Claim That Florida Leads the Nation in Mass Shootings Hinges on Faulty Premise

AP Photo/Nell Redmond

Florida has a lot going for it. It's not as free on guns as I'd like by any stretch of the imagination, but it's also not remotely as restrictive as a number of other states, either. Plus, the warm weather and sandy beaches are just an awesome part of life in the Sunshine State. Even if you don't live in a coastal city, they're not too far away.

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Plus, it's got an east and a west coast, so you can watch the sunrise over the ocean and set over the gulf, all on the same day.

Pretty nice.

But a story from the Tallahassee Democrat, via MSN, paints a story about the state as currently leading the nation in mass shootings.

Tallahassee's early Sunday morning shooting of multiple people at a shopping center means Florida remains the state with the most mass shootings across the country, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive.

The shooting occurred early Sunday morning as the darkened city was still coping with widespread destruction and power outages from multiple tornado strikes Friday. Tallahassee police say they responded to find two men dead at the scene and two other adult victims wounded.

That puts Florida's total of mass shootings this year so far at 14, the same number the Sunshine State saw by this time last year. Florida jumped ahead of the rest last month when there were three mass shootings in three days.

Well, that's terrible.

Or it would be if it were true.

Once again, the media is using the Gun Violence Archive as an authoritative source. In this particular article, they make no effort to share how GVA defines a mass shooting, which is four or more people injured in a shooting, which includes a whole lot of things that no one would think of as mass shootings.

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For example, back in my day, drive-by shootings were a topic of discussion. They often left four or more people injured, but it was understood that these were typically gang-related and needed to be addressed as such. They weren't treated as being the same thing as a maniac taking an AK and shooting up McDonald's.

But other databases tell a different story, and I'm not going with databases from right-leaning sources, either.

Mother Jones has a database tracking mass shootings since 1982 where they define mass shootings as an incident--more accurately, an "indiscriminate rampage"--where four or more people are killed that don't stem from some kind of more conventional crime. As such, Charlotte wouldn't count.

The problem is that Mother Jones doesn't have anything for 2024. Did they stop tracking? Not really. 

While USA Today has a lot of issues when it comes to guns, including thinking chainsaw bayonets were viable and realistic accessories people actually put on their guns regularly, they do have their own mass murder database as well. They've been tracking since 2006 and while they include all mass murders, they do differentiate mass shootings, also separating those out to those "public mass shootings" and "non-public mass shootings."

They include a grand total of 11 mass shootings nationwide during 2024, none of them as "public," which is what most of us think of as a mass shooting. Charlotte is listed as a non-public mass shooting.

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That total of 11 nationwide as of this writing pales in comparison to supposedly 14 shootings in Florida alone. 

In fact, in the USA Today data, I could find none that took place in Florida.

Meanwhile, notoriously anti-gun California leads the nation by USA Today's definition, having two mass shootings, both of which were considered non-public.

Now, can you see why we don't respect the GVA numbers?

Both USA Today and Mother Jones, for all their sins, at least differentiate shootings in some manner so that the issue doesn't get lost in the noise. Their databases are infinitely more useful with regard to understanding the subject.

But I guess that since these are two news organizations, their data is somehow unworthy of inclusion.

Or GVA just creates the biggest number and that's all that matters.


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