Special Report: The Gun Violence Archive And Its Scaring Of America
When most Americans hear the term “mass shooting,” they picture a crazed gunman stalking the halls of a school or a shopping mall, coldly and randomly executing innocent young victims. What does not come to mind are rival drug crews shooting it out in Chicago or Detroit, or a madman murdering his entire family
Yet for one small but influential nonprofit, the Gun Violence Archive, anytime four or more people are killed or even slightly wounded with a firearm, it’s labeled a mass shooting, and politicians, gun control advocates and the mainstream media treat their reports as if they’re gospel.
The Gun Violence Archive, or GVA, was founded in 2013 by Michael Klein, a left-leaning philanthropist and open-government advocate, and Mark Bryant, a retired computer analyst and GVA’s current executive director.
Gun Violence Archive executive director Mark Bryant. (photo courtesy Mark Bryant.)
According to Bryant’s all-inclusive definition, there were 417 mass shootings in 2019. The FBI says there were 30, because it uses a much narrower definition.
While the GVA collects and publishes several different types of shooting data – mass murders, number of children and teens killed or injured, officer-involved shootings, defenses gun usages and more – it is their inflated mass shooting numbers that are cited most often by the mainstream media, given its penchant for sensational headlines.
In an interview with the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project on Tuesday, Bryant defended his broader definition and the higher body count it yields. “It doesn’t parse,” he said. “It gives an accurate picture of the number of times more than four people were shot, whether in a drive-by or a shooting at a rap concert or a country music concert.”
If his higher numbers are misleading the public or being misinterpreted by journalists, it’s not his fault, Bryant claimed. He believes his numbers are fair. “I do, but I think it’s also up to the journalist and the reader to have a better understanding of what the data says. When a journalist uses the mass-shooting numbers as their lead, they’re not looking at the whole situation.”
That the media, elected officials and what he calls the “gun violence prevention” community, or GVP, are using his statistics is not in question.
The Biden/Harris administration has cited Bryant’s data, as have a bevy of other elected officials and political candidates, at the local, state and federal level.
The New York Times, National Public Radio, USA Today and a host of other media outlets now use GVA’s broad definition when reporting about mass shootings.
In an interview with the Trace last month, Bryant said CNN “literally cut and pasted our definition for mass shooting into their definition of mass shooting.”
In his interview Tuesday, Bryant deflected blame for the media’s overhyping and misuse of his data.
“If the numbers are misleading, the journalist didn’t do their homework, you could make that argument,” he said. “The media zeroes in on it, not us. At one point we wanted to take mass shootings out of the loop, but the phone started ringing on a daily basis. It’s important to me that we’re not misinterpreted. We’re not anti-gun. Look at our staff, over half are gun owners. I intentionally do not hire from the GVP community. I want researchers – period. We wanted to have an honest set of data, and you can use it how you want.”
Bryant is a retired computer systems architect who worked on data collection projects for IBM. His current team of 20 researchers have advanced degrees, most in computer science. “We are painfully fastidious on our methodology, on how we log something,” he said.
The GVA has divided the country into specific coverage regions. Every day, Bryant said his researchers consult “a mass of about 7,500 sources. They are law enforcement Twitter, law enforcement Facebook, law enforcement police blotters and then we have media sources. The easiest is to grab media sources. Law enforcement is clinical. The media looks more subjectively at an incident.”
Bryant acknowledged that there have been reliability issues with media stories, especially after a mass shooting. A shooting in Cincinnati, he said, produced several different versions of events. “When we looked at five media sources, they were all over the map, even about when it occurred. We know that some media reports are erroneous.”
“We drill down to granularity of the street level, which is what the FBI doesn’t do,” he said.
According to their new report titled: “Active Shooter Incidents in the United States in 2020,” the FBI defines active shootings as:
- Shootings in public places
- Shootings occurring at more than one location
- Shootings where the shooter’s actions were not the result of another criminal act
- Shootings resulting in a mass killing
- Shootings indicating apparent spontaneity by the shooter
- Shootings where the shooter appeared to methodically search for potential victims
- Shootings that appeared focused on injury to people, not buildings or objects
Shootings were excluded from the FBI’s list if they were the result of:
- Gang violence
- Drug violence
- Contained residential or domestic disputes
- Controlled barricade/hostage situations
- Crossfire as a byproduct of another ongoing criminal act
- An action that appeared not to have put other people in peril
By comparison, the Gun Violence Archive excludes nothing, even if the shooting is gang or drug related – the two main causes of most violence in the country today. Asked if he believed that the average news consumer even considers domestic violence or gang warfare when they hear the term mass shooting, Bryant said, “I don’t know. I know what we want to do is provide numbers and let the journalists, advocates and ‘congress critters’ look at the data, glean details and drill down on it.”