On Thursday morning, the anniversary of the horrific Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, CNN’s Jim Acosta posted an article which grossly over-represented the number of mass shootings across the United States.
The article reported there have been over 1,500 mass shooting since 2010, when a 20-year-old fatally shot 20 children and half a dozen staff members in Newton, Connecticut.
He posted, “Since Sandy Hook there have been at least 1,552 mass shootings, with at least 1,767 people killed and 6,227 wounded.”
Since Sandy Hook there have been at least 1,552 mass shootings, with at least 1,767 people killed and 6,227 wounded. https://t.co/RZeFDHhYmR
— Jim Acosta (@Acosta) December 14, 2017
Since Acosta shared the article this morning, the number of mass shooting incidents has already gone up.
Vox reports 1,576 mass shootings have occurred since December 2012.
Twitchy reports the discrepancy:
And if you actually read the story you’ll notice that Vox actually UPPED the number of mass shootings since Acosta tweeted … why isn’t CNN covering those 24 mass shootings that happened in the last three hours?
In addition, according to the report cited in the Vox article, 331 mass shootings occurred this year.
The Vox article defines a “mass shooting” as an incident where “four or more people (not counting the shooter) were shot at the same general time and location.”
The report also qualifies the data by saying “[t]he count is also a constant work in progress, so some of the numbers and details may be slightly imprecise.”
Vox offers information to counter their own (and Acosta’s) claim:
Using one common definition — shootings at a public place in which the shooter murdered four or more people, excluding domestic, gang, and drug violence — they appear to be getting more common, according to an analysis from Harvard School of Public Health researchers.
But not everyone agrees with this definition. Northeastern University criminologist James Alan Fox, for example, defines mass shootings more widely, as any shooting in which at least four people were murdered. Under those terms, mass shootings don’t appear to be increasing.
Researchers from the Harvard School of Public Health call the definition Fox uses too broad, since it catches domestic, gang, and drug-related shootings that aren’t usually considered mass shootings in layman’s terms.
The Gun Violence Archive’s definition, which is what’s used for the map above, is even broader than Fox’s — counting not just murders but injuries, too. So it counts all shootings in which four or more people were shot but not necessarily killed (excluding the shooter). That includes domestic, gang, and drug-related shootings in which four or more people were killed or wounded, as well.
Even under the Gun Violence Archive’s broad definition, it’s worth noting that mass shootings make up a tiny portion of America’s firearm deaths, which total more than 32,000 each year.
CNN previously reported (via the Congressional Research Service) that the U.S. has on average only one mass shooting per month:
The government has never defined “mass shooting” as a standalone category. Let’s go with the most commonly accepted definition, from the Congressional Research Service: a shooting in which a gunman …
- kills four or more people
- selects victims randomly (ruling out gang killings or the killing of multiple family members)
- attacks in a public placeThat definition rules out the Congressional baseball practice shooting in June, because the gunman didn’t kill four people. In September, a man shot and killed eight people in Plano, Texas — but that attack doesn’t count either because police say the gunman had a “connection to the house.”Using that narrow definition to the Gun Violence Archive numbers, we have seen ten deadly mass shootings from January 1 to November 5.That averages to one a month.
Here’s what some people said about Acosta’s figure:
This is a lie. If a politician said this, Jim Acosta would interrupt the press conference to live-fact-check him with readily available FBI statistics.
— Charles C. W. Cooke (@charlescwcooke) December 14, 2017
Straight up lie.
Jim isn’t even trying anymore.
— Eddie 🔹 (@eddiecarl4468) December 14, 2017
Jim just stop, stop with the lies you are getting worse not better
— Maddie1776 (@maddie1776) December 14, 2017
This isn't gonna go well for Mr. Acosta…
— Bearly Legal 🐻 (@MichaelCoughlin) December 14, 2017
— Magnum_CK (@Magnum_CK) December 14, 2017
— THEY SAID I CAN PUT FIFTY CHARACTERS I'M USING 49 (@newyorkjew) December 14, 2017
This is a lie, FakeNewsboy.
— JWF (@JammieWF) December 14, 2017
You seem to be getting quite comfortable with the fake news moniker but hey, never let the facts get in the way of the agenda.
— Christy Waters (@ThatChristyChic) December 14, 2017
Nothing screams credibility more than tweeting out an inaccurate Vox article. So many ways to show there is a gun issue and you pick this?
— Amatuer (@Blackoutjoe2) December 14, 2017
Umm, you’re hackery is showing
— #OH_Robb (@OH_Robb) December 14, 2017
From the article: "Under those terms, mass shootings don’t appear to be increasing." and "it’s worth noting that mass shootings make up a tiny portion of America’s firearm deaths." pic.twitter.com/SXDrzloiNf
— Jeryl Bier (@JerylBier) December 14, 2017