Media Fact Check: How Fake Mass-shooting Data Produces Fake News

fake news

C.A. Bridges, a “digital producer” for Gannett’s USA TODAY Florida network, wrote basically the same story on May 12 and May 28, which claimed that Florida has experienced more mass shootings than any other state. Unfortunately for Bridges and his readers, both stories were wrong, incredibly biased and typical of the fake news that permeates today’s corporate media, especially when the topic involves guns.

On May 12, Bridges wrote a story titled “Florida leads country in mass shootings after gunfire injures several. What to know.”

“Tallahassee’s early Sunday morning shooting of multiple people at a shopping center means Florida remains the state with the most mass shootings across the country, according to data from the Gun Violence Archive,” Bridges wrote for the May 12 story.

On May 28, Bridges wrote a story titled “Florida has most mass shootings in U.S. in 2024 with latest in Fort Pierce, Sarasota.”

“Florida has now seen 16 mass shootings this year, more than any other state in the nation and two more than the Sunshine State saw by this time last year according to the Gun Violence Archive,” Bridges wrote for the May 28 story.

Much of the data, findings and examples Bridges wrote about on May 12 were republished in the second story. To be clear, he relied solely on data from the Gun Violence Archive for each story. No other data set or human source was referenced or quoted.

Bridges’ stories were republished and reposted by other Gannett newspapers throughout USA TODAY’s Florida network and seen by thousands of Floridians. One Democratic lawmaker, Congresswoman Frederica Wilson, who represents Florida’s 24th District, used the May 28 story in a Facebook post that calls for an “assault weapon” ban.

Fake Data

The Gun Violence Archive has been debunked more than a dozen times just on this site alone. Even some in the gun-ban industry have moved on from the GVA and are using other, less-notorious data sources. The GVA uses an overly broad definition of a mass shooting, which creates inflated statistics designed to appeal to journalists who are seeking a sensational headline. For example, according to the GVA’s all-inclusive definition, there were 417 mass shootings in 2019. The FBI says there were 30, because it uses a much more realistic definition.

To his credit, Bridges explained to his readers that the GVA defines a mass shooting solely based upon the number of people wounded or killed, four or more, not including the shooter. However, he completely mischaracterized and misstated the FBI’s definition.

“The FBI does not define ‘mass shooting’ at all. The agency defines ‘mass killing’ or ‘mass murder’ as an incident in which four or more victims are killed by any intentional means, which may include gun violence. There also may be a distinction made between private and public mass shootings, and mass shootings committed by foreign terrorists are not included no matter where the shooting occurs or how many people are killed,” Bridges wrote.

According to their 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:

  • 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 shooting deaths in the country today.

In a previous interview with the Second Amendment Foundation, Gun Violence Archive founder and executive director, Mark Bryant, was asked if he believed that the average news consumer even considers domestic violence or gang warfare when they hear the term “mass shooting.”

“I don’t know,” Bryant said. “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.”

Other data problems

Bridges also left out that there are serios problems with GVA’s methodology. Bryant’s small staff routinely gleans its “data” from media stories and law enforcement sources, to include Twitter/X and Facebook. Following a mass shooting, many initial media accounts are completely wrong, as are social media stories, even those operated by law enforcement agencies.

Similarly, Bridges never disclosed to his readers that the GVA is extremely anti-gun, which also contributes to its flawed data sets.

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

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


Corporate journalists have developed a specific set of rules that are used only when they write about guns or gun rights. Anyone who calls out their errors or “sins of omission” is immediately marginalized, labeled a pro-gun extremist and their criticisms are treated as opinion rather than fact.

According to his bio, Bridges’ previous stories have shown how Florida ranks in terms of mail carrier dog bites, how the state ranks in student loan debt, and this: “Billie Eilish’s new album dropped. Is her tour coming to Florida?”

Bridges did not respond to interview requests seeking his comments for this story, which is not a surprise. Members of the legacy media rarely want to hear how their firearm-related stories leave out more facts than they include.

This story is presented by the Second Amendment Foundation’s Investigative Journalism Project and wouldn’t be possible without you. Please click here to make a tax-deductible donation to support more pro-gun stories like this.



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