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Public Confusion Over Data Compiling Mass Shootings, Killings

Mourning and outrage has shaken the nation as mass shootings continue to mark some of the latest chapters of a long history of gun violence. These include killings in Tulsa, Buffalo, and Uvalde, Tx. It's important to understand the language and data surrounding mass shootings and their impact. Such events "are just a really small fraction of lives that are altered forever after these tragedies... [Mass shootings] shatter families and whole communities," said Sarah Burd-Sharps of the advocacy nonprofit Everytown For Gun Safety. There's no single consensus on the definition, reports USA Today.


The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group, defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter. Everytown is moving towards expanding the definition to also include four or more injuries in the future. The FBI doesn't have a mass shooting definition. Instead defining "mass murder" as an incident where four or more people are killed. The Gun Violence Archive's definition includes those who are injured because injuries also cost families "tremendously," said executive director Mark Bryant. Burd-Sharps recognizes that differing definitions can be confusing to the general public, but stresses that, "no matter how you define it, whether it's an average of 20 a year with four plus killed or an average of practically one a day with four plus shots, either one is far too high." Mass shootings make up just a small fraction of gun violence. "Mass shootings cover about 75 percent of my conversations, my emails and my queries, [but they] count for five to six percent of my work," Bryant said, noting that only five to six percent of people who have been shot in the last nine years were shot in mass shootings.

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