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Tipsheet

Media Now Dishonestly Classifying Gang Violence as 'Mass Shootings'

AP Photo/Ted S. Warren

After a bloody weekend of gang violence in Philadelphia and other Democratic cities around the country, leftist media activists are using the carnage as a way to push for new gun control legislation in Washington D.C. 

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As a way to bolster their narrative, media figures are classifying typical street violence as mass shootings, implying they happened in a targeted fashion at a school or place of worship.

So what exactly is a "mass shooting?" As the University of Pennsylvania and others point out, the definition is arbitrary. 

In the United States, there are several different, but common, definitions of mass shootings. The Congressional Research Service defines mass shootings, as multiple, firearm, homicide incidents, involving 4 or more victims at one or more locations close to one another. The FBI definition is essentially the same. Often there is a distinction made between private and public mass shootings (e.g., a school, place of worship, or a business establishment). Mass shootings undertaken by foreign terrorists are not included, no matter how many people die or where the shooting occurs.

These formulations are certainly workable, but the threshold of 4 or more deaths is arbitrary. There are also important exclusions. For example, if 10 people are shot but only 2 dies, the incident is not a mass shooting. Homicides by other means also are not counted. If 5 people are purposely run down and killed by an individual driving motor vehicle, the deaths do not count because a firearm is not involved. There also are inclusions that can seem curious because the motives of perpetrators are not considered when defining a mass shooting.

For example, multiple homicides that result from an armed robbery gone bad are included. So are multiple homicides that result from turf wars between rival drug gangs. The heterogeneous nature of mass shootings needs to be unpacked as well. There are important differences between mass shootings in schools, places of worship, business establishments, outdoor rock concerts, private residences, and other settings. At the very least, there is reason to suspect that each is characterized by different kinds of motives.

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