Saturday, December 5, 2015

NYT: How Many Mass Shootings Are There, Really?

The other day, the Washington Post stated with great authority that there had been 355 mass shootings this year.  Naturally, the more excitable elements of the media picked up this number and repeated it until many thought it was true.  Certainly, the bishops of Connecticut believed it as they also quoted it in their pastoral letter.

Here's the interesting thing: Mother Jones magazine, which is hardly a conservative journal or staffed by members of the John Birch Society, examined for themselves the number of mass shootings that have occurred this year and their number was...four.
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.