Gun violence in America is an enormous problem, but as an empirical matter mass shootings have almost nothing to do with that problem.
This seems counter-intuitive, but consider the following statistics.
If we define mass shootings to capture what most people think of when they hear the term — a shooting in a public place with several fatalities — only an infinitesimal percentage of America’s gun violence involves such shootings. Using a definition of at least three fatalities in a public place shooting, a total of 74 of the approximately 48,000 gun deaths in the USA in 2022 involved such shootings.
If we define mass shootings much more broadly, to include any shooting incident in any venue, public or private, in which at least four people were shot, even if none died, then in 2022 672 of the gun violence deaths in the USA took place as a result of mass shootings — i.e., only a little more than one out of every one hundred gun violence deaths.
Another way of putting this is that, using even the broadest definition, mass shootings account for almost none of America’s sky high gun-related homicide and suicide rates.
Now none of this is meant to imply that mass shootings, especially mass shootings in public places resulting in multiple deaths, aren’t a serious problem by themselves, because the latter category of shootings are clearly terrorist events properly understood, and terrorism is a serious social problem even though it results in very few deaths (“few victims, many observers.”).
Nor is it an argument for failing to get rid of semi-automatic weapons, since such weapons are essential to the carrying out the domestic terrorism that is the essence of such incidents.
The gun violence problem in the USA is not a mass shooting problem, except in the most marginal and symbolic way. But symbolism matters.