On Wednesday, a Washington Post article announced that “The San Bernardino shooting is the second mass shooting today and the 355th this year.” Vox, MSNBC’s Rachel Maddow, this newspaper and others reported similar statistics. Grim details from the church in Charleston, a college classroom in Oregon and a Planned Parenthood clinic in Colorado are still fresh, but you could be forgiven for wondering how you missed more than 300 other such attacks in 2015.
At Mother Jones, where I work as an editor, we have compiled an in-depth, open-source database covering more than three decades of public mass shootings. By our measure, there have been four “mass shootings” this year, including the one in San Bernardino, and at least 73 such attacks since 1982.
What explains the vastly different count? The answer is that there is no official definition for “mass shooting.” Almost all of the gun crimes behind the much larger statistic are less lethal and bear little relevance to the type of public mass murder we have just witnessed again. Including them in the same breath suggests that a 1 a.m. gang fight in a Sacramento restaurant, in which two were killed and two injured, is the same kind of event as a deranged man walking into a community college classroom and massacring nine and injuring nine others. Or that a late-night shooting on a street in Savannah, Ga., yesterday that injured three and killed one is in the same category as the madness that just played out in Southern California.
While all the victims are important, conflating those many other crimes with indiscriminate slaughter in public venues obscures our understanding of this complicated and growing problem. Everyone is desperate to know why these attacks happen and how we might stop them — and we can’t know, unless we collect and focus on useful data that filter out the noise.
For at least the past decade, the F.B.I. regarded a mass shooting as a single attack in which four or more victims were killed. (In 2013, a mandate from President Obama for further study of the problem lowered that threshold to three victims killed.) When we began compiling our database in 2012, we used that criteria of four or more killed in public attacks, but excluded mass murders that stemmed from robbery, gang violence or domestic abuse in private homes. Our goal with this relatively narrow set of parameters was to better understand the seemingly indiscriminate attacks that have increased in recent years, whether in movie theaters, elementary schools or office parks.
Read more from the NYTimes op-ed
soon a mass shooting will be one, then every murder in this country will be a mass shooting. the idiot has no concept of data of parameters or research-but that is why they call him the fool. Seriously, his administrating and the congress are idiots too.
the fbi is not a bright group of “boys” just read the 9/11 report.
This shooting is not a lone wolf(meaning one) but a terrorist shooting. maybe he never heard of Beslan, September 1, 2004? Surely the idiot is clueless on the Bath School bombing on May 18, 1927? Right that was before his illegitimate bith-wonder if he knows who’s his daddy? the fool is an idiot and the world and America has stopped listening to him-the ultimate welfare recipient.
Obama, by another royal edict, funded a CDC study of gun deaths. Of course, very few heard about it. You know why? Because it didn’t give him what he paid for… negative information about gun ownership.
Obama’s taxpayer funded study shoots him in his gun-control foot
This black friday broke records for background checks to purchase firearms 185K
I guess America chooses to exercise the 2nd amendment.
How many mass shootings are there, really?
The Guardian, a UK newspaper, has provided a helpful chart covering the last 1,066 days.
To qualify as a mass shooting, four or more people have to have been killed or wounded in a single shooting incident. I don’t know why they picked 1,066 days. Maybe it had something to do with the year of the Norman Conquest?