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The mass media loves to sensationalize a mass shooting. So much so they call most any trigger-happy lunatic a mass shooter and his carnage a mass shooting.
But as the mass media is so often wrong, they’re in the wrong in this case as well.
So then, what constitutes a mass shooting? Well, it depends on who you ask. The leading sources of data for gun violence and mass shootings are as follows:
—US Mass Shootings, 1982–2021: Data From Mother Jones’ Investigation
—Gun Violence Archive
—Mass Shooter Database
—AP/USA Today/Northeastern University Mass Shooting Database
—Everytown for Gun Safety Support Fund (2019)
—Mass Shooting Tracker
—Mass Shootings in America Database
The preceding list is in the order they appear in Mass Shootings in the United States — Table 1. Variation in How Mass Shootings Are Defined and Counted. The differences are significant.
In our opinion there are certain things that are clearly not a mass shooting.
When a “hit” takes place by organized crime (think mafia) it isn’t a mass shooting.
When a errant Black guns down some African American brothers in a drive-by shooting in a ghetto it isn’t a mass shooting.
When a wayward Latino shoots his family in their ramshackle house with Tyvek siding and then turns the gun on himself it isn’t a mass shooting.
No, a domestic, drug, gang, organized crime, or robbery related shooting isn’t a mass shooting.
Mass shootings, almost without exception, occur in public places. The shooter, often besieged with mental health issues, generally has no beef with anyone in particular, rather he (and very rarely she) has issues with society and/or the system. There may be people that triggered them, but those individuals often aren’t bullseyes, and even when they are, they’re just one of many targets.
Mass shootings must kill and injure people who are innocent bystanders. People who are just doing their weekly grocery shopping, people who are at a bar sipping their favorite alcoholic beverage, people just chilling at a music festival, people at work doing their rudimentary job, and people at school hitting the books.
So, the next time a mass shooting hits the airwaves, and it will very soon after you reading this, give it a litmus test—did it involve innocent bystanders injured or killed doing nothing more than what you and I do every day? Anything less isn’t a mass shooting. Period.