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Author Topic: What is a mass shooting?
Rafi
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Lots of anti gun nuts are running around with the claim that there have been more mass shootings than days this year or that mass shootings are increasing dramatically. These claims are based on incredibly braid definitions of mass shootings. One site frequently quoted used a definition so broad as to include a 12 year old popping 4 buddies with a pellet gun in the stars ( no injuries were reported behind some bruises). So what should be a "mass shooting"?

The FBI says more than 4 people killed. Should it be number shot vs killed? Is 4 the right number?

How about gangs? A couple of criminal organizations shooting each other up to protect their illegal operations or turf should be included in that? What about cartels doing it as a way to protect financial operations?

Does intent matter? San Bernadino was terrorism, designed to push a specific ideology. The Colorado theater shooting was just a guy going off randomly with no real goal in mind. Is terrorism a mass shooting or not?

Target selection? Does the randomness of it matter? If a shooter goes after people specifically selected for a well defined reason is that more simply classed as murder?

For me, a mass shooting is a event with random target selection and not related to criminal enterprise/profit motives nor related to ideological goals (I.e terrorism). Im not sure about the killed vs shot though, 3 killed and 20 shot is a mass shooting to me. 3 killed and none shot, seems iffy.

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philnotfil
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I had been fine with going by number of deaths rather than just number of people wounded, then someone pointed out that response time and medical skill significant factors in the number of deaths. I would go with overall number of people wounded.

I would not include the perpetrators in the number of wounded/killed.

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NobleHunter
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I'd say a mass shooting is 4 or more people shot even if they survive. I'd exclude shoot-outs between armed groups. Murder has to be the point.

Other than murder, intent is irrelevant. San Bernadino was terrorism and a mass shooting.

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Rafi
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Good point about including the perps. I can see a scenario, probably in Texas, where 3-4 terrorists enter a public place and before getting really into the deal have a few arms citizens take them out. That's not a mass shooting.

I can also see a scenario like a guy coming home to find his wife in bed with another man. In a fit of rage, shoots both and kills them. Afterwards, realizes what he's done and shoots himself for 3 dead. That's not a mass shooting.

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Rafi
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quote:
Originally posted by NobleHunter:

Other than murder, intent is irrelevant. San Bernadino was terrorism and a mass shooting.

The thing about that is "mass shooting" is a political tool now. Mass shootings are seen by some as the evidence for ignoring the second amendment - that's why the inflated stats. A mass shooting is a daily threat to them, terrorism is not. If you conflate he two, you cloud then issue.
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NobleHunter
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Terrorism is clouded by itself. While there are shootings that are terrorism and shootings that are not terrorism, the distinction isn't always clear. The benefit to discarding intent is that the data can be gathered without needing information on the shooters.

The response to the misuse of data isn't to degrade the quality of data.

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Fenring
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I've just done a cursory check regarding the validity of the number of "mass shootings" being reported. The number being given out for this year seems to be 353, as reported in sources like Rolling Stone, the Guardian, CBS, and others. The Rolling Stone article won't load in my Chrome for some reason. The leading Guardian article on the subject cites a REDDIT STUDY on mass shootings for 2014, and then cites an FBI study over a number of years corroborating that the rate may be rising. More on the FBI study in a moment. Since The Guardian was citing a Reddit study I went to Reddit looking for such a study and came up empty, but I did come across this thread:

https://www.reddit.com/r/PoliticalDiscussion/comments/3vcoin/why_the_united_states_mass_shooting_number_for/

It's a debunking thread that happens to cite the same FBI study mentioned in the Guardian article. Here's a link to that study:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2014/september/fbi-releases-study-on-active-shooter-incidents/pdfs/a-study-of-active-shooter-incidents-in-the-u.s.-between-2000-and-2013

quote:
From the FBI study:
This is not a study of mass killings or mass shootings, but rather a study of a specific type of shooting situation law enforcement and the public may face. Incidents identified in this study do not encompass all gun-related situations; therefore caution should be taken when using this information without placing it in context. Specifically, shootings that resulted from gang or drug violence — pervasive, long-tracked, criminal acts that could also affect the public - were not included in this study. In addition, other gun-related shootings were not included when those incidents appeared generally not to have put others in peril (e.g., the accidental discharge of a firearm in a school building or a person who chose to publicly commit suicide in a parking lot). The study does not encompass all mass killings or shootings in public places and therefore is limited in its scope. Nonetheless, it was undertaken to provide clarity and data of value to both law enforcement and citizens as they seek to stop these threats and save lives during active shooter incidents.

As a result, the FBI identified 160 active shooter incidents that occurred in the United States between 2000 and 2013. Though additional active shooter incidents may have occurred during this time period, the FBI is confident this research captured the vast majority of incidents falling within the search criteria. To gather information for this study, researchers relied on official police records (where available), FBI records, and open sources.

The official FBI study shows 160 active shooter situations over 14 years, which equals on average 11.4 active shooter situations per year. Note I'm not using the term "mass shootings" since that would include things the article deems off-topic such as gang violence and accidents.

One Washington Post graph somewhat agrees with the FBI results, albeit with the numbers a bit higher, but still nowhere near the figure often cited of hundreds per year (I've seen reports from MSM sources of ~330 mass shootings for 2014):

https://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/files/2012/12/MassShootings.jpg

Note also that another common statistic cited in the MSM article is a page called Mass Shooting Tracker (massshootingtracker.com), which includes no documentation or verification, and whose web page doesn't even work properly to access the data from 2013 or 2014. Here is a Reddit comment from the debunking thread regarding this oft cited web page's numbers regarding the amount of killed and wounded people in each incident:

quote:

Except motive matters.

Take the Empire State shooting. The cops shot at one guy but hit like nine bystanders. Mass shooting. Right?

Secondly, the shooting tracker only collects based on headlines. It does not verify any of the incidents at all, nor does it seek independent verification that the reported story was true. "4 injured in shooting" doesn't mean four people were shot.

The only thing the shooting tracker shows is that if there's a hoodlum with a gun in a crowded place, he's probably going to hit bystanders. Which is what happens when you use a gun in a crowded place. One of the 'mass shootings' they reported as a guy who fired ONE BULLET and four people got hit by flying concrete and debris.

This speaks to the validity and sources of information behind this site.

Here's an article from the NYT on whether the number of mass shootings cited is for real:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/12/04/opinion/how-many-mass-shootings-are-there-really.html

quote:
What explains the vastly different count? The answer is that there is no official definition for “mass shooting.” Almost all of the gun crimes behind the much larger statistic are less lethal and bear little relevance to the type of public mass murder we have just witnessed again [San Berardino]. Including them in the same breath suggests that a 1 a.m. gang fight in a Sacramento restaurant, in which two were killed and two injured, is the same kind of event as a deranged man walking into a community college classroom and massacring nine and injuring nine others. Or that a late-night shooting on a street in Savannah, Ga., yesterday that injured three and killed one is in the same category as the madness that just played out in Southern California.
At first glance and without doing a massive amount of investigation it seem to me that this "353 shootings" thing is a completely made-up statistic designed to dupe people into thinking that America is turning into a war zone. Maybe I'm wrong about this and if anyone finds something more concrete to back up the supposed number we could be looking at an 'info war' where at least one side is propagating a blatant lie. If so that would mean the FBI is in on the lie (!). As of right now it appears that the blatant lie is the side saying there were 353 mass shootings in 2015 (knowing full well the audience will understand this as meaning 353 active shooter incidents, which they were not).

If the 353 number turns out to be fraudulent I wonder if people here who made a stink about it will mention their error.

[ December 09, 2015, 11:42 AM: Message edited by: Fenring ]

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vegimo
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The 353 number comes from the site shootingtracker.com. They have a description of every incident and you can then do some research to figure out whether you would classify each differently. I have done this in the past for the first 50 or so, and have found that there are a very high number of cases that probably should not be included in the total. The site is blocked for me at work or I would go look again.
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by vegimo:
The 353 number comes from the site shootingtracker.com. They have a description of every incident and you can then do some research to figure out whether you would classify each differently. I have done this in the past for the first 50 or so, and have found that there are a very high number of cases that probably should not be included in the total. The site is blocked for me at work or I would go look again.

Damn, you're right, I got the URL wrong in my post. The site I was referring to above is shootingtracker.com, not massshootingtracker.com

This is the web page I meant. A brief look into the matter seems to show that the numbers shown by this site are a false indication of the number of active shooter incidents in the U.S. in 2015, which according to the NYT article is more likely in the low 20's. The other 330 or so it cites might be accounted for in gang violence, accidents, police shootings, 'regular' murders involving people injured, and suicides. Honestly I don't intend to look into each case to verify it, but for now I'm content to trust the FBI numbers for yearly averages and to assume that even if the trend is going up steadily it will still be near or around the 20 incidents range.

[ December 09, 2015, 12:25 PM: Message edited by: Fenring ]

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Rafi
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Good stuff Fenrig. I think a common sense check tells you that the 353 number is bogus. That anyone took at as true is a complete evacuation of intellect.

But my point is, that being a very popular number based on smoke and mirrors, what does constitute a mass shooting.

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Rafi:
But my point is, that being a very popular number based on smoke and mirrors, what does constitute a mass shooting.

Offhand I'd have to say that "active shooter situation" is what you really want to look for, since the topic on hand is people going on maniac-style killing sprees. The point of this conversation isn't to see how much gang violence there is in 2015, and so "mass shootings" doesn't help you very much if that's what you're looking at. This is more or less a copy-paste of what the FBI report said and their reasoning seems good to me.

That being said, I'd personally consider a mass shooting relevant if it met the following criteria:

1) Completely intentional and planned (not a heat of the moment dispute that turned ugly).

2) Not involving an altercation that was initiated in regard to the police (either by the police or against the police).

3) Not involving gangs or organized criminal activity.

4) An intent by a shooter to kill multiple people, whether or not this succeeds. I would consider a maniac firing a gun randomly into a crowd and hitting zero people to be an active shooter incident.

5) No accidents.

6) No suicides with collateral damage.

7) No incidents where multiple people are shooting at each other and there are multiple casualties (except if there is an active shooter and people on location respond by drawing arms and returning fire).

8) No terrorist actions by foreign agents, although I would be willing to consider home-grown terrorist actions.

9) Multiple bullets/weapons must be fired at multiple targets.

Honestly each situation would have to be evaluated on its own merits. We can see how hard it can be to evaluate even one incident like San Berardino for intent, motive and so forth, but at least it's clear that was an active shooter situation.

[ December 09, 2015, 12:38 PM: Message edited by: Fenring ]

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scifibum
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Your #1 seems off to me. Why wouldn't we include heat of the moment mass shootings?
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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by scifibum:
Your #1 seems off to me. Why wouldn't we include heat of the moment mass shootings?

On a case by case basis I could see how you might want to include some like this, like a person carrying a weapon who happens to go berserk completely at random and opens fire in public. That being said I think this kind of scenario is exceptionally rare since people don't typically walk around packing heat and then go bananas on a crown out of the blue. Mostly I meant cases where a crime of passion was being committed involving multiple casualties, misunderstandings involving people opening fire, or defensive actions where multiple people are shot. I also think that a hunt-and-kill scenario shouldn't count, such as going to the motel room where your wife is with her lover in order to kill them both, and incidentally killing the motel owner who was in the room at the time giving them ice. That's not the kind of thing we're trying to look at, I think.

Overall I think the objective in looking at active shooter scenarios is to find out how many instances there are of someone going out of their way to acquire a weapon in order to gun down multiple people where the shooter doesn't have a personal stake in those specific people dying. Any kind of random mass murder isn't what we're interested in; "mass shooting" as it's misleadingly used in the media seems to have a connotation of something like a school shooting or a wild gunman shooting into a crowd, and I think that's a fine general tenor to choose as a restriction on what we're looking for.

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Pete at Home
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I'd consider a mass shooting to be the shooting of a mass of people or a shooting that occurs during Mass.

I don't understand the quibble over this definition, nor the assumption that no mass shooting might also be an act of terrorism.

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Pete at Home
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FBI crime definitions exist for purposes of jurisdiction. For purposes of our discussion, whether the FBI would prosecute any particular act has no bearing on whether said act is terrorism.

Both 9/11 and Oklahoma City were intended to inspire and rally like minded persons. Not to sway US opinion or to alter US govt policy.

Terrorism is simply a Public Relations campaign where innocents are publicly harmed or threatened in order to secure attention and publicity.

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Rafi
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
I'd consider a mass shooting to be the shooting of a mass of people or a shooting that occurs during Mass.

I don't understand the quibble over this definition, nor the assumption that no mass shooting might also be an act of terrorism.

The definition is a issue because in he wake of San Bernadino we were told that there was at least one mass shootIng a day in the US. That stat has become a basis for advocating attacks on the second amendment despite it being misleading.
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Pete at Home
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Is you position that multiple shooting incidents don't constitute a serious problem in society?

I thought you recognized this as a serious need for health care?

For gun control mendacity, I would look more carefully at pig-in-a-poke terms such as "Assault weapon".

Like sex offender or no flight Lister, terms like assault weapon can be redefined randomly, rendering a law insane that was arguably sane when enacted. "Sex offender lists" make sense until you realize that you can get on the list by participating in consensual adult oral sex in Louisiana, or pissing off the side of the road.

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Fenring
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quote:
Originally posted by Pete at Home:
I'd consider a mass shooting to be the shooting of a mass of people or a shooting that occurs during Mass.

I don't understand the quibble over this definition, nor the assumption that no mass shooting might also be an act of terrorism.

We're not even talking about that, Pete. It has nothing to do with terrorism vs not terrorism. I even mentioned in my list that it might be reasonable to count home-grown terrorists as active shooters for the purposes of this count, but it surely would be ridiculous to count foreign agents who come to America to kill people. The main point of contesting the statistic (other than the fact that it appears to be a propaganda lie) is to address how much relevance gun control legislation has in terms of the amount of active shooters per year. The headlines and social media storm read as "something needs to be done!" in response to being told how many 'mass shootings' per year there are, as if America has suddenly gone crazy. In fact it hasn't suddenly gone crazy, even though the amount of active shooters per year is somewhat higher than it was 5-10 years ago.
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