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By Lee Williams

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, any time 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
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 Micheal Bloomberg’s 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.”

Methodology

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
FBI Active shooter incidents
Courtesy FBI

Shootings were excluded from the FBI’s list if they were the result of:

    • Self-defense
    • 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.

active shooter casualty count FBI
Courtesy FBI

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.”

Funding

Michael Klein, through his foundation, provides 95% of the GVA’s funding, Bryant said, which is borne out by the nonprofit’s most recent IRS 990 filings from 2017 and 2018.

“He (Klein) did well in business,” Bryant said. “We are one of his two projects that look at shining a light on data.”

Although Bryant declined to identify the donors who supply the remaining 5% of his annual budget, which is approximately $500,000, he said he takes no money from any group affiliated with former New York City mayor Michael Bloomberg.

“We take no money from any advocates,” he said. “The closest we get to that is the Joyce Foundation.”

But according to its website, one of the goals of the Joyce Foundation is to “Reduce gun deaths and injuries in the Great Lakes region.”

To achieve this, the Joyce Foundation has a four-step plan:

    1. Advance and implement federal, state, and local policies and practices that reduce easy accessibility of guns to those at risk of violence.
    2. Support policies to reduce easy accessibility of guns to those at risk of violence.
    3. Reduce the next generation’s exposure to gun violence through education on the risks of gun ownership.
    4. Litigate to defend evidence-based gun policies and challenge extreme gun rights policies and practices.

Anti-gun?

During his interview Tuesday, Bryant quickly self-identified as a gun owner and frequent target shooter. He sold three Colt Pythons, he said, in order to raise startup capital for the nonprofit.

“I own guns. I target shoot. I started shooting at the age of five during the Eisenhower Administration,” he said. “We didn’t have a lot to do in Harlan County (Kentucky), so we would shoot rats. I’m not against guns. I think there is a need.”

However, without supporting data, Bryant said there are thousands of gun owners who lack sufficient training or who may carry a concealed firearm while drinking or while intoxicated.

“If there are 50 million gun owners, 200,000 will go stupid,” he said. “I think that gun owners should get together and come to the table and craft rules that will be applicable to everyone.”

Asked if he supported the Second Amendment, Bryant said, “I do, as it’s written, but I have a problem in the way people look at the last half and not the first half and parse that. If anyone is looking at the whole amendment, and I say this in interviews often, I don’t have the balls to tell someone how to defend themselves. My job is statistics, not opinion.”

In the past, Bryant has claimed that he is “anti-violence” and not anti-gun, but has publicly lobbied for stricter gun control.

In 2018, he coauthored a guest column for the Los Angeles Times, titled: “Op-Ed: We have all the data we need: Stronger gun laws would save lives.” The column was coauthored with Devin Hughes, founder of GVPedia, which according to its website is a “project created to provide ready access to academic research and high quality data on gun violence.”

In their column, Bryant and Hughes called for more anti-gun legislation, stating: “More guns mean more crime and more death. Gun possession significantly increases your risk of being killed by someone you know. A gun in the home doubles your risk of homicide and triples your risk of suicide. The presence of a gun increases the lethality of domestic violence. Areas with higher gun ownership see a significant increase in burglary. And states with higher levels of gun ownership experience higher rates of firearm fatalities.”

Asked about the column Tuesday, which bore his byline, Bryant said, “I didn’t write that. I don’t even know that Devin (Hughes) wrote in that.”

Instead, Bryant said he supports restricting standard-capacity magazines.

“I think magazine capacity is an issue that should be addressed. You don’t need 30-round mags or a 60-round drum,” he said. “While they are great ‘get off’ tools, they’re part of a hobby, not part of the Second Amendment.”

Teacher gun Training Shootings
Cindy Bullock, Timpanogos Academy secretary, participates in shooting drills at the Utah County Sheriff’s Office shooting range during the teacher’s academy training, in Spanish Fork Canyon, Utah. About 30 teachers in Utah are spending their summer learning how to stuff wounds and shoot guns as part of a training held by police to prepare educators for an active shooter scenario in their schools. (AP Photo/ Rick Bowmer)

In a guest column for the Lexington Herald Leader three years ago – without a coauthor – Bryant spoke out against Senate Resolution 172, which encouraged teachers to carry firearms in the classroom.

“It is a fatally flawed solution from folks who learned another lesson about tools: ‘If all you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail’ – the National Rifle Association solution,” he wrote.

Changes coming?

Several hours after his interview, Bryant emailed a written statement.

“I got thinking about our mass shooting data being disingenuous. And while I disagree, I appreciate the question as it guides us to look at how it is presented to insure it is not. Since it is raw data there is no ‘motive’ implied … only inferred by end users. The number shot and killed is the same whether it is labeled ‘mass shooting’ or ‘4+ shot and killed.’ As long as the methodology is clearly stated it should not matter,” Bryant wrote. “Obviously, the gun rights side likes a smaller number … it helps blow it off as insignificant, makes whistling by the graveyard easier. By the same token some GVP folks would like to see numbers embellished by going with the 3+ count that Obama wanted to use. Some would also like the number inflated by including suicides in with Killed statistics although, as we discussed because the causes/solutions of suicides are far different than other forms of gun violence that would be misleading.”

Bryant hinted that he may consider a policy change.

“I think that GVA needs to approach mass shootings in a slightly different perspective since they are less than 6% of shootings by number of victims. On the one hand, that may reduce ‘mass shooting’ rhetoric, on the other hand, that will refocus to the much larger ‘ALL’ number,” he wrote. “By using a raw, numerical threshold only we let the user make interpretive decisions. We do the same with (Defensive Gun Usages), not parsing or caveating, publishing the raw data, whether good guy v bad guy, domestic violence, bad guy v bad guy [that number would surprise you]. So that blade cuts both ways.”

Takeaways

In my humble opinion, Bryant is clearly trying to have things both ways. On one hand he claims he wants his data to be clear, accurate and not misinterpreted. On the other hand, the data itself is neither clear nor accurate, and it’s so sensational – 417 mass shooting versus the FBI’s 30 for 2019 – that of course the media and gun-control organizations are going to use it and misinterpret it.

It fits their “guns are evil” narrative far better than the FBI statistics. And once the mainstream media accepts Bryant’s definition and its much higher numbers, they’re hooked. There’s no going back to the FBI’s data. After all, how would they explain to their viewers that the numbers have declined by 10-fold.

I also believe Bryant was somewhat less than candid about the public’s perception of a mass shooting. He knows full well what most Americans believe constitutes a mass shooting, and it’s not a couple of gangsters shooting it out over turf, a drug deal gone bad, or a psycho who shoots his own family.

I also find his methodology particularly flawed – especially since it relies upon media reports and law enforcement’s social media. Media reports – especially cable TV news – are almost always wrong after a shooting of any kind. They strive to be first, and they don’t let the facts get in their way.

As to the use of law enforcement Twitter and Facebook accounts, while some of the larger agencies use social media as a way to keep the public informed, others Tweet out pics of the Sheriff’s favorite sandwich, or an homage to a K9 “officer” who joined the Choir Eternal.

I’ll give Bryant the benefit of the doubt when he claims to be a gun owner, but he’s clearly a Fudd and a Second Amendment butterI support the Second Amendment, but…. His database is being used by anti-gun politicians, the gun-control crowd, and their supporters in the mainstream media to infringe upon our God-given constitutional rights.

Keep in mind they’re citing GVA’s data as proof that our rights need some infringing. If Bryant honestly believes in an individual’s right to keep and bear arms, he’d shutter the GVA tomorrow.

I doubt that will ever happen.

 

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This story is part of the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and is published here with their permission.

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24 COMMENTS

  1. Everyone PLEASE stop calling it “gun” violence! It’s thug violence, the stolen gun is just the easiest way to do what they do!!

    • “It’s thug violence”

      if you start focusing on the “who”, they’ll call you racist. and they’ll be right.

      • Bill Gates now calls maths racist.

        How can maths be racist? If it is too hard for some it might be time to change the curriculum.

        • better, change the students.

          by “racist” they mean “anything we can’t comprehend and don’t like”. that’s all. so yeah, they say math is racist. and law. and police. and america. and so on.

  2. Identifying gang activity as mass shootings should be a good thing for 2A defenders. Rather than run away from that stat, every public face of the legal gun owner community should be using that data to hammer home that legal gun owners are not the problem….according to gun-grabber favored statistics.

    In every instance the media sensationalizes mass shootings, 2A defenders should demand, “Define mass shooting”, then counter with a number that includes gang shootings rampant in large, Dim-controlled cities.

    • In this day and age if you have to tell someone who is ignorant to the point that they need to be told legal gun owners are not the problem then you might as well be talking to a Wildebeest watching a relative be eaten by Lions. They don’t and won’t comprehend anything until Lions, criminals or tyrants are eating them.

      • “…you might as well be talking to a Wildebeest…”

        Welcome to my camp: there is nothing to be done, except virtue signal ourselves to each other on social media.

    • 2A defender: “define mass shooting.”

      wokester: “any white man with a gun, you racist!”

      you don’t understand the situation at all. you can’t reason with these people, because this is not a disagreement or an argument. this is tribal warfare. they hate you. because you are not them. that’s it. that’s all there is to this. all the screaming about “guns” and “racism” and “justice” and whatever else is just emoting and rationalizing and misdirection.

      • “…all the screaming about “guns” and “racism” and “justice” and whatever else is just emoting and rationalizing and misdirection….”

        Just as I have written, over and over; nothing to be done. Close down all the firearm blogs, sit back and light up a Camel.

        • “Close down all the firearm blogs”

          you may know, but there remain others to be told.

          and besides, as you know, most of the firearm blogs are not run by rightists ….

  3. “I think magazine capacity is an issue that should be addressed. You don’t need 30-round mags or a 60-round drum,” he said. “While they are great ‘get off’ tools, they’re part of a hobby, not part of the Second Amendment.”

    I despise Fudds and I’m tired of them misrepresenting the purpose of the 2nd Amendment.

    • “While they are great ‘get off’ tools, they’re part of a hobby, not part of the Second Amendment.”

      strictly speaking this is correct, but in practice if someone isn’t using a 30-cap mag properly they’re not going to use 10-cap mags properly either.

  4. The bearded bowling ball bryant has a very, very mighty long way to go when it comes to comparing his so called Gun Violence stats to the racism and genocide attributed throughout history to Gun Control…Ain”t dat f-n right mr. b?

  5. “The FBI says there were 30”

    at this point the fbi/kgb’s definition probably is tailored to suit political goals.

  6. None of his facts about guns in the home jive with academic studies on guns (e.g., see any of the studies by Kleck or Gertz). Just a few years ago, Kleck published a paper showing that magazine capacity had no effect on the number of people killed in mass shootings. When the shootings end, police almost always find ejected magazines with live rounds still in them.

  7. I would think keeping up with all the letters to the north pole Santa wouldn’t have time to run a Gun Violence Archive?
    He is magic isnt he.
    Mass shooting, no when ever I hear that I visualize a priest holding a dough wafer.
    ” The body of Christ.” and gunmfire erupting from the back pews. That’s a mass shooting. The other stuff should be called a massacre, that what mass shooting is shortened to isnt it.
    I guess it wouldn’t sound as scary
    though, gunmman massacred or wounded 4 people.

  8. @ant 7
    “as you know, most of the firearm blogs are not run by rightists ….”

    Always wondering if the blogs are not run by narcs, or other govt agency operators operating operationally.

    • “wondering if the blogs are not run by narcs, or other govt agency operators”

      close. more accurately the “narcs” and “operators” and “deep state” et al are all on the same team.

      but yeah, most of these blogs are opfor intel. like lenin said, “the best way to control the opposition is to lead it.”

      • “most of these blogs are opfor intel.”

        Which is why I encase my ball cap in aluminum foil (shiny side out), so no one can find me.

  9. Mark Bryant got one thing — and one thing only — 100% right when he said, “I don’t have the balls.”

    His business is feeding lies, damned lies, and statistics to the damned lying “journalists” who tell them, and it’s a business that no one with either a functional set of balls or even the tiniest vestigial nub of integrity would dip his toes into.

    He’s the same type of prevaricating POS that tells people “computers don’t lie” while he’s feeding lies and garbage directly into the computer. GIGO: Garbage In, Garbage Out. Also, GIGD: Garbage Is as Garbage Does.

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