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Fewer people have died from mass shootings in 2017, but that’s only part of the story

Mass shooting incidents in 2017 unfolded in places that were hauntingly benign — 10 teens wounded during a high school party in Brownsville, Tennessee, a murder-suicide in a family’s home in Preston, Idaho, and three employees shot to death at a restaurant in Bowie, Maryland.

Now add to that a gunman who opened fire Wednesday during a Republican Congressional baseball game in Alexandria, Virginia. A few hours later, a second gunman killed three coworkers at a UPS store in San Francisco before turning the gun on himself. These shootings shook the nation in ways all too familiar.

For years, the United States has witnessed gun violence erupt time and again — in college classrooms at Virginia Tech, in an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, in a church in Charleston, South Carolina, in a night club in Orlando, Florida, and the list goes on. In 2017 so far, there have been 196 shooting incidents with least four people wounded or killed. That’s up from 182 incidents over the same period last year, according to the Guns Are Cool thread, a crowd-sourced archive on Reddit.

While the incidents of significant gun violence are up, the number of people killed overall is slightly down from the same period last year, according to NewsHour’s analysis of 2017 data through June 14 on the GunsAreCool Reddit thread. So far in 2017, 281 people died in incidents involving at least four people, while last year, 284 people died. The Pulse night club mass shooting in Orlando, Florida, which claimed 49 lives in June 12, 2016, propelled last year’s figures forward.

The same holds true among the number of people wounded as a result of major shooting incidents. So far in 2017, 675 people have been injured. During the same period in 2016, 678 people received non-fatal gunshot wounds.

Politics obscures the way the nation counts mass shootings. Two decades ago, Congress threatened to defund the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention if the agency systematically studied the effects of gun violence in this country, the Washington Post reported. To fill the void, ad-hoc efforts, such as the Gun Violence Archives and the Reddit thread emerged, but there is debate about how legitimate those counts are.