Following two mass shootings shootings in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, multiple social media users started sharing claims that the United States was already nearing 250 “mass shootings” for 2019.

The claims often compared that number to what's happened in other countries. 

It’s technically true, but needs context when used in regard to the two shootings that happened within 24 hours of each other and left 29 dead. 

NO LEGAL DEFINITION

The FBI has a definition for a “mass killing” and a “mass murder,” but there’s no legal definition for a “mass shooting.”

The FBI defines a mass killing as any instance in which three or more people are killed, not counting the suspected killer. So if you follow that definition, there have been about 31 shootings in 2019 that would qualify as mass killings.

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INDIVIDUAL DEFINITIONS

But since there is no legal definition for mass shootings, different publications or organizations presenting the information can take it upon themselves to define them. 

The data backing up the claim about 250 mass shootings in 2019 comes from the Gun Violence Archive, which describes itself as an “independent research and data collection organization." It also says it works to provide comprehensive data for the national conversation regarding gun violence.

The archive has worked with local law enforcement agencies across the country since 2012 to keep records on shootings. According to its website, the archive defines a mass shooting as a situation in which four or more people are shot.

“If four or more people are shot or killed in a single incident, not involving the shooter, that incident is categorized as a mass shooting based purely on that numerical threshold," the website states.

The Gun Violence Archive data shows that the shootings in El Paso and Dayton became the 252nd and 253rd “mass shootings” in 2019.

DIFFERENCE IN NUMBER AND CONTEXT

So depending on whether you follow the FBI or Gun Violence Archive methodologies, the result is two drastically different numbers.

The El Paso shooting was the deadliest this year and the Dayton one is the third deadliest. 

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It’s not fair to compare shootings, but there needs to be context if you're saying there have been 250 "mass shootings" this year. There certainly haven’t been 250 shootings this year as deadly as what we saw this weekend. 

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