When a mass murderer shot her way into a Nashville school on Monday and killed six people, most Americans reacted with horror. Gun control advocates, however, viewed it as an opportunity. President Joe Biden, for example, saw the crime as a chance to promote an “assault weapon” ban. Randi Weingarten, the president of the American Federation of Teachers, responded with a call for gun confiscation. The corporate media pitched in with a spate of stories claiming that mass shootings literally occur on a daily basis in the United States.
ABC News, for example, ran a story titled, “There have been more mass shootings than days in 2023, database shows.” In order to take this headline seriously, it’s necessary to believe that more than 90 mass shootings have occurred since the beginning of the year. This is obviously not true, so where did ABC get its information? The referenced database is produced by the Gun Violence Archive (GVA), a “nonpartisan” organization that compiles data for a large network of gun control advocates. GVA is frequently quoted by major media outlets, including ABC, NPR, CNN, USA Today, the New York Times, and the Washington Post.
The Post’s Philip Bump, for example, used GVA data for a Thursday column in which he claims that “the average gap between mass-shooting incidents this year has been about 16.7 hours.” Seem implausible? The FBI has long defined such shootings as “any incident in which at least four people are murdered with a gun.” GVA’s 2023 database contains 13 events that meet this definition, most of which aren’t mass shootings as the term is generally used. GVA’s executive director, Mark Bryant, has promoted restrictive gun legislation since 2018 when he co-wrote an opinion piece for the Los Angeles Times containing this excerpt:
More guns mean more crime and more death. Gun possession significantly increases your risk of being killed by someone you know. A gun in the home doubles your risk of homicide and triples your risk of suicide. The presence of a gun increases the lethality of domestic violence. Areas with higher gun ownership see a significant increase in burglary. And states with higher levels of gun ownership experience higher rates of firearm fatalities.
This passage begs the following question: Does the GVA database provide objective information? The answer is clearly no. First, its definition of “mass shooting” is absurdly broad — including accidental shootings, those that occur during armed robberies, children shooting themselves, defensive gun use, drive-by shootings, familicide, and shootings that occur during home invasions. As of Friday morning, the GVA database for 2023 reports 131 “mass shootings.” An examination of the individual incidents listed, however, will reveal 50 in which no one was killed and another 33 that resulted in a single fatality.
These incidents are obviously included to inflate the numbers. This is why GVA’s definition of “mass shooting” ignores the FBI’s numeric criteria (four deaths), and the numeric criteria (three deaths) established by Congress. Even worse, the group fails to follow its own criteria. GVA claims to include incidents involving “4 or more shot or killed, not including the shooter.” Yet it includes the shooter in the death count for the Covenant School murders and many others. None of this bothers gun control advocates or the Fourth Estate. They continue to quote GVA’s phony statistics as written, as Stephen Collinson does in this CNN analysis.
According to data from the Gun Violence Archive, the Nashville horror was among at least 130 mass shootings so far this year – more than this point in any previous year since at least 2013. (The GVA, like CNN, defines a mass shooting as one in which at least four people are shot, excluding the shooter.) Such events are now so frequent that there are some cases of people who survived one such event getting caught up in the aftermath of a subsequent one.
Likewise, former Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell quotes GVA’s statistics in an op-ed for the Hill. He opens with a long list of cities and follows it with this prediction: “Unfortunately, almost all of our readers can probably identify that these are the locations where 131 mass shootings have occurred in America in 2023 — in some of these cities, more than once. Hard to believe, isn’t it?” Yes, as a matter fact, it is. If Rendell had bothered to do his homework, he would know about GVA’s lack of credibility. Or perhaps, like most gun control advocates, he considers its flawed methodology and inflated figures to be a feature rather than a bug.
What matters is that they provide talking points that allow activists to blame inanimate objects for the behavior of disturbed human beings. GVA’s statistics allow them to offer a simplistic solution for an incredibly complex problem. Thus our president pushes a ban on “assault weapons” and Randi Weingarten insists on the confiscation of various firearms. This is the real service provided by GVA. It provides cover for politicians, advocacy groups, and the corporate media to promote useless policies and undermine the Constitution.
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