Have there been 355 mass shootings in the U.S. this year, as many media outlets have reported, or just four, as Mother Jones claims? The answer is that there is no official definition for “mass shooting,” Mojo’s Mark Follman writes in the New York Times. The much higher number is based on a count by shootingtracker.com, a website built by members of a Reddit forum supporting gun control. That site aggregates news stories about any shooting in which four or more people are reported to have been either injured or killed.
Mother Jones uses a variation of the FBI’s parameters that define a mass shooting as a single attack in which four or more victims are killed. The founder of the Reddit “shooting tracker” project said he simply decided to use the much broader definition. Follman writes there may be value to that counting method, “but as those numbers gain traction in the news media, they distort our understanding.” He concludes, “One thing we all need is better data. Since 1996, Congress and the gun lobby have prevented the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from conducting comprehensive research into gun violence. In the wake of the latest horror, and the confusion that followed, will that finally change?”