San Bernardino shooting: news and updates
As many as three suspects remain at large after shooting and killing upward of 14 people and wounding another 14 at a San Bernardino, California, social services center on Wednesday, according to police.
Up to three shooters were involved in the shooting, San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said at a press conference. Authorities have not apprehended any suspects; police are currently clearing the building, but they suspect any suspect has fled.
The numbers may change as more information comes out.
The shooting is a devastating tragedy, but unfortunately one Americans are increasingly familiar with. And as more and more of these events end up in the news on what feels like a weekly basis, the country is being forced to consider why the US, more than any other developed nation, suffers from such extraordinary levels of gun violence.
What we know about the shooting at the Inland Regional Center in San Bernardino, California
The shooting began around 11 am Pacific time, according to police. Over several minutes, as many as three shooters opened fire with long guns at the Inland Regional Center. Upward of 14 people were killed, and upward of another 14 were wounded — although those numbers are subject to change.
San Bernardino Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said law enforcement responded to calls about the shooting with a “massive” presence, quickly beginning to secure the area and clear the building. But he said it’s now believed the suspects fled in a dark-colored SUV.
Marybeth Feild, president and CEO of the Inland Regional Center, told the Associated Press that the shooting took place at a conference room at the center, which was rented out by the San Bernardino County Department of Public Health for a banquet.
BBC report tonight: “Just another day in the United States of America…” pic.twitter.com/ikw41FLbgz
— Brian Stelter (@brianstelter) December 2, #2015
The Inland Regional Center serves people with developmental disabilities
The shooting took place at the Inland Regional Center, according to police. As part of the California Department of Developmental Services, the center offers all sorts of services to people with developmental disabilities such as autism, cerebral palsy, and epilepsy. Nearly 670 staff members serve more than 30,000 clients of all ages, from newborn to the elderly, in the region.
The center’s Facebook page said it “coordinates with generic services to normalize the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families by working to include them in the everyday routines and life rhythms of the community and by facilitating needed supports for them.”
Just yesterday, the center celebrated a holiday party.
The ICF Holiday Party is in full swing! ☃ pic.twitter.com/AzOCbliVmb
— Inland RC (@InlandRegional) December 1, 2015
It remains unclear if the shooters were targeting the center’s staff and clients, the county officials who rented out the conference room, or even anyone in particular.
Are mass shootings on the rise? It depends on which definition you use.
With 14 people dead, the San Bernardino shooting would count as a mass shooting under any definition. But whether these types of shootings are more common today depends on which definition you use for mass shootings.
There’s some debate about how to define mass shootings. But under one definition — shootings at a public place in which the shooter murdered four or more people, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence — they appear to be getting more common, as the chart above from Mother Jones, based on an analysis from Harvard School of Public Health, shows.
But not everyone agrees with this definition. Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, for example, defines mass shootings as any shooting in which at least four people were murdered. Under those terms, mass shootings don’t appear to be increasing. Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health call that definition too broad, since it catches domestic, gang, and drug-related shootings that aren’t usually considered mass shootings in layman’s terms.
But this debate is extremely arbitrary. A shooting is a shooting. The debate over which definition to use misses the broader problem with gun violence in America: Compared with other developed countries, the US has extraordinary levels of gun violence.
America’s levels of gun violence are unique in the developed world
The US has very high levels of gun violence: America has six times as many firearm homicides as Canada and 15 times as many as Germany, according to UN data compiled by the Guardian’s Simon Rogers.
In fact, no other developed country comes close to the levels of gun violence that America has, as this chart from Tewksbury Lab shows:
The correlation this chart demonstrates — more guns mean more deaths — has been backed by a lot of research. Whether at the state or country level, reviews of the evidence by the Harvard School of Public Health’s Injury Control Research Center have consistently found that places with more guns have more deaths after controlling for variables like socioeconomic factors and other crime. “Within the United States, a wide array of empirical evidence indicates that more guns in a community leads to more homicide,” David Hemenway, the Injury Control Research Center’s director, wrote in Private Guns, Public Health.
This is widely believed by experts to be the consequence of America’s relaxed policy approach to and culture of guns: Making more guns more accessible means more guns, and more guns mean more gun deaths. Researchers have found this is true not just with gun homicides, but also with suicides, domestic violence, and even violence against police.
In response to the shooting on Wednesday, President Barack Obama told CBS News that Americans should not accept the regularity of this type of gun violence: “There are steps we can take to make Americans safer and that we should come together in a bipartisan basis at every level of government to make these rare as opposed to normal. We should never think that this is something that just happens in the ordinary course of events.”
At the same time, other developed nations have had some big successes curtailing gun violence by reducing the number of guns. After a 1996 mass shooting in Port Arthur, Australia, killed 35 people and wounded 23 more, lawmakers passed new restrictions on guns and imposed a mandatory buyback program that essentially confiscated people’s guns, seizing at least 650,000 firearms.
According to one review of the evidence by Harvard researchers. Australia’s firearm homicide rate dropped by about 42 percent in the seven years after the law passed, and its firearm suicide rate fell by 57 percent. Although it’s hard to gauge how much of this was driven by the buyback program, researchers argue it likely played some role: “First, the drop in firearm deaths was largest among the type of firearms most affected by the buyback. Second, firearm deaths in states with higher buyback rates per capita fell proportionately more than in states with lower buyback rates.”
Still, similar measures would be very difficult to pass in America, a nation in which gun culture and ownership are tremendously ingrained. And gun owners are backed by a powerful lobby: the National Rifle Association. Combined, these forces have stopped any serious gun legislation from passing at the federal level — although some states have passed new restrictions in the past few years.
But given the research, America’s policies and attitudes toward guns have clear, deadly costs — including, perhaps, more events like the San Bernardino shooting.
Watch: America’s biggest gun problem is the one we don’t talk about