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California: Police provide details on dance hall shooting suspect

As members of the Asian community in a quiet Los Angeles suburb celebrated the Lunar New Year over the weekend, a gunman took the lives of 10 people, injuring a further 10, at a popular dance studio. The bloodiest attack of this year so far, it is but the latest in an unending slew of mass shootings in the US, which have claimed the lives of over 500 people in the past decade. In light of the latest tragedy, has looked back through the data and mapped the deadliest incidents in US history.

Late Saturday night, a gunman opened fire at the Star Ballroom Dance Studio in Monterey Park, a suburb of Los Angeles, California, killing 10. Half an hour later, he entered another nearby dance studio, where two people were reportedly able to wrestle the semiautomatic pistol from him before he fled.

Celebrations for Chinese New Year were in full swing, the area being known for its large Asian population.

The suspected attacker – identified by police as 72-year-old Huu Can Tra – was found dead in a white van on the other side of the city at midday on Sunday. His death is thought to have occurred as a result of a self-inflicted gunshot wound, according to LA County police.

The deadliest attack on US soil for over six months, it follows an all-too-familiar pattern of mass shootings, serving as yet another reminder of one of the country’s most persistent social issues.

The US has been rocked by yet another mass shooting over the weekend, which took the lives of 10 (Image: GETTY, EXPRESS)

Lunar New Year celebrations police

Lunar New Year celebrations were underway in Monterey Park when the suspect began shooting (Image: GETTY)

In the US, mass shootings – or what the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) calls active shooter incidents – are defined as events in which one or more individuals are engaged in the killing or attempted killing of three or more people by firearm in one place.

Far from going away, a glance at mass shootings data over the past four decades reveals a problem that is getting worse.

During the Nineties, there were an average of 15.9 mass shooting fatalities per year. In the Noughties, this rose to 17.1. Between 2010 and 2019, the figure soared to 53.9 – primarily due to high numbers during the last four years of the decade.

In the 20 years between 1983 and 2012, there was an average of two incidents per year. Over the past decade, this has risen to more than seven.

READ MORE: What we know about Monterey mass shooter Huu Can Tran

Mass shooting map

The names of many mass shootings are harrowingly familiar: Sandy Hook, Columbine, Charleston… (Image: EXPRESS)

Behind these figures are the names of cases that drew international attention to the US and its inability to prevent random acts of violence.

The deadliest mass shooting in US history to date is the 2017 Las Vegas massacre – that incident alone claimed more lives than any other year on record and injured more people than throughout the previous 20 years combined.

On October 1, 64-year-old Stephen Paddock opened fire from the window of his Mandalay Bay hotel room at attendees of the Route 91 Harvest music festival below. Using a variety of weapons – including an AR-15 semi-automatic – he fired over a thousand bullets, killing 58 and injuring 867.

The second-deadliest incident occurred only the previous year, when 29-year-old Omar Mateen killed 49 and wounded 53 others at Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, Florida, in the early hours of June 12.

On December 14, 2012, 20-year-old Adam Lanza walked into Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, Connecticut armed with an AR-15-style rifle. He shot and killed 20 children between the ages of six and seven alongside six adult staff.

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Las Vegas shooting memorial

A makeshift memorial was soon erected for the victims of the Las Vegas shooting (Image: GETTY)

Records since 1982 show shooters vary in many ways, except one: Ninety-six per cent of them are male. Out of 138 events, a woman was the exclusive perpetrator of just three incidents, while two were committed by a group of both sexes.

The average age of the gunman came in at just under 34 years old, the youngest being 11 at the time – one of the pair responsible for the 1998 Westside Middle School shootings – and the oldest being the 72-year-old suspected to be the gunman of the California shooting this weekend.

Because a large proportion of perpetrators either take their own lives or are killed by first responders at the scene, the motive isn’t always easily identifiable.

Police have deemed many racially motivated, others moved by faith-based hatred against a particular minority group, but academia has long pointed towards mental health issues as a root cause – although recent research has questioned the link.

In 90 out of 138 cases (65 per cent), the weapon used was confirmed as having been obtained legally. However, this number may well be higher given that the legality is not known in a further 28 cases.

Barring some exceptions, federal law in the US bans under-21s from purchasing handguns – yet rifles and shotguns may still be available to them. Many gunmen, including 18-year-old Salvador Ramos who killed 21 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas last May, were able to purchase their weapons legally despite not being allowed to drink alcohol.

Over the past decade, semiautomatic rifles have been the most common firearm used. The Federal Assault Weapons Ban (AWB) on the manufacture and sale of semiautomatic assault weapons was in force from 1994 until its expiry ten years later. Attempts at renewing the ban since have all failed – the most recent push narrowly passing through the House of Representatives but falling short in the Senate.

According to the Swiss-based research project Small Arms Survey, 390 million guns were in private hands globally in 2018. The rate of ownership was found to be far higher in the US than anywhere else in the world, at 120.5 firearms per 100 residents – more than one per person.