WASHINGTON — In Jacksonville, Fla.,, Dec. 14 began with the sound of gunfire off Jammes Road around midnight. The body of Patrice Sherman, a 22-year-old who worked manicuring lawns, was found at 7:15 a.m. in a ditch.
Sherman may have been the first person killed by gunfire in the United States that Friday, hours before the second-deadliest shooting in the nation's history unfolded 1,000 miles away in Newtown, Conn. That massacre left 28 dead, including the gunman, his mother and 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
By day's end, at least 12 other people were shot dead around the nation, according to police and news accounts. Their deaths were little noticed beyond circles of family or friends.
At 8 a.m., police Officer Martoiya Lang, a mother of four daughters, was shot with a 9 mm pistol during a drug raid in Memphis, Tenn. After noon, Sandra Oliva, 54, was found in her bed in New York's Hudson Valley, shot in the head by her husband, who turned the gun on himself. Less than 12 hours later, 30-year-old concierge Jessica Kenny was gunned down at a Las Vegas casino by a former boyfriend.
"It's beyond sad," said Edward Vondran of Henderson, Nev., her uncle. "You can't rationalize why someone would do something like this."
The dozen gun killings outside Newtown, which include shootings by police, represented a typical, even peaceful day, for a country that has more firearm homicides every week than Canada has in a year.
American civilians own some 270 million firearms, 89 for every 100 residents, more than any other nation, according to the Graduate Institute of International and Development Studies in Geneva. There were an average of 85 gun deaths each day in 2010, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including two accidents, 53 suicides and 30 homicides.