Mass shootings seem to be a part of American life. It’s sad, but facts aren’t always convenient. We’ve all seen them in the news and we’ve all seen the aftermath of such shootings as well.
Yet the media really does seem to love those two words in combination.
Is gun violence becoming white noise in the U.S.? Over the weekend, four mass shootings happened in three different cities. The shootings took place in South Carolina, Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, and Portland, Oregon.
Except, literally none of those were mass shootings.
If you look at these examples, you’ll notice that absolutely none of them meet the definition of a mass shooting as you or I might think of them.
The FBI defines mass murder as three or more killings as part of a single event. Mass shootings are really just an off-shoot of those, a subset where the weapon used is a firearm as opposed to, say, a car.
Yet between all of these incidents, it seems we have a grand total of three people killed. That’s no doubt tragic, particularly for the families, but that doesn’t meet the definition of a mass shooting as I noted above.
So what gives?
The truth is that, over time, the media has slowly adopted the Gun Violence Archive’s definition of “mass shooting” which is simply three or more people shot in a single event. This broadens the definition severely so as to include a lot of gang shootings–gangs kill plenty of people, but they’re far more likely to injure a large number of folks than kill them–or other criminal activity well outside of what most folks think of as mass shootings.
At first, the media at least acknowledged the definition. Now, they simply use it and expect everyone to be on the same page.
There’s a problem with this, though. Namely, as people begin to recognize that “mass shooting” no longer necessarily means people being killed, folks are more likely to tune them out. Folks will dismiss a lot of actual mass shootings–at least the smaller ones–simply because they’re no longer interested in the subject.
Plus, muddying the waters like this makes it harder to solve actual mass shootings.
After all, the solutions for gang warfare and the best ways to stop mentally disturbed people from shooting up a school or shopping mall aren’t going to be remotely similar. Yet if you cheapen the definition as the media has been doing, you make it more difficult to tell if any initiatives are actually working.
In other words, there’s no real upside to this new and less-improved definition of “mass shooting.”
Because there’s no upside for anyone–yes, even for gun control advocates–then maybe it’s time to call the media to task for cheapening the term. We have real problems in this country. The last thing we need is the media degrading our language in an effort to conflate different problems into seemingly being one bigger issue.
And they wonder why trust in the media is at an all-time low.
You can only make up crap for so long before people decide that you’re simply not worth listening to. Especially when it’s clear you’re using definitions provided by a clearly biased anti-Second Amendment group trying to inflate the number of mass shootings taking place each year to advance an agenda.
So seriously, knock it off.