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NRA to Media: Don’t Describe Mass Shootings as “Shootings”

Trigger warning: It turns out that "shooting" is a loaded word for the gun lobby

What do you call an incident in which an assailant mows down multiple people with a semiautomatic handgun? If you answered “mass shooting,” then you’ve been brainwashed by the media—at least according to the National Rifle Association.

The gun rights group released a video this week warning the public about common media “tricks” designed to sway their views on the Second Amendment. One of these is a simple matter of word choice. “When someone commits a murder, it used to be a murder, right?” NRA News Commentator Dom Raso says at the two-minute mark in the video below. “But now they race to label anything with a gun as a ‘shooting,’ because they know how much more attention they are going to get with that word.”


Raso goes on to explain that this sly technique trains people’s attention on the tool used to commit the murders, rather than on the perpetrators themselves. “Evil is the problem; the tool is irrelevant,” says Raso, deploying some psychological sleight of hand. Raso is a former Navy SEAL who joined the NRA’s new team of fresh-faced spokespeople in 2013.

While the NRA might declare firearms irrelevant in killing sprees, the numbers don’t really add up. In more than half of the mass killings that occurred between 1982 and 2002, the shooters used high-capacity magazines and/or assault weapons, allowing them to fire more rounds and kill more people. And of the 37 mass killing incidents that occurred between 2006 and 2013, 33 of them involved firearms.

Though the media could employ other descriptions (”killing spree,” “deadly rampage” and “heinous horrible crime that should never have happened” are just a few that come to mind), perhaps “mass shooting” and “shooter” are used for a reason. Not all people who are shot actually die.

Elliot Rodger may have murdered six University of California, Santa Barbara students (with both knives and guns), but 12 others were left suffering from gunshot wounds, including Bianca de Kock, who was shot five times in the arm and chest. At the Sikh Temple shooting in Wisconsin in August 2012, six people were killed, while four other victims survived. And in addition to the 26 people Adam Lanza shot to death in Newtown, Connecticut, later that same year, two others were wounded. In fact, of the 62 mass shootings that occurred between 1982 and 2012, 54 of them included injured survivors.

But thanks, NRA. It’s good to know you’re looking out for us.


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