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Blog Post · July 16, 2024

Mass Shootings in California

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The number of mass shootings in California has rebounded to pre-pandemic levels, and most Californians remain concerned about gun violence in their communities. As in 2019, the state has seen about one mass shooting per week for the past two years. However, this statewide steadying masks dramatic lows and highs in California’s most populous county, Los Angeles.

Between 2015 and 2023, California experienced a total of 400 mass shootings—incidents of gun violence that injure or kill four or more people. Though the number of mass shootings oscillates year-to-year, the trend is clear: Californians experience more mass shootings now than in 2015, and the number has grown by an average of two per year.

Leading into the pandemic, California saw just under one mass shooting each week. The number of incidents fell during the pandemic, and the state avoided the national surge in mass shootings. For the past two years, California has experienced slightly more than one mass shooting each week—and remains on a similar path this year. Between January and April, 12 mass shootings occurred statewide.

Mass shooting incidents are more prevalent in populated places; none of the 27 California counties with zero mass shootings between 2015 and 2023 was classified as urban. Yet mass shootings are not solely an urban problem. They happened in 12 suburban and 5 rural California counties during this period.

California mass shootings are most likely to occur in Los Angeles County, where one in four Californians live. Before 2020, 28% of California mass shootings happened in LA County, and the mass shooting incident rate—shootings per one million residents per year—averaged 40% higher there than elsewhere in the state. Perhaps as a result, people in Los Angeles express greater concern about mass shootings than other Californians.

Unlike the rest of the state, Los Angeles County has seen dramatic shifts in mass shootings since the onset of the pandemic. In 2020, the number plummeted 63%, which dropped the county’s incident rate to 0.6. By 2023, countywide mass shootings exceeded pre-pandemic levels and the historically low incident rate nearly quadrupled to a new high of 2.3. By contrast, the mass shooting incident rate elsewhere in California has held relatively level since 2019 at about 1.2.

Mass shooting incidents have also become more widespread across Los Angeles County. Parts of the county that had not seen mass shootings now do; other areas see more incidents.

In 2015, no mass shootings occurred north of Interstate 10. That changed between 2015 and 2018, when one in four mass shootings in the county happened north of I-10. In 2022, for the first time, the northside saw more mass shootings than the southside. The following year, three northside neighborhoods with no previously recorded incidents—Northridge, Toluca Lake, and West Hills—all experienced one.

South of I-10, mass shootings have grown more common. Sixteen mass shootings occurred south of the freeway in 2023—more than in any year since 2015. Violence intensified in city neighborhoods and southside cities: the Green Meadows, San Pedro, Vermont Vista, and Watts neighborhoods saw two mass shootings last year. Three cities with no previously recorded mass shootings each had one last year—Carson, Monterey Park, and Pomona.

Over the past decade, efforts to combat mass shootings and address the larger gun violence problem have intensified, with California leading the nation in tackling both. Compared to other states, California overall has more deftly avoided surges in mass shootings—but the gains have been uneven, as the rising incidents in Los Angeles County indicate. Why mass shootings spiked in Los Angeles and whether they will hold steady elsewhere in the state remain important questions that PPIC will continue to examine.

Earlier versions of this post were published on May 20, 2022 and July 5, 2022.


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