We often hear statistics about “mass shootings” in the United States. But those aren’t really what most of us think of as mass shootings. Most news and policy organizations use an FBI-derived statistic which looks at firearms incidents in which four or more people are shot, regardless of the severity of the injuries. That can include stick-ups gone wrong, family disputes, gang hits, everything under the sun.
When most of us think of mass shootings we’re talking about school shootings, or the seemingly related kinds of indiscriminate mass shootings we just saw in Allen, Texas, the one last year in Buffalo and the countless others. They’re different in kind from other shootings. And we know them when we see them.
[…]the statistics we see about mass shootings don’t really take these salient factors into account. If anything they understate the rapid growth of this kind of mass shooting. It’s frequently said that the mass shootings in this category get outsized attention compared to the vast numbers of people who die everyday in “ordinary” shootings, or firearm suicides. And that’s true in terms of toll in human life. But that ignores the salient point. Mass shootings as I’m defining them here are a form of terrorism and a successful one. Their indiscriminate nature is meant to instill a generalized terror and demonstrate the power both of the individual shooter and guns themselves.
America’s continued infatuation with guns and tolerance for gun violence has myriad reasons. But significant is our willingness to put up with it — and, in fact, increase the likelihood of being victims of gun violence ourselves — is the self-reinforcing pro-gun propaganda of mass shootings in Marshall’s definition (indiscriminate, goal to maximize death, shooter’s expectation to die).
Because the policy solutions are so impossible (not because they aren’t clear, but because they feel so impossible politically), we can feel like the only accessible solution to these events of indiscriminate mass-death terrorism is to arm ourselves. More guns feels like the only solution when someone might just kill you for not reason other than instilling fear.
These mass shootings, and others, are, ironically, pro-gun propaganda.