The US just passed 500 mass shootings? Not really

AP Photo/Lisa Marie Pane

Mass shootings are a particular scourge in this nation and one that we do need to find a way to address. The idea of someone just randomly deciding to take a firearm and attack anyone and everyone in a given place for no reason boggles the mind, and yet it does happen all too often.


In fact, a report from The Hill says we just passed 500 such shootings this year and there’s still a fair bit of year left.

That’s not good, but let’s look at the report itself, rather than just the headline, and see what’s up.

The United States surpassed 500 mass shootings in 2023 over the weekend, according to the data from the Gun Violence Archive.

As of Sunday, the Gun Violence Archive reported 501 mass shootings so far in 2023, after a shooting in Denver, Colo. Saturday night marked the 500th mass shooting of the year.

Data from the Gun Violence Archive — which logs mass shootings in cases where there are four or more individuals wounded or killed in a shooting—found the total number of mass shootings in 2023 is so far lower than the past three years’ totals, but already higher than in 2019, which had 414 mass shootings and in 2018, which had 335 mass shootings.

2021 had the highest-ever number of mass shootings in the U.S. with 689 reported mass shootings, the Gun Violence Archive’s data shows. The number of mass shootings fell in 2022 to 645, although FBI data showed a rise in the total number of Americans wounded in such events between 2021 and 2022.

The FBI defines a mass shooting as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area,” a definition that varies from other metrics that focus on the number of total victims in evaluating a shooting.


Point of order, that’s actually the definition the FBI uses of an active shooter. There’s a difference between that and a mass shooter. I’m not sure if the FBI now conflates the two, but in years past, the FBI defined a mass shooting as one where four or more people were killed.

And that’s closer to what people think a mass shooting actually is.

What Gun Violence Archive does is tone down the definition of a mass shooting to the point that gang fights where no one is even seriously injured, all in an effort to inflate the number of mass shootings so as to scare Americans into supporting gun control.

Sure, they claim to be non-partisan, but that doesn’t mean they’re neutral by any stretch of the imagination.

Then folks at sites like The Hill repeat what they say uncritically, pretend that their definition has some degree of validity that no one else does, and then people freak out.

To put it in perspective, USA Today has tracked mass killings since 2006. They use a definition like I one I credited to the FBI above, four or more people killed. They give a 24-hour window, which makes it so spree killers are included.

They do not just look at mass murders committed with firearms, though. Any mass killing gets lumped in just the same. Guns, knives, bombs, cars, it doesn’t matter. They’re all considered equally. If they’d started in, say, 2000, 9/11 would have been tracked.


During that entire time, USA Today has tracked just 566 mass killings in total as of this writing.

“Why does it matter?”

Because mass shootings, awful as they are, aren’t everyday occurrences. Yet places like Gun Violence Archive and the media outlets that use their numbers want you to think that they are.

The problem is that when you see something like this as an everyday thing, people are much less likely to look at them and address them as the rare events that they actually are.

Gang fights aren’t solved with the same tools something like Las Vegas would be. They’re completely different situations, yet the Gun Violence Archive continually muddies the waters and makes people feel like mass shootings are happening all the time.

They’re trying to scare the American people and, thanks to places like The Hill, it’s working.

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