The Media, The FBI, and Confusion on Shooting Data

Many oft-cited statistics disregard forms of school violence that may not have involved guns but are similar to shootings in intention or impact, says The Atlantic. The messiness of counting school shootings contributes to sensationalizing or oversimplifying a modern trend of mass violence in the U.S. based on information is confusing at best and inaccurate at worst.

After the Florida school massacre, news organizations are engaging in a grim tradition: tallying the ever-growing list of school shootings in the U.S., and of mass shootings more generally, The Atlantic reports. The Daily Beast cited data from Everytown, the gun-control advocacy group, which called the Florida episode the 59th shooting at or near schools this academic year. The counting of school shootings, and of other types of shootings and incidents of mass violence, isn’t a straightforward process. Many oft-cited statistics disregard forms of school violence that may not have involved guns but are similar to shootings in intention or impact. The messiness of counting school shootings contributes to sensationalizing or oversimplifying a modern trend of mass violence in the U.S. based on information is confusing at best and inaccurate at worst.

In 2008, the FBI limited its definition of mass shootings to a single incident in which a shooter kills four or more people. In 2013 the agency defined an “active shooter” as a person “actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a confined and populated area.” After the 2012 school shootings in Newtown, Ct., Congress defined“mass killings” as three or more killings in one incident. Separating out different forms of gun violence in the statistics is crucial in understanding why shootings happen and how they might be prevented. Under pressure from the National Rifle Association, Congress in 1996 prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding public-health research on firearms issues. There is still no comprehensive federal database on gun deaths, let alone on school shootings. After the Aurora, Co., movie-theater shooting, Mother Jones created an open-source database of mass shootings. The newspaper Education Week launched a database that counts school shootings. Each database has its own criteria for what it defines as a mass or school shooting.

from https://thecrimereport.org