The New York Times’ editorial board relied on inflated mass shooting numbers in a dramatic piece on gun violence published Tuesday.
The article didn’t make an argument; it displayed filled-out calendars marking the days on which “mass shootings” took place. The piece was titled: “477 Days. 521 Mass Shootings. Zero Action From Congress.” The editorial board relied on data from the Gun Violence Archive to assert that there have been 521 mass shootings since the start of June 2016.
The Gun Violence Archive’s definition of “mass shooting,” used by the NYT, is a shooting that “involves four or more people injured or killed in a single event at the same time and location.”
The archive lumps in events like Sunday night’s mass murder — which left at least 58 people dead and 500 others wounded — with shootings that left zero people dead, like a Philadelphia bar fight in March that resulted in four people being wounded after a man pulled out a gun and started shooting.
Federal law defines “mass killings” as having three or more deaths. A strong majority of the “mass shootings” referred to by the archive and the NYT fall short of that benchmark.
The FBI defines an “active shooter” — like Las Vegas shooter Stephen Paddock as an “individual actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” The number of yearly active shooter situations similarly appears to be a small fraction of the number of mass shootings claimed by the Gun Violence Archive.
There were 40 active shooter situations accounting for 92 total deaths in 2014 and 2015, according to an FBI study released in 2016. The Gun Violence Archive claims there were 607 “mass shootings” over that same time period.
A congressional report published in 2013 indicates that mass shooting events are much more rare than the media portrays them to be. That report, which used a narrower definition of mass shooting excluding domestic violence incidents and many gang-related shootings, identified just 78 such shootings between 1983 and 2012.
Journalists and Democrats spread the NYT editorial across Twitter, with some praising it as “powerful.”
In the 477 days between the horrific shootings at Pulse nightclub and Las Vegas, there were 521 mass shootings. https://t.co/FWpEymJ11q
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) October 3, 2017
— Shira Tarlo (@shiratarlo) October 3, 2017
— Rep. Frank Pallone (@FrankPallone) October 3, 2017
The normalization of this carnage & the cowardice from Congress in the face of the gun lobby is shameful. https://t.co/n4MLdOP9Du
— Colin Kahl (@ColinKahl) October 3, 2017
This is so so sad, and I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say blood on the hands of congressional lawmakers https://t.co/KkRu0hdV0e
— Julia Belluz (@juliaoftoronto) October 3, 2017
— Kyle Griffin (@kylegriffin1) October 3, 2017
The NYT’s editorial board has previously botched the facts while pushing a narrative around gun violence.
After a left-wing supporter of Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders tried to murder dozens of Republican congressmen in June, the NYT bizarrely attacked former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin and falsely accused her of inciting the 2011 shooting of Democratic Rep. Gabby Giffords. The paper only corrected the error after public backlash against the false claim. (RELATED: NYT Uses GOP Shooting To Falsely Attack Sarah Palin With Debunked Conspiracy Theory)