There’s no single agreed-upon threshold delineating when a “shooting” becomes a “mass shooting.” The federal government has no official definition of “mass shooting,” and researchers, tracking databases, and news outlets use their own terms. As The Trace’s Chip Brownlee wrote in January, this isn’t just a matter of semantics — different definitions change how lawmakers and the public view the problem, and dictate who gets to count as a victim. In New York, the implications of that debate have been made clear.

Last year, state Assemblymember Monique Chandler-Waterman, who represents the predominantly Black and brown East Flatbush and Canarsie neighborhoods in Brooklyn, sponsored a bill spelling out a definition of “mass shooting.” It was an effort to unlock support for survivors in districts like hers, to stop overlooking shootings like one that had taken place near her home that spring. A father of five was killed, and three other people were injured. “These incidents are never called a mass shooting, and resources are rarely provided,” she said in June.

But under the legislation that made it to the governor’s desk, and took effect last month, the shooting near Chandler-Waterman’s home doesn’t count. Neither does the 2022 shooting in a New York City subway car, in which 10 people were wounded by a shooter who fired more than 30 rounds on a crowded train. In fact, The Trace’s Jennifer Mascia reported this week, according to data compiled by the Gun Violence Archive — a nonprofit that defines a mass shooting as four or more people shot, excluding the perpetrator, regardless of whether they were injured or killed — the law excludes 99 percent of mass shootings that have occurred in the state over the last decade.

The bill had initially defined a “mass shooting” under the same terms as the Gun Violence Archive, but the definition that made it into law doesn’t include wounded victims — a change that threatens to shut out communities, many of them predominantly Black and brown communities, from emergency funding and other services. That sort of casualty-centered definition doesn’t account for the “million reasons why people will get shot and don’t die,” researcher Jaclyn Schildkraut told Brownlee in January. “If we’re going to sit here and cherry-pick who we’re going to include, then a lot of people who have been impacted aren’t going to get the services and support they need.”

Chandler-Waterman told Mascia that, while imperfect, the law is still “a significant step forward.” No other state has defined “mass shooting” specifically for victim compensation and services. In her latest story, Mascia examines the consequences of New York’s enacted definition for victims and how the state might leverage it to go further in the future.

From The Trace

A roundup of stories from our team.

New York’s Imperfect Attempt to Unlock Resources for Survivors of Mass Shootings

Lawmakers wanted to help more victims by defining “mass shootings,” but they came up short.

Why Aren’t More Chicago Shooting Survivors Receiving Compensation?

Illinois made it easier for gun violence survivors to apply for compensation. The changes have resulted in some improvements, but the program is still limited by its reach.

Congress Renews Ban on Undetectable Firearms

The act will remain in force until 2031 under a provision passed as part of a bipartisan spending package signed by President Joe Biden on March 9.

Philly Mayor’s First Budget Proposal Increases Police Spending

The new mayor’s $6.29 billion budget would fund a new forensic lab, police oversight, and 400 more cops.
Read more →

What to Know This Week

The political crisis in Haiti came to a head this month: The country’s unpopular, unelected prime minister announced his resignation; heavily armed gangs now control much of the capital; and violence is widespread. Experts say guns trafficked from the U.S. are fueling the violence. [The Guardian

Last weekend, at least one sheriff’s deputy in the Los Angeles metro area opened fire and killed 15-year-old Ryan Gainer, a teenager with autism who was holding a garden tool when he was shot. The shooting has renewed concerns about officers’ use of force against people with mental health issues and drawn calls to implement nonpolice responses to mental health crises. [Los Angeles Times

Just a month after the mass shooting at a Super Bowl victory rally in Kansas City, Missouri, victims feel like they’ve already been forgotten. As prosecutors mount a cases against the suspected shooters, community leaders are weighing how to compensate people caught in the crossfire. The questions are far-reaching. [KCUR and KFF Health News

The Judicial Conference of the United States, the federal judiciary’s policymaking body, is cracking down on judge-shopping, a litigation tactic that’s helped fuel a series of conservative victories, including Second Amendment cases. The change means that challenges filed in any of the country’s 94 federal judicial districts will be randomly assigned, rather than being retained only in the district a case is filed. [Politico

New York Attorney General Letitia James has logged big legal victories this year, including her success in the civil corruption trial against the National Rifle Association and its former CEO Wayne LaPierre. Her latest win against Big Firearms: A federal judge in Manhattan ordered Florida-based ghost gun vendor Indie Guns to pay New York $7.8 million, and barred the company from selling its products in the state. [The New York Times/Reuters]

In Memoriam

Raoul Mapendo Tshiyuka, 30, was the glue — the one who made sure his family stayed close, whose booming voice lifted people’s spirits, who encouraged his loved ones to chase their dreams, the Portland Press Herald reported. Tshiyuka was shot and killed in his hometown of Portland, Maine, earlier this month, just before his 31st birthday. His family moved to Portland when Tshiyuka was a kid — he was born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, and lived in Atlanta before Maine — and he stayed in Maine even after his mother and younger siblings left. He wanted to be close to his grandmother, whom he visited almost every day. His love story with his girlfriend, Winey Ogweta, started when they were young, she told the Herald. They met at age 8, but she thought he was a smart aleck; they dated in high school, broke up but stayed close, and then got back together a few years ago, after she asked him out with a “check yes or no” note. He helped her with her salon, which, when it opens, will be one of the only businesses in South Portland owned by a Black woman. “This was his plan for me,” Ogweta said. It was her dream.

We Recommend

What the ‘Rust’ Shooting Case Is Really About: “The disregard for basic gun safety I witnessed that day wasn’t an isolated incident. It was emblematic of a problem in the film industry, and a symptom of the profound contradictions in Hollywood’s attitudes toward firearms.” [The New York Times]

Pull Quote

“We don’t have a clear sightline of the entire landscape that we’re dealing with. Not only of how much money do we have to work with, but also, what is the landscape of need?”

— Jessica Blubaugh, chief philanthropy officer for the United Way, on providing support to victims of a mass shooting at the Super Bowl victory rally in Kansas City, Missouri, last month, to KCUR and KFF Health News