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What qualifies as a mass shooting?

Despite the gun violence epidemic in America, there is no singular definition for what constitutes a mass shooting

Kelly Rissman
Wednesday 14 February 2024 22:51 GMT
US Mass shooting time-lapse 2015

In Uvalde, Texas, 19 children and two teachers were murdered in a mass shooting.

In Lewiston, Maine, 17 people were killed and 13 others were wounded.

In Parkland, Florida, 17 people were murdered and 17 others were injured in yet another shooting.

Despite mass shootings being ever-present in America’s daily life, there is no singular definition for what constitutes a mass shooting.

The FBI has no set definition for a mass shooting. It does, however, include a definition of “mass murder”: four or more killed during the same incident at roughly the same time. So this definition could be expanded to include gun violence.

The Gun Violence Archive defines “mass shooting” as four or more people shot in a single event at the same general time and location, not including the shooter.

Everytown for Gun Safety defines “mass shooting” as any incident in which four or more people are shot and wounded or killed, excluding the shooter.

Giffords, another gun safety group, defines it as an incident in which four or more people are killed or injured with a firearm.

The Gun Violence Archive’s executive director Mark Bryant told USA Today that its definition includes those who are injured because injuries also take a toll on families “tremendously.” He added, the term “mass” is a “measurement of quantity. That’s all it is, there’s no political caveats attached to it.”

The Gun Violence archive reported more than 650 mass shootings in 2023, up from 644 in 2022. When the archive started its reporting in 2014, there were 272 mass shootings — showcasing the worsening crisis of gun violence in the US.

“These (data) counts are just a really small fraction of lives that are altered forever after these tragedies... (Mass shootings) shatter families and whole communities,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, senior director of research at advocacy nonprofit Everytown For Gun Safety, told USA Today.

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