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Rash of Shootings Stirs Fear for Summer06/13 09:36


   CHICAGO (AP) -- Two people were killed and at least 30 others wounded in 
mass shootings overnight in three states, authorities said Saturday, stoking 
concerns that a spike in U.S. gun violence could continue into summer as 
coronavirus restrictions ease and more people are free to socialize.

   The attacks took place late Friday or early Saturday in the Texas capital of 
Austin, Chicago and Savannah, Georgia.

   In Austin, authorities said they arrested one of two male suspects and were 
searching for the other after a shooting early Saturday on a crowded 
pedestrian-only street packed with bars and restaurants. Fourteen people were 
wounded, including two critically, in the gunfire, which the city's interim 
police chief said is believed to have started as a dispute between two parties.

   No arrests were reported by late Saturday in the two other shootings.

   In Chicago, a woman was killed and nine other people were wounded when two 
men opened fire on a group standing on a sidewalk in the Chatham neighborhood 
on the city's South Side. The shooters also got away and hadn't been identified 
by mid-afternoon Saturday.

   In the south Georgia city of Savannah, police said one man was killed and 
seven other people were wounded in a mass shooting Friday evening, police said. 
Two of the wounded are children -- an 18-month-old and a 13-year-old.

   Savannah's police chief, Roy Minter, Jr., said the shooting may be linked to 
an ongoing dispute between two groups, citing reports of gunshots being fired 
at the same apartment complex earlier in the week.

   "It's very disturbing what we're seeing across the country and the level of 
gun violence that we're seeing across the country," he told reporters Saturday. 
"It's disturbing and it's senseless."

   The attacks come amid an easing of COVID-19 pandemic restrictions in much of 
the country, including Chicago, which lifted many of its remaining safeguards 
on Friday. Many hoped that a spike in U.S. shootings and homicides last year 
was an aberration perhaps caused by pandemic-related stress amid a rise in gun 
ownership and debate over policing. But those rates are still higher than they 
were in pre-pandemic times, including in cities that refused to slash police 
spending following the death of George Floyd and those that made modest cuts.

   "There was a hope this might simply be a statistical blip that would start 
to come down," said Chuck Wexler, executive director of the Police Executive 
Research Forum. "That hasn't happened. And that's what really makes chiefs 
worry that we may be entering a new period where we will see a reversal of 20 
years of declines in these crimes."

   Tracking ups and downs in crime is always complicated, but violent crime 
commonly increases in the summer months. Weekend evenings and early-morning 
hours also are common windows for shootings.

   Many types of crime did decline in 2020 and have stayed lower this year, 
suggesting the pandemic and the activism and unrest spurred by the reaction to 
Floyd's death didn't lead to an overall spike in crime.

   According to a database compiled by The Associated Press, USA Today and 
Northeastern University, only three mass shootings occurred at public places -- 
the lowest total for that category in a decade -- out of 19 total mass 
shootings in 2020.

   The database tracks all mass killings including shootings, defined as four 
or more people dead not including the perpetrator.

   According to that definition, there have been 17 mass killings, 16 of those 
shootings, already this year, said James Alan Fox, a criminologist and 
professor at Northeastern University.

   The Gun Violence Archive, which monitors media and police reports to track 
gun violence, defines mass shootings as those involving four or more people who 
were shot, regardless of whether they died. Overall, according to its database, 
more than 8,700 people have died of gun violence in the U.S. this year.

   The GVA also found that mass shootings spiked in 2020 to about 600, which 
was higher than in any of the previous six years it tracked the statistic. 
According to this year's count, there have been at least 267 mass shootings in 
the U.S. so far, including the latest three overnight Friday into Saturday.

   "It's worrisome," Fox said. "We have a blend of people beginning to get out 
and about in public. We have lots of divisiveness. And we have more guns and 
warm weather. It's a potentially deadly mix."

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