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Fact Check: Democratic Congressman Exaggerates Number of Gun ‘Massacres’

In discussing a bipartisan Senate proposal to address gun violence, Rep. Jamie Raskin exaggerated when he said there have been “more massacres than days in 2022.” Using the source supplied by the congressman’s office, guns were used in 14 “mass murders” so far this year.

By another measure, as we will explain later, there have been five “mass shootings” in 2022.

There had been 163 days of the year, as of June 12, which is when the Maryland Democrat made his remarks on CNN’s “State of the Union.” CNN Host Dana Bash asked Raskin about proposed legislation announced that day by a group of bipartisan senators.

The bipartisan agreement would provide federal funding to help states implement so-called red-flag laws, which 19 states and the District of Columbia already have. As we reported, red-flag laws allow certain people — typically law enforcement officers, family or household members — to obtain a court order that would temporarily confiscate firearms from an at-risk person.

The deal also would prevent individuals subject to domestic violence restraining orders from legally obtaining a firearm, and it would impose an enhanced review process for gun buyers under 21 years old. It also includes increased funding for mental health and suicide prevention programs, and school safety, among other things.

The senators acted in response to the massacre on May 24 at Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, Texas, where an 18-year-old gunman armed with a legally purchased semi-automatic weapon killed 19 students and two teachers.

But the package falls far short of President Joe Biden’s call for a so-called assault weapons ban and limits on large-capacity magazines, and Bash asked Raskin if the bipartisan plan is something that he could support.

Raskin, June 12: Well, we would certainly vote on it and work on it. America is suffering a massacre pretty much every day now. There have been more massacres than days in 2022. So, the House has been pushing for far more sweeping action, for universal violent criminal background checks.

Bash: But this is a baby step you would vote yes on?

Raskin: It’s moving in the right direction. We’re glad that the Senate is finally awake about this.

Gun violence has increased. There were 61 “active shooter” incidents in 2021 — a 52.5% increase from 2020 — according to the FBI, which defines an active shooter as “one or more individuals actively engaged in killing or attempting to kill people in a populated area.” These shootings in 2021 resulted in 103 deaths and 140 injuries, excluding the shooters, the FBI said.

So, the idea that there might have been 163 “massacres” so far this year struck us as way off.

When we contacted the congressman’s office, Raskin spokesman Jacob Wilson said his boss was referring to “mass shootings,” not killings, and referred us to the Gun Violence Archive. That website listed 267 “mass shootings” as of June 12, although 101 of them did not result in any deaths, and 100 of them each ended with one death. The site defines “mass shootings” as “FOUR or more shot and/or killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location  not including the shooter.”

Wilson provided us with this definition of “massacre”: “As you know, a massacre is defined in one important sense as ‘an act of complete destruction’ (See Merriam-Webster, Entry 1, Definition 4), which captures the horrific damage caused by mass shootings to both victims who die and their families and communities and victims who are seriously wounded and injured and their families and communities.”

We understand the destruction that gun violence can cause. But the first definition of “massacre” in Merriam-Webster is “an instance of killing a number of usually helpless or unresisting human beings,” so CNN’s viewers may have been left with the false impression that Raskin was talking about the number of mass killings caused by firearms.

The Gun Violence Archive defines “mass murder” as “FOUR or more killed in a single event [incident], at the same general time and location not including the shooter.” The site lists 14 “mass murders” by gunmen so far this year.

The magazine Mother Jones also maintains a gun violence database. But its definition of “mass shooting” is different than the Gun Violence Archive’s definitions of either “mass shooting” or “mass murder,” and its number of such incidents is lower.

Mother Jones’ database includes attacks in public places in which three or more victims were killed in “indiscriminate” shootings. It does not include “conventionally motivated” killings, such as those linked to gang activity or robberies.

So, for example, the Gun Violence Archive includes among its “mass murders” an incident in which a man was charged with killing his wife and their three children at a Michigan home, but Mother Jones does not count that incident as a “mass shooting.”

Mother Jones lists five “mass shootings” so far in 2022.

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