Social Media Claim

Figures for 2019 mass shootings list inconsistent

A Facebook post from August 4, 2019 shows a screenshot of a list of the number of mass shootings that occurred around the world since the year began.

The Statement

AAP FactCheck examined a Facebook post from August 4, 2019 by Pauline Hanson’s - One Neuron - Please Don’t Explain which features a tweet posted on the same day by The Spectator Index. The tweet lists the number of mass shootings in 12 countries in 2019, including in the United States, Mexico, Canada, The Netherlands and Australia.

The post, titled “Mass shootings, 2019.”, lists the US with 249 mass shootings, Mexico three, Canada, Brazil and The Netherlands with one each while Germany, Italy, the UK, Australia, Spain, Saudi Arabia and France had none.

Pauline Hanson’s - One Neuron - Please Don’t Explain describes itself as a “satirical page” which aims to highlight “the dumbest flock of voters following the dumbest politician since the word dumb was invented” and find “the truth about the frauds of One Neuron”.

The post’s caption, “So when is Pauline going to ask for the banning of white guys coming into Australia?” is satirical, however, the post itself was taken from The Spectator Index, a website that collates statistical information on “politics, economics, history, military affairs, sports, science and technology” from various sources and distributes the information online.

The post had been shared more than 40 times and attracted more than 70 comments and 170 reactions. Variations of the post had been shared on Facebook by LGBTI Rights Australia, American rapper T.I. and the Martin Luther King memorial, The King Centre. On Twitter it was posted by former US soccer player Taylor Twellman and drag artist Dusty Ray Bottoms.

A shooting in Darwin on June 4, 2019 saw four people killed and one person injured after a man opened fire in multiple locations around the city.

The Analysis

The information for US mass shootings was sourced from Gun Violence Archive (GVA), which describes itself as an “independent research and data collection organization to provide comprehensive data for the national conversation regarding gun violence”. Figures for mass shootings in other countries on the list had no sources attributed to them.

GVA’s measure for categorising a mass shooting is “four or more shot and/or killed in a single event, at the same general time and location not including the shooter”. These include “officer-involved shootings, accidental shootings, children shooting themselves, murders, armed robberies, familicide, mass shootings, defensive gun use, Home Invasions, drivebys and everything else”.

Under GVA’s measure, the US had 249 mass shootings from January 1, 2019 to August 4, 2019, but Australia would also have at least two mass shootings in the same period: a Melbourne nightclub shooting on April 14 that killed two people and injured four others and a shooting in Darwin on June 4 where four people were killed and one was injured.

AAP FactCheck applied the same criteria to the number of mass shootings in Mexico. Based on a count using information from available news reports, AAP FactCheck found the number of shootings rose to more than 13 incidents with at least four deaths and/or injuries from January 1, 2019 to August 4, 2019. These included the La Playa nightclub shooting in Salamanca where 15 people died and four were injured, a bar shooting in Minatitlan which killed 13 people and injured four, the San Luis Potosi club shooting where two people were killed and two more were injured, and the La Kuka club shooting in Cancun which killed five people and injured another five.

The Spectator Index posted two versions of the mass shootings tweet on their Twitter page, one at 7.58am which indicated The Netherlands had no mass shootings in 2019 and an updated version at 8.23am which included the mass shooting in Utrecht in March 2019, which was used in the Facebook post.

While other variations of the post included the Christchurch shooting in New Zealand, the post by Pauline Hanson’s - One Neuron - Please Don’t Explain taken from The Spectator Index did not. The Christchurch attacks at two mosques on March 15 killed 51 people.

According to the RAND Gun Policy in America Initiative, a policy and research think tank, there is no official definition as to what constitutes a mass shooting. Media organisations reporting on mass shootings generally refer to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s (FBI) definition of a mass murderer as someone who “kills four or more people in a single incident (not including himself), typically in a single location”. The RAND Corporation states it is a public policy research organisation.

Mother Jones, a US investigative news magazine which collates mass shootings in the US, classifies a mass shooting as a perpetrator taking at least four lives. In 2013, the US government revised this down to three fatalities and this figure was adopted by Mother Jones research.

Mother Jones also takes into account killings carried out by a lone shooter and in a public place. Crimes primarily related to gang activity or armed robbery were not included, nor were mass killings that took place in private homes. Perpetrators who died or were wounded during the attack are not included in the victim tallies. Mother Jones also included in its count a handful of cases also categorised as “spree killings” in circumstances where the event took place over multiple locations but still fits the criteria.

Under Mother Jones’ measure, Australia would have no mass shootings in 2019 as stated in the post, but the US figure would be revised down to seven.

The Verdict

Based on this evidence, AAP FactCheck found the Facebook post to be false. Under the Gun Violence Archive’s measure, the US had 249 mass shootings from the start of the year to August 4, 2019, however, using the same measure, Mexico had more than three mass shootings and Australia had two in the same period. Under Mother Jones’ measure, Australia would have the correctly stated no mass shootings, but the US would have a revised seven mass shootings. There were also discrepancies in the measure used by The Spectator Index to categorise a mass shooting which failed to apply the same criteria to other countries on the list.

  • False - The Facebook post is false.

First published August 16, 2019 13:54 AEST