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Why the Mother Jones Definition of a Mass Shooting?
As you probably noticed, we adopted the Mother Jones definition of a mass shooting. Not only do we wholeheartedly agree with their definition, we also didn’t want to add another definition to the list which is already far too long. Refer to our post They Aren’t All Mass Shootings! In fact, there shouldn’t even be a list. Some federal agency, presumably the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), should have established a universal definition for mass shooting decades ago when mass shootings first became prevalent. But it hasn’t happened.
While every mass shooting is tragic, we must remember that they’re very different. For instance, the Saint Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 involved the murder of seven associates and members of Chicago’s North Side Gang that occurred on Saint Valentine’s Day. It had to do with gaining control of organized crime in Chicago, Illinois, during Prohibition. Meaning, if you weren’t in a gang actively peddling moonshine you wouldn’t become a victim of a mass shooting. The same doesn’t hold true today. You can simply be in the wrong place at the wrong time and fall victim to a mass shooting. There’s a difference. While there are exceptions, like the Bath School Disaster on May 18, 1927, in Bath Township, Michigan, they’re few and far between, unlike today.
Mass shootings aren’t domestic shootings, they’re not gang shootings, and they’re not organized crime shootings. Basically, mass shootings are shootings where usually a lone shooter indiscriminately kills people in a public place. In other words, the victims of mass shootings are innocent bystanders, people who get shot solely because of where they were when some trigger-happy lunatic decided to open fire. It might be while you’re doing nothing more than devouring a value meal at a McDonald’s Restaurant or while you’re at a Walmart Supercenter shopping for school supplies for their budding fifth-grader. In other words, the shooter doesn’t know the shootees and/or they’re not involved in something together, they have no shared history. In short, a mass shooting requires that the perpetrator indiscriminately attacks his victims. While it can be argued that some workplace mass shootings don’t wholly meet that criteria, the victims were nonetheless at their semipublic place of employment just doing their job. In addition, the number killed must jive with the term “mass” which is defined as a large number, meaning one or two people killed doesn’t qualify. Regardless, it doesn’t matter in terms of judging our current situation in this country. Provided data is accurately and consistently tracked, the criteria applied relatively tells the degree to which the United States has a horrid problem when it comes to violence, particularly gun violence.
So, if you consistently track the numbers for data using any given definition of a mass shooting (we’re going to stick with Mother Jones) it will suffice in showing the quandary we’re in.