At least nine children have been wounded in a mass shooting at a gas station in Columbus, Georgia, US, as gun violence assumes alarming proportions in the United States.
The nine victims, including a 5-year-old boy, were taken to a local hospital for treatment for non-life-threatening injuries, authorities said, adding that four victims had already been released.
The gunfire broke out when a group of minors attending a nearby party got into an altercation and went over to the Shell gas station’s parking lot shortly after 10 p.m. local time, according to Columbus Police Chief Freddie Blackmon.
It is yet unclear what prompted the altercation at the gas station on Friday night, Blackmon said.
The police chief noted there was no indication that the wounded 5-year-old boy who at the gas station with a family member was targeted. It’s also unclear who opened fire, how many weapons were involved and how many shots were fired.
While some of the witnesses who were at the scene are cooperating with police, others are not, Blackmon said.
"The rash of gun violence involving our youth is impacting communities across the country," He said in a statement.
According to the Columbus police, they arrived at the gas station to see "a large group of people" and the victims.
Blackmon said such incident would not be tolerated.
"It is going to take a community effort to combat gun violence in our city," Blackmon said. "The entire village has a responsibility because incidents like this impact all of us."
Columbus Mayor Skip Henderson called the shooting “particularly horrific and particularly troubling” given the ages and numbers of those involved.
As of Saturday afternoon, the Columbus Police Department has made no arrests in the case.
“Our prayers are with all of these young people that are injured and certainly all of their families,” Henderson said.
“Because even though we are so fortunate and grateful to God that we didn’t have anybody lose their life, it changed a lot of lives that night of those kids and the people charged with taking care of them.”
The Georgia gas station shooting is the 74th mass shooting this year in the United States, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.
Rampant gun violence in the United States is pandemic and it affects people in all age groups all across the country.
US lawmakers have failed to devise a solution to the decades-old problem which has been a divisive political issue in the country.
Mass shootings have emerged as a major public issue in the US in recent years amid divided opinion among the political elites on gun control laws.
Last year saw almost double the number of mass shootings compared to 4 years ago. In 2022, death rates from firearms reached their highest level in three decades, reports said.
According to the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit that tracks shootings in the US, a total of 647 mass shootings were recorded in 2022, killing 44,287 people.
The International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice in a report noted that mass shootings in the US account for 73 percent of all incidents and 62 percent of all fatalities in developed countries, more likely involving “foreign-born perpetrators, ideological motives, fame-seeking motives, schools, open spaces, and handguns”.
According to a JAMA Network Open Study, since 1990, more than one million people have been killed due to firearms in the US.