Snopes, everyone’s favorite fact checker for mundane internet disagreements involving Elvis sightings and other minutiae, has again waded into the gun control debate with an article titled “Were AR-15s Used in Every Major Mass Shooting in the United States After Aurora?“.
The article was based on an incorrect Twitter post claiming that the Santa Fe High School shooter used an AR15, but even though the post was wrong, Snopes declared it mostly true, saying “while the statement is accurate for the most part, the weapon most commonly associated with such massacres was reportedly not used in Santa Fe.”
By starting with the conclusion that the AR15 was “most commonly associated” with mass shootings, it was easy for Snopes to call the Twitter post mostly true.
“Every Major Mass Shooting since Aurora” includes a significant number of events, and indeed, without defining what constitutes a “major mass shooting,” it is quite difficult to answer the question of whether an AR15 was involved in every one. We’ll set aside the semantic debate of whether or not a Sig Sauer MCX, used by the Orlando nightclub terrorist, is an AR15 and grant the anti-gun folks the benefit of the doubt on that point.
Some people say a mass shooting is every shooting resulting in four or more fatalities, while others define it as four or more fatalities with gang, drug, and domestic violence excluded. Still, other people say a mass shooting is anyone involving four or more injuries, by which definition there have been well over a thousand in the last six years.
Snopes, and the original poster made it easier for us by including the Waffle House shooting, which resulted in four fatalities. We’ll go by this definition.
On August 5, 2012, a white supremacist terrorist killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin. He used a 9mm handgun.
On September 27, 2012, a disgruntled employee killed six people at a sign company in Minnesota. He used a 9mm handgun.
On July 26, 2013, a mentally disturbed man killed six people at an apartment complex in Hialeah, Florida. He used a 9mm handgun.
On September 16, 2013, a mentally disturbed civilian contractor killed 12 people at the Washington Navy Yard. He used a 12 gauge shotgun and a 9mm handgun.
On May 23, 2014, a loser stabbed and shot to death six people in Isla Vista, CA. He had four 9mm handguns.
On June 17, 2015, a white supremacist terrorist killed nine parishioners at a church in Charleston, South Carolina. He used a 45 caliber handgun.
On October 1, 2015, a student shot and killed nine people at Umpqua Community College in Roseburg, Oregon. He used an assortment of 9mm and 38 caliber handguns, and although he was in possession of an AR15, he did not use it.
On February 20, 2016, an Uber driver killed six people in a series of attacks in Kalamazoo, Michigan. He used multiple 9mm handguns, and although at least 5 AR15s were later seized from his house, he did not use any of them in the attacks.
On September 23, 2016, a loser killed five people at a mall in Burlington, Washington. He used a 22LR rifle.
On January 6, 2017, a mentally disturbed man killed five people at the Fort Lauderdale Airport. He was armed with a 9mm handgun.
On June 5, 2017, a disgruntled employee shot and killed five people at an Orlando awning manufacturer. He was armed with a handgun.
Although I’ve certainly left out a number of mass killings involving four or more deaths which occurred in the last six years, the killings listed above are sufficient to demonstrate that the AR15 was not used in “every” or “nearly every” major mass shooting since the Aurora theater shooting. In fact, it can hardly be said that such a claim is “mostly true” when significantly fewer than half of the mass shootings resulting in four or more deaths involved the use of an AR15 or similar rifle. Most appear to have involved handguns, just like most firearm murders, which do not involve the use of semi-auto rifles but instead are committed with pistols and revolvers. The continuing crusade against semi-auto rifles is even more puzzling in this context.