Thank You, And A Few Things To Keep In Mind About The Las Vegas Mass Shooting

The language we’ve been using about the mass shooting in Las Vegas has been precise and carefully attributed. Thank you.

Please continue to:

- Attribute the death toll and number of injured to police or other credible authorities. As you know, the numbers are expected to change. We need to keep reminding the audience where the figures are coming from and that we will be updating as needed.

- Characterize this as apparently the worst mass shooting in “modern” or “recent” U.S. history. As we’ve unfortunately been reminded in recent years, there were some horrible mass killings in the 1800s:

- Be careful about describing the weapon or weapons. As Steve Inskeep noted this morning, the gunshots sounded as if they came more rapidly than one person could pull a trigger. That could mean it was an automatic weapon or a rifle that was modified to be automatic. But as we’ve also noted before, the weapons used in mass shootings are almost always “semi-automatic.” We should get our guidance from the police and other investigators. Keep in mind, though, that even the authorities sometimes make mistakes in the early hours of investigations.

We should also keep in mind that the guns used in such shootings are sometimes “assault-style,” but almost never “assault” weapons. There’s more guidance about how to describe weapons here:

The AP Stylebook has a substantial entry for “weapons” that has good guidance. If you’re on our intranet, you can get to the Stylebook here:


- Here’s An Effective Way To Talk About The Deaths And Injuries

It’s possible that many of the people injured in Las Vegas were hurt not by gunshots, but during the rush to escape the scene. It’s also possible some people died from such injuries. The Two-Way has done a good job describing what is known at this hour and its approach can be adapted for other platforms. It wrote that the gunman:

“Fired down upon thousands of people attending a music festival Sunday night, in a brutal attack blamed for at least 58 deaths, police say. In the mass shooting and panic that ensued, some 515 people were injured.”

- On ‘Automatic’ Weapons

While we should NOT say whether the weapons used in Las Vegas were or were not “automatic” because that information has not surfaced yet, we also should be careful NOT to flatly say that automatic weapons are illegal. Their availability is severely restricted, but there are legal ways to obtain such weapons, including in Nevada. Here’s more on that:

(“Memmos;” Oct. 2, 2017)

October 2, 2017

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