US Independence Day celebrations become target for mass shootings

Attacks in Philadelphia, Texas and Washington underscore America's inability to protect its citizenry from gun violence

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Nine people enjoying America's Independence Day festivities in the nation's capital were shot and wounded early on Wednesday, police said, as a spate of deadly violence brought chaos to celebrations across the country.

Washington police said the attack occurred when at least one gunman opened fired from an SUV in a neighbourhood about a 20-minute drive east of the White House. Two children were among those injured, and no arrests were immediately made.

The attack was the latest in a string of gun violence over a violent Fourth of July weekend.

Thirty people were shot, two fatally, at a block party in Baltimore early on Sunday. Many of the shooting victims were children, authorities said.

On Monday night, a gunman in a bulletproof vest opened fire on the streets of Philadelphia, killing five and wounding two boys, aged two and 13, before surrendering, police said.

Kimbrady Carriker, 40, was arraigned on Wednesday on five murder charges, as well as several counts of attempted murder, aggravated assault and weapons counts of possession without a licence and carrying firearms in public, prosecutors said.

Meanwhile, in Texas, three were killed and eight injured when several men fired indiscriminately into a crowd of hundreds that had gathered in a Fort Worth neighbourhood following a festival in the area, authorities said.

The shooting happened late on Monday night, about two hours after the annual ComoFest ended.

A total of 16 mass shootings unfolded across the nation from Friday evening until Wednesday morning, leaving 15 dead and 94 injured, according to the Gun Violence Archive, which defines a mass shooting as any in which four or more people are wounded or killed, not including the gunman.

AR-15 controversy

The Philadelphia gunman allegedly used an AR-15-style rifle, which has become the weapon of choice for mass shooters.

Called “America’s rifle” by the US National Rifle Association, the AR-15 is a variant of the military M-16 used by the US army since 1964, although it is gradually being phased out.

Unlike the M-16, or a similar rifle used by the army, the M4 carbine, AR-15s are not typically capable of firing hundreds of bullets per minute – one reason why its advocates say it is not military grade and instead claim it is a “sports rifle”.

The gun is semi-automatic, so the user can fire as many rounds off as fast as he or she can squeeze the trigger, emptying a magazine in seconds. Critics of the gun lobby say the weapon is also extremely powerful and point to research by Wayne State University, which simulated the gun's destructive effect on the human body.

They say it is unnecessarily powerful and there is no justification for its use in home defence.

Widely available in many US states since a ban introduced under the Clinton administration expired in 2004, the rifle has also been condemned by anti-gun groups because it has been used in some of America’s worst mass shooting.

These include the 2022 Uvalde school massacre in Texas, in which 19 pupils and two teachers were killed, and the 2017 Las Vegas mass shooting, in which 60 people were shot dead at an outdoor concert.

Agencies contributed to this report

Updated: July 06, 2023, 5:33 AM