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Five things to know about mass shootings in the United States

CNN Newsource

Following the tragic shootings in San Bernardino Wednesday questions regarding mass shootings and conflicting opinions regarding them emerged. Here are five things worth knowing about mass shooting in the United States:

1) The definition of a "mass shooting," varies

When multiple people are killed by a gunman in the United States multiple descriptions of the event typically emerge: mass shooting, mass murder, mass killing are all terms that have been used in the wake of tragedies such as Sandy Hook, Aurora and today's shooting in San Bernardino.

Even the definitions of these labels vary. As The New Republic's Gwyneth Kelly explained: "the confusion stems from varying governmental categorizations."

Kelly provides the example of the Mass Shooting Tracker which compiles reports on Reddit and deems an incident a mass shooting if four people are struck by a bullet in a single shooting, according to the Washington Post.

For the purposes of this report, we will use the definition of mass shooting provided by the Congressional Research Service: a multiple homicide incident in which four or more victims are murdered with firearms, within one event.

That definition, Kelly described is based on the FBI's definition of a "mass murder."

2) San Bernardino is to date the most deadly mass shooting in 2015

Before Wednesday, the October 1st attack at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg Oregon had claimed the most lives, 10 including the shooter, according to Mass Shooting Tracker. When not counting the shooter, the attack claimed as many lives as the Charleston Church shooting, in which nine victims were killed on June 17th.

A biker brawl in Waco, Texas on May 18th also left nine dead, Mass Shooting Tracker listed. Authorities are still working to determine who fired shots during the altercation.

3) There have been 42 mass shootings so far in 2015

Again, this number varies on the definition of mass shooting. The Washington Post, using Mass Shooting Tracker's definition of a mass shooting, reported today's shooting in San Bernardino is the 355th this year. Applying our aforementioned definition of incidents in which four people were killed, Mass Shooting Tracker has 41 entries. The San Bernardino shooting would mark the 42nd this year based on the Mass Shooting Tracker list. It is important to note that the Mass Shooting Tracker includes the shooter in its tally of fatalities.

4) At the current death count, today's shooting would not be considered one of the five most deadly attacks in the U.S. The most fatal are as follows, according to CNN:

  • The Virginia Tech Massacre is the most deadly single day mass shooting since 1949, CNN reported. The attack, carried out on April 16th, 2007 claimed the lives of 32 people on the college's Blacksburg, Virginia campus.
  • The Sandy Hook Elementary School attack on December of 2012 is the second most deadly, according to CNN. The shooter was responsible for 27 deaths, including that of 20 children. The shooter also died in the incident.
  • The third deadliest attack, CNN reported, took place in Killeen Texas on October 16th, 1991. The shooter in that attack killed 23 people before taking his own life.

5) The U.S. reportedly leads the world in mass shootings

"We have a pattern now of mass shootings in this country that has no parallel anywhere else in the world," President Barack Obama said Wednesday evening when commenting on the San Bernardino shooting.

This sentiment is similar to that expressed by President Obama following the Charleston Church massacre when he sad that type of mass violence "doesn't happen in other places with this kind of frequency."

An October Wall Street Journal report seems to verify the President's that assertion.

"The U.S. represents less than 5% of the 7.3 billion global population but accounted for 31% of global mass shooters during the period from 1966 to 2012, more than any other country," the paper reported, sourcing Adam Lankford, an associate professor at the University of Alabama Department of Criminal Justice.

Lankford defines a mass shooter "as one who killed at least four victims," The Wall Street Journal noted.

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