Another problem with Gun Violence Archive's numbers

Another problem with Gun Violence Archive's numbers
AP Photo/Jae C. Hong

Supporters of gun control love to use Gun Violence Archive as an authoritative source on the number of shootings we have in this country. The number of mass shootings as compiled by the site–a number that doesn’t reflect what most people think of as a mass shooting, it should be remembered–is presented uncritically by the media.


It happens all the time, and in the wake of two shootings in California, it’s happening yet again. While we know plenty about those two shootings and will likely learn more as we go forward, proponents of gun control site Gun Violence Archive’s total number of mass shootings to show it’s more than those two incidents.

Take this editorial as just one example.

History is full of horrific events in which we shake our heads and ask, “How did that happen? What were they thinking?”

The Holocaust and slavery are two prime examples.

It begs the question of what is transpiring today that will be regarded by future generations as deplorable. That historians will record with the hope that they will never be repeated.

Climate change, yes. And then there is gun violence.

California has had three mass shootings in the last four days. Seven people were killed and one injured in Half Moon Bay on Monday. One person was killed and six injured at an East Oakland gas station later that evening. Eleven people were killed and nine injured in Monterey Park on Saturday.

We are not even at the end of the first month of 2023. Yet the Monterey Park and Half Moon Bay shootings bring the number of mass shootings (in which four or more people were killed or injured) to 39 this year, according to the Gun Violence Archive. That follows the 647 mass shootings recorded in 2022 and 690 mass shootings in 2021.


Of course, what follows is the true-to-form call for gun control we typically see from many editorial boards.

Now, in the wake of two deadly mass shootings, I sort of get it. However, they’re not just holding those two incidents up as why we somehow need gun control. They’re holding Gun Violence Archive’s numbers up as well.

And yet, what do we know about any of those shootings?

Well, we know three or more people were injured at those shootings–the low standard the site uses to categorize something as a mass shooting in the first place, which includes gang warfare, drivebys, and so on–but little else.

If we’re going to have a conversation about how we need gun control, about how certain guns shouldn’t be allowed in private hands, or how certain people should be legally barred from buying guns, shouldn’t we also need to know about any of those hundreds upon hundreds of so-called mass shootings?

I ask because I know statistically where most of those weapons came from, and it’s not from lawful gun sales.

How can you say that the gun laws are insufficient when so few of these hundreds of “mass shootings” were carried out with a lawfully-obtained firearm in the first place?


See, Gun Violence Archive is a favorite among the media and anti-gun set (but I repeat myself), yet it only shows part of the picture. To cite their numbers without important context on where those guns were obtained amounts to little more than trying to view a masterpiece by only looking at one single bit with a microscope.

It’s not a full picture by any stretch.

And it matters because while actual mass shootings make headlines, the real violence problem in our country happens in our inner cities. They get counted by Gun Violence Archive to try and push gun control when all the gun laws in the world aren’t going to help.

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