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The context behind the mass shooting statistics going viral on social media

You may have seen a statistic on social media claiming there have been more mass shootings than days this year. The data needs some context.

A statistic making the rounds on social media claims there have been 251 mass shootings in 216 days, Jan. 1, 2019 - Aug. 4, 2019. 

While the data is not incorrect, context is important. 

The number comes from The Gun Violence Archive, a non-profit group that maintains data on gun-related violence in the United States. They have since updated the number to 255 mass shootings through Aug. 5.

The Gun Violence Archive considers a mass shooting any incident in which four or more people are shot, but not necessarily killed.

In the last week, their data includes:

  • Dayton, Ohio – Where 10 people were killed, including the shooter, and more than two dozen others were wounded in a popular entertainment district.
  • El Paso, Texas – Where 22 people were killed and dozens of others were shot in a Walmart.
  • Gilroy, California – Where four people were killed, including the shooter, and 13 others were wounded at the Gilroy Garlic Festival.

Other shootings included in the data occurred in Chippewa Falls, Wisconsin, and Suffolk, Virginia that included multiple family members. 

One of two included shootings in Chicago was a drive-by.

In each of the above incidents, four or more people were shot, not including the gunman. While that is the criteria The Gun Violence Archive uses, there is no legal definition of a mass shooting in the United States.

The government defines a "mass killing" as three or more deaths in a single event. 

So far in 2019, 31 shootings meet that criteria.

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