Mourning and outrage has shaken the nation as mass shootings continue to mark some of the latest chapters of a long history of gun violence across the United States.
On Wednesday, a gunman killed four people in a shooting at a medical center in Tulsa, Oklahoma. The attack comes after high-profile shooting massacres in Buffalo, New York, where 10 Black people were killed, and Uvalde, Texas, where 19 children and two teachers were killed in May.
As Americans grapple with these horrific shootings and many demand change, it’s important to understand the language and data surrounding mass shootings and their impact worldwide.
“These [data] counts are just a really small fraction of lives that are altered forever after these tragedies… [Mass shootings] shatter families and whole communities,” Sarah Burd-Sharps, senior director of research at advocacy nonprofit Everytown For Gun Safety, told USA TODAY.
What is considered a mass shooting? How many mass shootings occur each year? Here’s what you need to know.
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What is considered a mass shooting?
There’s no single consensus on the definition today.
The Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit research group, defines a mass shooting as an incident in which four or more people are shot or killed, not including the shooter.
In contrast, Everytown currently defines it as a shooting in which four or more people are shot and killed, again excluding the shooter – but Burd-Sharps noted that they are moving towards expanding the definition to also include four or more injuries in the future.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation doesn’t have a mass shooting definition. Instead, the FBI defines “mass murder” as an incident where four or more people are killed, which can include gun violence.
USA TODAY defines a mass shooting as an incident where at least four people are hit with gunfire, even if there are no fatalities. Mass killing refers is an incident in which at least four people are killed.
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The Gun Violence Archive’s mass shooting definition includes those who are injured because injuries also cost families “tremendously,” said executive director Mark Bryant.
Bryant also said it’s important to remember that “the term ‘mass’ is a term of quantity, it’s a measurement of quantity. That’s all it is, there’s no political caveats attached to it.”
Burd-Sharps recognizes that differing definitions can be confusing to the general public, but stresses that, “no matter how you define it, whether it’s an average of 20 a year with four plus killed or an average of practically one a day with four plus shots, either one is far too high.”
Are mass shootings the deadliest type of gun violence?
Bryant notes that mass shootings make up for just a fraction of the gun violence crisis.
“Mass shootings cover about 75% of my conversations, my emails and my queries, [but they] count for 5% to 6% of my work,” Bryant said. “5% or 6% of all the people that have been shot in the last nine years [were shot in mass shootings].”
Every year, 1% gun violence deaths of come from mass shootings in which four or more people were killed, according to Everytown and Burd-Sharps.
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How many mass shootings has the US had in 2022?
When using the Gun Violence Archive’s definition of mass shootings to include shootings where four or more were injured, a total of 233 mass shootings have been reported so far this year. In 2022, there have been 12 mass shootings in the U.S. with a death count of four or more, based on current numbers from the Gun Violence Archive.
According to Everytown, there are an average of 19 mass shootings in which four or more are shot and killed each year in the U.S.
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What state has the most mass shootings?
California and Texas have reported the highest amount of mass shootings in which four or more were killed, according to Everytown counts. As Burd-Sharps notes, it’s important to recognize that these states likely report the highest numbers because of their larger populations.
Does the US have the most mass shootings in the world? It’s hard to say definitively
The United States reports significantly high rates of mass shootings in comparison to other countries around the world – but extensive debate has been raised about differences in per capita rates and, again, conflicting definitions of mass shootings.
Still, the number of mass shootings in the United States in comparison to the rest of the world is jarring. For example, a study published in 2022 in the International Journal of Comparative and Applied Criminal Justice looked at mass shootings in which four or more were killed in the U.S. and 35 other high-income countries. Only five countries had more than two mass shootings from 1998 to 2019. The United States had 101.
In addition, the study found that mass shootings in the U.S. accounted for 73% of all the mass shooting incidents in these countries during this period.
What charges do mass shooters face?
Charges depend on each specific case, but mass shooters often face murder, terrorism and/or hate crime charges.
For example, Payton Gendron, the white man accused of killing 10 Black people in a racist massacre at a Buffalo supermarket in May, was indicted Wednesday on charges of domestic terrorism motivated by hate and 10 counts of first-degree murder.
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Contributing: The Associated Press.
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