Mass shootings are awful.

And mass shootings in the age of the Internet are even more awful.

That’s because in the age of the Internet, everybody feels connected to every little thing that happens; everybody has a computer in their pocket. Today, the shooting that happened thousands of miles away seems like it happened next door.

And the wall-to-wall coverage on news channels drives it home.

All this instantaneous sharing of information makes people feel like they’re going to be the next victim. Even though you are far more likely to be struck by lightning – and thousands of times more likely to be killed in a car wreck – you still worry more about becoming a mass shooting victim.

Mass shootings have always been awful. But today, they’re awful and prominent.

This, of course, makes people feel like something needs to be done. And, frankly, I don’t disagree with that notion. I think something does need to be done. We need to take the problem seriously.

I am a gun owner and I am not averse to expanded background checks or efforts to keep guns out of the hands of mentally ill people, spouse abusers and criminals.

As long as these things can be accomplished without trampling civil rights or upending due process, I have no problem with them.

I realize this is a tough needle to thread, and I also realize this is a difficult problem in terms of politics and policy.

But it’s not insurmountable. I think meaningful legislation is an achievable goal.

But to get to that point – meaningful legislative solutions – we need to fully understand the problem.

This was driven home to me by a Tweet from America’s favorite astrophysicist, Neil deGrasse Tyson. If you haven’t heard of him, you should check him out. He’s an author and science communicator and he has a way of making astrophysics entertaining for the masses.

Anyway, he tweeted this last week:

In the past 48hrs, the USA horrifically lost 34 people to mass shootings.

On average, across any 48hrs, we also lose…

500 to Medical errors

300 to the Flu

250 to Suicide

200 to Car Accidents

40 to Homicide via Handgun

Often our emotions respond more to spectacle than to data.

The poor guy got skewered on Twitter and was widely attacked with memes and in message boards online.

The basic premise of the attacks were that data is meaningless when it comes to tragedy.

I can see that, a little bit. But when it comes to crafting public policy that will actually work, data is crucial.

Problem is, when it comes to guns and shootings, the data rarely is accurate.

For example, way back in 1986, there was a study published in the New England Journal of Medicine which concluded “a firearm in the home is "43 times more likely" to be used to kill a member of the household than to kill a criminal intruder.

The researchers who did the study admitted they did not include cases where burglars or intruders were wounded or frightened away or cases where an intruder avoided a house because they knew a firearm was present. “A complete determination of firearm risks versus benefits would require that these figures be known,” they conceded.

Beyond that, they also counted suicides, which accounted for 37 of the 43, or 86%, of the total.

The research was totally bogus and was debunked almost immediately, yet I still see it cited today.

Here are some other facts I think policy makers should consider when crafting gun legislation that actually might make a difference.

• From 2007 and 2015, the U.S. murder rate fell by 16%. Violent crime fell 18%. The number of U.S. adults with concealed carry permit rose 190%.

• Ninety-three percent of guns used in crimes are obtained illegally.

• Mass public shooting deaths make up less than 1% of all gun homicides. This makes them a small part of the gun violence problem.

• 71% of gunshot victims had previous arrest records.

• 64% of gunshot victims had been convicted of a crime.

• Gunshot victims had an average of 11 prior arrests.

• 63% of gunshot victims had criminal histories and 73% of that group knew their assailant

• 74% of homicides during the commission of a felony involve guns.

• Fewer than 1% of firearms will ever be used in the commission of a crime.

• Fewer than 1% of guns used in crimes were obtained at gun shows.

• Four in 10 U.S. adults say they live in a gun-owning household.

• Nearly half of adults (47%) say there would be fewer mass shootings if it was harder for people to obtain guns legally, while a similar share (46%) says there would be no difference.

• Two-thirds of gun owners (67%) say this as a major reason why they own a firearm. Considerably smaller shares say hunting (38%), sport shooting (30%), gun collecting (13%) or their job (8%) are major reasons.

• In 2017, the FBI recorded 403 deaths by rifle – all rifles, not “assault” rifles – in the United States. The same year there were 1,591 deaths by knives, 692 by human anatomy (hands, feet) and 467 by blunt objects (hammers, clubs).

I know what some people reading this are saying:

“So what? I don’t care if only one person is killed by an assault rifle. That’s one too many. We need to ban assault rifles.”

I understand that line of thinking, but here’s the thing.

We’re looking for solutions to the problem of mass murders.

The data clearly shows that banning assault rifles won’t solve the problem of mass murders.

It’s the whole data versus emotion thing Tyson was talking about.

We have to do something, whether it works or not.

If you ban assault rifles, a mass murderer will use handguns. If you ban handguns, he’ll use shotguns.

If you ban all guns and remove every gun from American overnight, he’ll drive a car through a crowded park or figure out how to make a pressure cooker bomb or a fertilizer bomb.

Banning this gun or that gun simply won’t solve the problem.

The only way to stop mass murder is to figure out what’s driving people to commit these crimes.

Murder requires motive and opportunity.

There’s no way to eliminate all the opportunities. There are just too many of them.

We need to remove the motive.