The February 14th shooting in South Florida has already spurred renewed calls for policy changes and other forms of action to prevent future shootings—but such initiatives are informed by the information that’s available, and currently, that information is confusing at best and inaccurate at worst.

Inconsistent data can compel whomever’s analyzing it to falsely equate school shootings and other kinds of violence, when in reality the nuances of motivation and context might be different. A simple, seemingly straightforward number can grab attention, but exaggerated figures could also risk contributing to the public sense of numbness to shootings that already exists.

That numbness poses its own danger—how can the public combat gun violence that it doesn’t truly confront?

Separating out different forms of gun violence in the statistics and reporting is crucial in better understanding why shootings happen and how they might be prevented.

Even the federal government defines and counts mass shootings in inconsistent and murky ways.

Under pressure from the National Rifle Association, Congress in 1996 prohibited the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention from funding public-health research on issues related to firearms. These prohibitions have largely persisted, and there is still no comprehensive federal database on gun deaths, let alone on school shootings.

Read the full article on data and gun control legislation by Isabel Fattal at The Atlantic