Last night we took apart the claim made by the anti-gun group Americans for Responsible Solutions and a deceptive claim made by Huffington Post that there have been “sixteen mass shootings since Sandy Hook.”
We did it by using their own criteria of “a minimum of four people killed in a single episode and a single location, usually in a public place.”
What we revealed was the following:
- six were incorrectly classified. They were spree killings, not mass killings.
- one, in Chicago, appears fictionalized. There was no mass killing in Chicago where five people were killed in a single incident that month.
- eight were “valid” mass killings with four or more killed, but atypical by Huffington Post’s own definitions, happening all or in part within in private residences, but were not remotely like what most people would consider a mass shooting comparable to something like Columbine or Sandy Hook.
- Just one, the Navy Yard shooting committed by Aaron Alexis, meets the Huffington Post standard of a minimum of four killed in a single episode at a single location in a public place.
Of the six teen mass shootings originally claimed, only the Navy Yard shooting of Aaron Alexis fit the classic profile of a mass shooting according to the Huffington Post’s definitions.
But perhaps we need to dig even deeper to the eight “atypical” mass shootings we’ve given them credit for, and ask if they should be included if a mass shooting was not the intent of the shooter going into the event.
Aaron Alexis, Adam Lanza, James Holmes, and other infamous mass shooters intended for their crime to be a signature work, a crime of violence with the highest possible body count. This is the common intent of mass shooters. Arguably, without both the intent and the execution of a mass shooting event, one cannot claim that a mass shooting was carried out.
If a mass shooting wasn’t the intention of the murderer, and defies the public expectation of what the term “mass shooting” means, shouldn’t we revisit defining “mass shooting” in a way that makes more sense to the public?
Let’s start with a dissection of the eight atypical mass shootings in the list, and explain why they should perhaps not be included in mass shootings.