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Weekend Shootings In Texas And Wisconsin Add To Tally Of U.S. Gun Deaths

Emergency personnel work at the scene of a shooting Sunday in Austin. Police said three people were killed.
Jim Vertuno
Emergency personnel work at the scene of a shooting Sunday in Austin. Police said three people were killed.

Updated April 19, 2021 at 5:29 AM ET

Three people were killed in a shooting in the Great Hills neighborhood of Austin on Sunday, police said.

Austin police said that while the suspect remains at large, the shooting appears to be a "domestic situation" and poses no risk to the general public. The public was temporarily told to shelter in place as police searched for the suspect.

Interim Austin Police Chief Joe Chacon told reporters the three victims were two women and a man.

"Obviously this is a tragedy. We have people who have lost their lives here," Chacon said, according to the Austin American-Statesman. "We'll do our best ... to get this person in custody ... and hopefully with no more loss of life."

The Austin Police Department identified Stephen Nicholas Broderick, 41, as a suspect in the fatal shooting of three people Sunday.
/ Austin Police Department
Austin Police Department
The Austin Police Department identified Stephen Nicholas Broderick, 41, as a suspect in the fatal shooting of three people Sunday.

The suspect, 41-year-old Stephen Nicholas Broderick, is a former deputy with the Travis County sheriff's office, Chacon told reporters. As of early Monday morning, police were still searching for him. He was last seen wearing a gray hoodie, sunglasses, and a baseball cap.

It was the second shooting with multiple fatalities in the U.S. on Sunday.

Three men died in a shooting Sunday at a college bar in Kenosha, Wis. called the Somers House Tavern. Three other men were transported to the hospital with gunshot wounds, police said Sunday evening. Police there described the attack as "targeted and isolated."

A still-unnamed person of interest was located Sunday night and will be criminally charged with one count of first degree intentional homicide with additional criminal charges to follow pending further investigation, police said in an update.

The incidents follow several other recent mass shootings in the United States.

A Thursday attack in Indianapolis left eight dead and several others injured. Motive there has yet to be determined. A former FedEx employee is alleged to have killed several people at one of the company's facilities, four of whom were members of the Sikh faith.

Members of the Indianapolis area Sikh community joined with that city's mayor and hundreds of other residents at a vigil Saturday to honor the dead and push for gun regulation overhauls.

Other high-profile mass shootings happened in Boulder, Colo., and Atlanta in March. Other shootings with at least four deaths in just the last 30 days occurred in Rock Hill, S.C., Allen, Texas, Orange, Calif., and Essex, Md., according to the Gun Violence Archive.

The United States has a much higher rate of gun violence than most of its global peers.

According to the Gun Violence Archive, a total of at least 19,394 people lost their lives due to gun violence in 2020. Including suicides, that number jumps to 43,550 people.

As of Sunday, the group tallied at least 5,517 non-suicide deaths in 2021, on track for a similar total to 2020.

The country as a whole saw about a 25% increase in non-suicide gun deaths in 2020 over 2019, though some places such as New York saw a much more pronounced increase.

Dr. Sonali Rajan of the Columbia Scientific Union for the Reduction of Gun Violence told NPR in January that one of the things that could have played a role in the increase was a diversion of public health resources due to the pandemic. She said that led to "violence interrupters, social programs and support services not being as readily available."

Another possible cause: the uptick in gun sales. 2020 marked the best year for gun sales ever.

The rush for firearms began with the first coronavirus lockdowns and continued through the summer's racial justice protests. At least 20 million guns were sold legally, up from about 12.4 million in 2019.

Experts, though, say that it can be a challenge to isolate any single cause, particularly during the pandemic with mass unemployment and closed schools.

Washington's capacity for a legislative response to gun violence remains limited. Though Democrats control both chambers of Congress and are broadly in favor of more stringent gun control legislation, their ability to get legislation through the Senate would require cooperation of at least 10 Republican senators to overcome an inevitable filibuster — something that has essentially no chance of happening on a gun bill.

While some Republican lawmakers support limited action on popular reforms including universal background checks for gun purchases, disagreement within the caucus and the party's perilous primary politics makes compromise legislation vanishingly unlikely.

Earlier this month, President Biden took a number of solo steps aimed at reducing gun violence via executive policy.

Those include a Justice Department effort to "help stop the proliferation" of so-called ghost guns, which can be assembled at home from kits and contain no serial numbers. As NPR reported, Biden wants to require serial numbers on certain parts and require buyers to undergo background checks.

The Justice Department will also issue an annual report on firearms trafficking, updating the last one from more than two decades ago. And the department has been directed to draft rules regulating stabilizing braces that make pistols more stable and accurate.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Eric McDaniel
Eric McDaniel edits the NPR Politics Podcast. He joined the program ahead of its 2019 relaunch as a daily podcast.
Jaclyn Diaz
Jaclyn Diaz is a reporter on Newshub.