The media have been forwarding the statistic that there have been 355 mass shootings in 2015. That statistic is completely false.
Here is a list of major news outlets that have reported this stat:
And yet, had these news outlets bothered to thoroughly vet the statistic, they would have realized that it came from Reddit.
The Washington Free Beacon reports that a group of anti-gun activists created a subreddit, which is a “niche forum,” called “Guns Are Cool” that uses a very loose definition of mass shooting.
“We count the number of people shot rather than the number people killed because, ‘shooting’ means ‘people shot,'” the group explains.
These Reddit users also built a website called shootingtracker.com which aggregates stories that fit their definition of mass shootings.
Even Mark Follman, editor of the liberal site Mother Jones, wrote in The New York Times that this not a good way to define mass shootings:
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.
Mother Jones defines mass shootings as “four or more killed in public attacks, but excluded mass murders that stemmed from robbery, gang violence or domestic abuse in private homes.” The magazine has found that there have been only four mass shootings this year, including the San Bernardino shooting.
“Our goal with this relatively narrow set of parameters was to better understand the seemingly indiscriminate attacks that have increased in recent years, whether in movie theaters, elementary schools or office parks,” Follman wrote.
Follman also questioned the accuracy of the stories that shootingtracker.com linked to.
The FBI does not track mass shootings; they look at “mass killings,” which they define as three or more dead, and they have found there have been 67 mass killings this year. They refer to these instances as “mass killings” because some of the injuries are “incidental,” meaning the injuries suffered weren’t from the gunshots but from instances related to the shooting, such as broken glass.
The Congressional Research Service defines mass shootings as, “as incidents occurring in relatively public places, involving four or more deaths—not including the shooter(s)—and gunmen who select victims somewhat indiscriminately. The violence in these cases is not a means to an end such as robbery or terrorism.” According to the CRS, there were 317 mass shootings from 1999-2013, 66 of which fit their definition of mass shooting, and most gun violence is due to “gang-related shootings, crimes that occasion gunfire, disputes among families and friends that turn explosive.”
National Review‘s Ian Tuttle writes that comparing these types of shootings to the Newtown and Aurora shootings is “politically expedient.”
“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.”
Mark Follman, editor of Mother Jones
“The notion that there is a James Holmes or an Adam Lanza wreaking havoc every day in the United States is a form of fearmongering, a way of whipping up the sort of worry that might make voters more amenable to the sorts of policy proposals liberals at the Washington Post and elsewhere already prefer,” Tuttle wrote.
The Reddit users that spread this misleading statistic are proudly admitting that they want to take out the National Rifle Association, an ideological goal that will not be stopped by facts and reality; the media fanned the flames with the statistic because it fit their anti-gun narrative.