The New York Times editorial board said that there have been more than 1,600 mass shootings in the U.S. since the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School in December 2012.
That’s only true if you grant an extremely generous definition of “mass shooting.”
NYT says 1,600, but the left-leaning outlet Mother Jones says only 35, and Everytown for Gun Safety claims there were 156 between 2009 and 2016. The U.S. Congress found just over 300 shootings between 1999 and 2013. They’re all using different definitions of what a mass shooting is.
In layman’s terms, a “mass shooting” may evoke the idea of a random public attack akin to the shootings in Newtown, Las Vegas or Parkland. The definition from The NYT, however, includes instances of domestic violence, drive-by shootings, disagreements at bars and parties, gang violence and robberies. Even the narrower analysis from Everytown, which only counts instances with four or more deaths, found that 54 percent of the mass shooting cases from 2009 to 2016 were related to domestic or family violence.
Using its definition, NYT is technically correct, but four people killed or injured is hardly what Americans mean when they say mass shooting.
Mother Jones’ definition was far more stringent. Its 35 number comes from excluding situations like armed robberies or gang violence and only counts incidents that both took place in public and were carried out by a lone shooter.
The NYT estimate is more than 1,000 “mass shootings” higher than almost any other and includes so many different situations that experts say it’s totally useless for making policy.
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