Gun violence has dominated the news recently. Following the mass shooting at Umpqua Community College last week, there was a threat posted online that warned of a 2 p.m. Monday shooting at a Philadelphia-area college; the day passed without incident. Then, today, reports of an armed man at Community College of Philadelphia, with a lockdown ensuing and the police eventually taking a suspect into custody.
But incidents where four or more people have been shot — which are, under some definitions, “mass shootings” — have already hit Philadelphia this year. There is no official term for a mass shooting, but they are are generally defined as a shooting done without stopping, where four or more people are killed. As Mother Jones notes, this definition is a bit odd.
Since the 1980s, the baseline of four fatalities has generally been used for studying mass murder, according to Professor James Alan Fox of Northeastern University, who has written multiple books on the subject. But as Fox agreed when we spoke, while that number may seem to make some sense intuitively, there is nonetheless something coldly arbitrary about it. Was it not a “mass shooting” in 2008, for example, when a man walked into a church in Tennessee and opened fire with a shotgun, killing two and injuring seven? Dropping the number of fatalities by just one, or including motives of armed robbery, gang violence, or domestic violence, would add many, many more cases to the list.
Fox, the professor, says mass shootings are not on an upward trend. The website Mass Shooting Tracker uses a different definition, one that includes four people (including the shooter) shot in one incident. It also does not weed out domestic disputes, armed robbery or gang violence.
“The old FBI definition of Mass Murder (not even the most recent one) is four or more people murdered in one event,” the Mass Shooting Tracker site says. “It is only logical that a Mass Shooting is four or more people shot in one event. Here at the Mass Shooting Tracker, we count the number of people shot rather than the number people killed because, ‘shooting’ means ‘people shot.'”
It doesn’t really matter how one classifies it: Gun violence is a problem in Philadelphia. Per Jim MacMillan, there have been 2,138 robberies with guns and 1,791 aggravated assaults w/guns this year already.
Regardless of whether you classify them as a “mass shooting”, there have been four incidents in Philadelphia this year where four or more people were shot at the same location. These are the four. Read more »