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The Left's Artificial Inflation of Mass Shooting Numbers

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

Left-leaning media outlets like CNN and The Washington Post claim there have been hundreds of mass shootings this year alone. The real numbers are much lower.

The figures they use are based on data from the Gun Violence Archive which currently clocks the number of mass shootings in 2022 at 251, on par with the number of shootings on their record this time last year.

The FBI does not have numbers yet for 2022, but in 2021 they reported 61 active shooter incidents. Only 12 of those were considered mass killings according to the federal definition which says three or more deaths constitute a mass killing. The GVA, on the other hand, reported 692 mass shootings in 2021. That’s more than 11 times greater than the FBI’s official recorded number.

The culprit of the difference between the two agencies’ numbers is that the FBI gathers data on active shooter incidents and the GVA counts mass shootings. The two terms have slightly different definitions. However, the FBI’s active shooter data contains comparable information to the GVA’s mass shooting data.

In fact, the difference between how the FBI defines an active shooter and how the GVA defines a mass shooting reveals how the larger numbers provided by the GVA's data collection criteria can be twisted by the left to spread fear and further their gun-grabbing agenda.

The GVA says a mass shooting occurs when there are “Four or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location not including the shooter.” They also note the way they collect their mass shooting information (via GVA):

GVA uses a purely statistical threshold to define mass shooting based ONLY on the numeric value of 4 or more shot or killed, not including the shooter. GVA does not parse the definition to remove any subcategory of shooting. To that end we don’t exclude, set apart, caveat, or differentiate victims based upon the circumstances in which they were shot.

GVA believes that equal importance is given to the counting of those injured as well as killed in a mass shooting incident.

The FBI does not define Mass Shooting in any form. They do define Mass Killing but that includes all forms of weapon, not just guns.

In that, the criteria are simple…if four or more people are shot or killed in a single incident, not including the shooter, that incident is categorized as a mass shooting based purely on that numerical threshold.

Note that the GVA definition of a mass shooting does not have a threshold number of deaths required to define an incident of gun violence as a mass shooting.

The FBI defines an active shooter as follows (via FBI):

One or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.

The FBI also looks at the inclusion of the following features to determine whether or not an incident is an active shooter event (via FBI):

Shootings in public places, shootings occurring at more than one location, shootings where the shooter’s actions were not the result of another criminal act, shootings resulting in a mass killing, shootings indicating apparent spontaneity by the shooter, shootings where the shooter appeared to methodically search for potential victims, shootings that appeared focused on injury to people, not buildings or objects.

In their reported numbers of active shooter incidents, the FBI does not include incidents of gun violence that result from the following (via FBI):

Self defense, gang violence, drug violence, contained residential or domestic disputes, controlled barricade/hostage situations, crossfire as a byproduct of another ongoing criminal act, an action that appeared not to have put other people in peril.

These criteria make the FBI’s definition of an active shooter much more exclusive. Because of the GVA’s broad definition of a mass shooting, they would count incidents fitting the above descriptions as mass shootings so long as four or more people were injured or killed. 

In other words, if someone was attacked by multiple criminals and shot the attackers out of self defense, the GVA would consider it a mass shooting. If four or more people were shot in an incident of gang violence, the GVA would consider it a mass shooting, and so on. 

These sorts of shootings are no less significant, but by labeling every incident of gun violence affecting four or more people a “mass shooting,” the Left makes it sound like acts of violence on the same scale as Uvalde or Buffalo happen every day.

The term mass shooting has strong connotations that are not applicable to most of the shootings in the GVA’s numbers. As Katie wrote, referring to something as a mass shooting implies a lot more than the number of people shot.

All violent crime should be cause for concern and the GVA’s numbers reveal violence is no small issue in the United States. But untruthfully referring to so many of these incidents of violent crime as mass shootings is just a fear-mongering tactic used by the Left to push their agenda of greater government control over law abiding citizens.

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