SAN JOSE (CBS SF) — As America awakens from the COVID-19 pandemic, incidents of gun violence like Wednesday’s mass shooting in San Jose at a VTA rail yard will be on the rise across the country, a leading expert on gun violence warned.

Dr. Garen Wintemute is a long time emergency room physician at UC Davis Medical center – where he is director of the Violence Prevention Research Program.

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He conducts research in the fields of injury epidemiology and the prevention of firearm violence.

“Rates of violence rose in 2020; homicide increased by 20% or more in many large and small cities, in some cases to rates not seen in a generation,” Wintemute said. “There was an unprecedented surge in firearm purchases, and up through the middle of last year, the size of the increase in violence was proportional to the size of the increase in firearm purchasing.”

He said the pandemic was disruptive to the normal flow of everyday life.

“There was also social disruption on many fronts, on a scale we’ve not seen in many years,” Wintemute said. “We are just beginning to experience the effects of those interacting changes, and preliminary data suggest the increase in violence has continued in the first months of 2021. We are likely to have a rough summer.”

According to CNN reporting and an analysis of data from the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), local media and police reports, there were at least 12 mass shootings between Friday night and Sunday last weekend.

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The shootings took place across eight states — Illinois, New Jersey, Ohio, Indiana, South Carolina, Virginia, Texas and Minnesota.

CNN defines a mass shooting as an incident with four or more people killed or wounded by gunfire — excluding the shooter.

On Wednesday morning, an employee opened fire at a Santa Clara Valley Transportation Authority light rail facility in San Jose, killing eight victims and injuring multiple others. The gunman, 57-year-old VTA employee Sam Cassidy, also died at the scene. Santa Clara County Sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Russell Davis said preliminary information indicates Cassidy died of a self-inflicted gunshot wound.

VTA spokesperson Brandi Childress said the extent of injuries at the Guadalupe maintenance yard on W. Younger Ave. were still being determined. At least two male patients were taken to Valley Medical Center in San Jose.

“Earlier San Jose Valley Medical Center received two patients — one was deceased upon arrival and the other is in critical condition,” said Valley Medical Center spokesperson Joy Alexiou. “We aren’t expecting any other patients.”


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