In March 2021, after two deadly U.S. shootings — the first involving the killings of eight people in Atlanta, Georgia, the second involving the killing of 10 people in Boulder, Colorado — messages started circulating on social media claiming that mass shootings had "resumed" under U.S. President Joe Biden after they had all but disappeared under former Republican U.S. President Donald Trump.
Some social media users took this claim a step further, positing that these mass shootings were "false flag" attacks staged by liberals in order to push gun-control legislation.
The claim that there were no mass shootings under Trump is simply false. In fact, the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history took place during the Trump era. In October 2017, a gunman shot and killed nearly 60 people at a music festival in Las Vegas. While not an exhaustive list of every mass shooting that took place during the Trump administration, here are some of the deadliest incidents while Trump was in office:
- In November 2017, 26 people were killed at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas.
- In February 2018, 17 people were killed at a high school in Parkland, Florida.
- In May 2018, 10 people were killed at a high school in Santa Fe, Texas.
- In October 2018, 11 people were killed at a synagogue in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
- In November 2018, 12 people were killed at a restaurant in Thousand Oaks, California.
- In May 2019, 12 people were shot and killed at an office building in Virginia Beach, Virginia.
- In August 2019, 22 people were killed at a Walmart in El Paso, Texas.
Trump, of course, was not the first president to see a mass shooting take place during his time in office. The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting in Newton, Connecticut (27 victims), the Pulse Nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida (49 victims), and the movie theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado (12 victims) all took place during former Democratic President Barack Obama's term.
One reason why it might "feel" as if there were no mass shootings under Trump is that for the past year, as many businesses and public gathering spaces closed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. had no large-scale shootings in public spaces. In March 2021, when the United States saw two deadly shootings within a week of another, it felt as if mass shootings had "resumed." Although some social media users attempted to connect these shootings to a change in leadership, it's clear from the aforementioned incidents that these deadly mass shootings have taken place under both Democratic and Republican leadership.
The pandemic may have temporarily prevented large-scale mass shootings in public spaces, but it didn't put an end to gun violence. In fact, the Gun Violence Archive found the gun violence increased during the pandemic. The New York Times reported:
Until Tuesday, when eight people were killed in Atlanta-area spas, it had been a year since there had been a large-scale shooting in a public place.
Still, other types of gun violence increased significantly in 2020, according to Gun Violence Archive, which researches shootings. 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.