Easter weekend of gun violence in America as three mass shootings leave 31 injured

The shootings in South Carolina and Pittsburgh came after a year of surging murder rates have put crime at the centre of US politics

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America’s Easter weekend was marred by three separate mass shootings and many smaller instances of gun violence as communities across the country grapple with spikes in the murder rate.

In South Carolina, at least nine people were injured in a shooting at a rural bar and grill early on Sunday morning, according to police, with 14 more hurt the previous day when gunfire broke out at a shopping mall in the state capital, Columbia.

In Pittsburgh, two children were shot dead and eight people injured at an Airbnb in the early hours of Sunday morning, where authorities said hundreds of under-age people had gathered for a house party.

Authorities added that the Airbnb shooting had set off a panic in which at least five people suffered broken bones or glass cuts as they jumped out of windows to escape. Airbnb said it forbids parties in home rentals and has issued a lifetime ban to the person who booked the stay.

“This shouldn’t have happened,” said Pittsburgh police chief Scott Schubert in a press conference on Sunday afternoon. “We’re sick about it.”

South Carolina’s state law enforcement agency said that it was investigating a violent incident on Sunday morning at Cara’s Lounge, a bar and grill in rural Hampton County, about 80 miles west of Charleston.

As of late Sunday morning there were no deaths, although officials declined to say how bad the injuries were. The bar had advertised an Easter party on Saturday night.

The previous day, nine people were shot and five more injured in the panic as shoppers fled a shoot-out at a mall in Columbia, allegedly due to “some kind of conflict” between armed people who knew each other.

“We don’t believe this was random,” said Columbia Police chief Holbrook. “We believe they knew each other and something led to the gunfire.”

Jewayne M Price, 22, was arrested on charges of unlawful carrying of a pistol, with officers still seeking two other suspects who were seen with guns at the time of the shooting.

Together the three incidents left 31 injured and two killed, on top of other deaths and injuries suffered in smaller shootings in cities such as Chicago and Los Angeles.

They come at a time major urban centres including New Orleans, Baltimore, and Milwaukee suffered rising murder rates during the first few months of this year, while others such as Chicago, Los Angeles, Philadelphia and New York saw their rates decline or stay flat.

During the past month there have been large-scale shootings: on a subway train in Brooklyn, New York; at a spring break party in Dallas, Texas; in a gang dispute in downtown Sacramento, California; and inside a crowded nightclub in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.

“It’s like a war-zone experience," said one neighbourhood leader in New Orleans, which last week saw its bloodiest weekend in a decade with six people killed and 12 wounded.

Violent crime fell dramatically across the US in 2020, when most people spent more time indoors than ever before. Last year, however, the nationwide murder rate rose by 38 per cent above even pre-pandemic levels.

The surge has sparked bitter political debate, with conservatives blaming attempts to cut police funding and criminal sentences in the wake of 2020’s George Floyd protests, while progressives push for governments to allievate poverty and tighten gun laws.

Murder rates remain about 30 per cent below their peaks between the 1970s and 1990s, when an epidemic of urban crime transformed American politics and criminal justice in ways that are still visible today.

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