Why Some Mass Shootings — And Their Victims — Go Uncounted

By Rod McCullom, Undark | May 17, 2023

Stoneleigh Fellow Jessica Beard was featured by Undark for her research on firearm violence in Philadelphia during the COVID-19 pandemic.

EARLY IN THE EVENING of Feb. 23, seven people were shot outside a grade school in northwest Philadelphia. Three men arrived on the scene in a gray Hyundai, and according to several reports, emerged from the vehicle and opened fire, striking five teenage boys, a 31-year-old woman, and her 2-year-old daughter. The injured were rushed to nearby hospitals.

It was a brazen act in a city that has experienced higher rates of gun violence since the beginning of the pandemic. Philadelphia’s gun violence spiked in 2021, when more than an estimated 2,330 people were shot, according to data from the city’s Office of the Controller. In comparison, nearly 1,500 people were shot in Philadelphia in 2019, before the first Covid-19 cases were confirmed in the United States.

The increase in firearm violence correlates with stay-at-home orders meant to slow viral transmission, said Jessica Beard, a trauma surgeon at Temple University Hospital, which describes itself as the busiest trauma center for knife and gun violence cases in the state.

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