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Keeping with Tradition: Preference for the Longstanding Definition of Mass Shooting

James Alan Fox and Emma E. Fridel

School of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Northeastern University 
College of Criminology and Criminal Justice, Florida State University | Article History: Received June 27, 2022; Accepted August 11, 2022 Volume: 1, Issue: 2, September 2022: Pages 17-26


As defined back in the 1980s, the term “mass shooting” has long been understood to mean the intentional killing of four or more victims with gunfire in a single incident. However, recent efforts to examine this rare and tragic crime have employed alternate definitional criteria. In order to facilitate cross-study comparisons and curb rampant public fear, it is imperative that scholars, politicians, and the media avoid using the same terminology to describe very different phenomena. In this article, we advocate for the traditional definition in view of a variety of theoretical and methodological considerations.

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