At The Hill: “The media is out of control in its push for gun control”

Mar 16, 2018 | Featured

Dr. John Lott has a new op-ed at The Hill newspaper on the bias of fact checkers and the impact that they have on the gun control debate.

Fact checkers are out of control, and on the issue of guns they no longer even try to pretend impartiality. Especially on social media, this is becoming a serious problem.

Facebook has been working with organizations such as PolitiFact, Snopes and to filter news. Stories deemed “false” by these organization are labeled as false and are much more difficult to spread virally.

A couple of years ago, Fox News’ Special Report cited some research on mass public shootings by the Crime Prevention Research Center, which I preside over. When that old story recently started trending on Facebook, Snopes stepped in to stop it. Snopes’ verdict was that our numbers were “accurate based on the CPRC’s definition of a mass shooting, but also extremely misleading.”

President Obama’s kept claiming that the United States was unique in terms of mass public shootings. So in 2016, we looked over the years of Obama’s tenure and found that Europe had experienced more casualties per capita and a similar rate of attacks compared to the U.S.

Snopes’ attack never mentioned that we had used the FBI’s traditional definition of mass public shootings. This definition excludes gang fights over drug turf and specifies what constitutes a public place. Instead, Snopes preferred the definitions used by Michael Bloomberg’s Everytown for Gun Safety and Mother Jones.

So Snopes doesn’t exclude violence such as gang fights. Nor does it require four or more people to have been killed, even though Everytown and Mother Jones followed that standard themselves. Instead, Snopes utilize the new definition adopted by the FBI in 2013, which also counts shootings with three fatalities. Presumably, the Obama administration favored this methodology because it produced an increase in the official count of mass public shootings. But Snopes didn’t bother to mention that the “4 or more” definition has been in place for over three decades and is still used by essentially all academics.

As to Snopes’ claim that we “obscure the reality that mass shootings are very rare in most countries,” their evidence is that when one looks at individual countries in Europe and compares them to the United States, each individual European country only had attacks in occasional years. By contrast, the United States had attacks in each and every year. But this argument makes no sense. Europe as a whole also had attacks in each and every year, and in most years suffered more mass public shooting deaths than the U.S. If you are going to look at all these smalls individual countries in Europe, you might as well compare them to U.S. states with similar populations. The patterns end up being very similar.

You just can’t compare the U.S. with 320 million people to a country like Norway with just five million and expect Norway to have as many attacks.

But the media keeps making the same old claims. “We are the only country that has wide access to these kind of weapons and no one else has the frequency or the intensity of these kind of mass shootings,” George Stephanopoulos told Dana Loesch on Feb. 25 on ABC News’ This Week. Loesch corrected him, noting: “France had a higher casualty rate in one year than the entire two administrations of Barack Obama. And they’re a fifth of our population.”

As we’ve just observed, Stephanopoulos’ claim that the U.S. is unique is completely absurd. But PolitiFact didn’t fact check Stephanopoulos. Instead, it went after Loesch, complaining: “NRA’s Loesch cherry-picks terrorism deaths in France to argue against assault weapon ban.” . . . .

The rest of the piece is available here.




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