AND the second high-profile mass shooting in three days took place in a notorious location: inside the country’s largest retail store, where dozens of gun violence have occurred over the past few years.
On November 22, two days before Thanksgiving, the night manager of a Walmart store in Chesapeake, Virginia fatally shot six people with a pistol before turning the gun on himself.
According to police, two other victims are in critical condition. There were fifty people in the shop at the time.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, mass shootings where four or more people are killed or injured have reached over 600 in 2022, an average of more than one per day. In 2022, there was not a week without at least four.
Last year, there were nearly 700 mass shootings, up from 610 in 2020 and 417 in 2019. Previously, mass shootings had not exceeded 400 per year since the organization began tracking such incidents in 2014.
On November 20, five people were fatally shot and at least 18 were injured at an LGBT+ club in Colorado Springs.
The Chesapeake shooting is the latest public massacre at a retail store, with more than 217 people killed and 227 injured in mass violence over the past five decades.
But such massacres have become more frequent and deadly in the last few years, and according to The Violence Project, 2019 and 2021 reflect the worst years in store shooting history.
Walmart – often the only grocery store in many areas across the country and ubiquitous with more than 4,000 stores in the US – has been the scene of 363 gun-related incidents and 112 gun deaths as of January 1, 2020, according to advocacy group Guns Down America.
On August 3, 2019, a 21-year-old white nationalist drove 650 miles to a Walmart in El Paso, Texas to stop what he called a “Hispanic invasion” in his alleged manifesto.
According to police, the gunman entered the store unarmed and then returned to his car for an assault rifle. He began shooting before he reached the door, killing 23 people and injuring dozens more.
The massacre – the deadliest attack on Hispanics in modern American history – has been declared an internal terrorist attack by federal law enforcement. The suspect faces state indictment for murder and 90 federal crimes.
A few days earlier, a gunman described as a disgruntled Walmart employee fatally shot two of his co-workers and wounded a police officer before his arrest at a Walmart store in northern Mississippi.
Even a week before these high-profile shootings, at least three people were killed at Walmart stores across the country.
After the shootings in El Paso and Mississippi, Walmart officials urged Congress and then-President Donald Trump to strengthen federal background checks and restart the debate on reinstating the federal ban on assault weapons such as AR-15 rifles that expired in 2004.
“As we’ve seen before, these horrific events happen and then the spotlight goes out,” Walmart CEO Doug McMillon said in a statement at the time. “We shouldn’t let that happen. Congress and administration should act.”
The retailer also sells firearms in many of its locations – putting the company at the center of the debate about both gun ownership and plain American violence.
Thanks to its huge reach with thousands of stores – often in large-scale commercial buildings – across the United States, Walmart stores are often the scene of violent crime.
Even before the El Paso massacre, Walmart had already placed restrictions on firearm sales as retailers faced increased scrutiny in the wake of increasing mass shootings. The company stopped selling AR firearms and handguns and raised the age limit for purchasing firearms from 18 to 21.
Walmart also requires a so-called “green light” when doing background checks and recording sales on video.
After the El Paso and Mississippi killings, the company also stopped selling most handgun ammunition, as well as short-barrel rifle ammunition that could be fitted to high-capacity magazines in military weapons.
“We believe these actions will reduce our ammunition market share from about 20 percent to a range of about 6 to 9 percent,” McMillon said at the time.
Walmart has also discouraged customers from bringing firearms into its stores, even in states with so-called “open carry” laws.
In that announcement, McMillon pointed to “multiple incidents since El Paso where individuals attempting to make a statement and test our response entered our gun stores in a way that frightened or alarmed our associates and customers.”
Independent asked Walmart for comment.
After the killings in Colorado Springs and Chesapeake, President Joe Biden twice called on Congress to renew the assault weapons ban, which would apply to AR rifles that have been used in mass violence across the United States.
According to The Violence Project, AR rifles were used in a third of all retail store mass shootings.
A 19-year-old white gunman is accused of using an AR rifle to kill 10 black people in a supermarket in Buffalo, New York. He faces 27 federal charges, including 10 counts of hate crimes resulting in death.
As of January 1, 2020, there have been at least 536 gun violence in or around major grocery stores, according to Guns Down America.
“Retailers must do what they can to help build a future with fewer guns and safer communities,” Igor Volsky, Executive Director of Guns Down America, said in a statement.
Meanwhile, more Americans are buying guns than ever before, and 2021 is the second-busiest year on record for gun dealers. Americans bought about 19.9 million firearms last year.
In June, the president signed the Safer Bipartisan Communities Act, which aims to curb the proliferation of high-powered firearms.
Lawmakers in Virginia, the home of the once-powerful National Rifle Association, also recently accelerated gun reform legislation after Democrats won a majority in the state government.
State law requires universal background checks for gun sales, requirements for reporting lost or stolen firearms, a purchase limit of one handgun per month for most people, and a “red flag” provision that allows law enforcement to confiscate firearms from people who pose an immediate threat . danger to yourself or others.
Another recent bill restricts the possession of firearms by those convicted of assaulting a family member.
But Republican Governor Glenn Youngkin, who blamed the Chesapeake shootings on a “mental health crisis,” has hinted that he might undo some of those measures.
Everytown for Gun Safety ranks the state 14th for gun control policies in the US. But the reform organization also reports that approximately 1,065 people are killed in Virginia each year by gun violence, and 1,911 others are injured.
Gun violence is also the leading cause of death among children and teens in the state.
Shannon Watts, founder of Everytown partner organization Moms Demand Action, said it was the second time in a week that “the shooter brought a gun to a place where people were just trying to live their lives and murdering innocent civilians.”
Caia DelaVergne, a gun violence victim and volunteer for Moms Demand Action partner organization in Everytown, Virginia, said that “a space that should have been safe has been destroyed by avoidable gun violence and our entire community suffered permanent trauma.”
“These families should not spend Christmas sitting in front of empty chairs or burying their loved ones,” she said in a statement. “We will not stop fighting until tragedies like this stop happening in Virginia or anywhere else.”