people are injured by gunfire.
This definition is intentionally broader than the FBI's definition of "mass killing," which requires four or more people to be killed.
In 2015 so far, mass shootings are up slightly from their 2014 rate, but roughly on pace with 2013. In other words, 2015 is shaping up to be a perfectly normal year as far as mass shootings are concerned.
Since 2013, there have been 1,266 people killed in mass shooting incidents and 3,619 wounded. It's important to remember, though, that these numbers are just a fraction of the 11,000 people killed in run-of-the-mill gun homicides each year.
Some of these shootings are seared into our national consciousness. Charleston. Lafayette. The D.C. Navy Yard. Some of the smaller towns that have been datelines to national tragedy are trying to figure out a path forward toward a future in which their name isn't forever associated with a horrific act of violence.
But the overwhelming majority of these incidents barely make national news at all. In the current environment, "1 dead, 10 injured" or "3 killed, 4 injured" doesn't rise to the level of national interest.
The gun policy debate, as it plays out in the media in the aftermath of these high-profile shootings, seems to be stuck in neutral. It's easy to come away from discussions about guns in America thinking that the only two policy solutions are confiscating all firearms or arming everyone from pastors to kindergarten teachers.
But as Nicholas Kristof wrote in the New York Times last week, people dismayed by the toll of gun deaths might be better off framing the question differently: "We’re not going to eliminate guns in America, so we need to figure out how to coexist with them."