Words Matter When We Talk About Mass Shootings

Stats about how often mass shootings or mass murders happen in the U.S. are easy to come by, but they often rely on different definitions.

Words Matter When We Talk About Mass Shootings
Getty Images / Michael Lloyd

Words matter when we talk about mass shootings.

You've probably heard the stat: The U.S. has averaged more than one mass shooting a day in 2015.

That statistic was put together by, which aims to report gun violence in the U.S.

The group counts a mass shooting as an instance when four or more people are shot, which can including the gunman. But that counts injuries, not necessarily deaths.

The group wants to focus on firearms specifically and explains its mass shooting definition by saying, "The gun lobby benefits from our ability to save those who would otherwise die, even though those gunshot victims are still just as shot and will never be the same."

That group would like us to focus on mass shootings, but the gun rights advocates prefer the term "mass murder."

"All of a sudden instead of being told to think about the evil person who did it, we are subconsciously told to think about the tool they used," NRA news contributor and Navy Seal veteran Dom Raso said.

When the gun lobby uses the term mass shooting, it tends to use a different definition than Shooting Tracker. The NRA recently pointed to a government study that found mass shootings are rare in the U.S.

In their definition of a mass shooting, four or more victims had to be killed with a firearm in one event.

And if those definitions weren't different enough, the Justice Department has yet another definition

It says a "mass killing" is when three or more people are killed in a single incident, regardless of the weapon. That doesn't include the killer.

So with these different definitions of "mass shootings," you get different headlines like these.

But whatever your definition of the attacks, these numbers show the extent of the problem. By The New York Times' count, a total of 462 people have died and 1,314 have been wounded in such shootings this year.

This video includes images from Getty Images and music from Chris Zabriskie / CC BY 4.0.