When will all those gun control advocates and reporters who rely on criminologist Adam Lankford’s research begin asking him to answer questions about his research?
Despite getting massive international news coverage and then President Obama frequently basing his claim that the United States is unique in terms of mass public shootings on Lankford’s research, Lankford has refused to provide even the most basic evidence on his research. Not only has Lankford refused to answer questions from researchers on both sides of the gun control debate since it first got attention in mid-2015, but he is refusing to answer those questions from the media. It isn’t obvious why much weight should be put on such a study.
UPDATE: On March 31, 2019, Lankford finally provided his list of mass public shootings, but there were obvious problems with the list. For the first time, he explains that he only looked at cases where there was just one mass public shooter involved in an attack. That does not fit the FBI and NYPD definitions of mass public shootings that he claims that he was following. Indeed, it doesn’t fit anyone’s definition. However, he does include two cases where two mass shooters were involved (one in the US and one in Russia). Still, even if one wants to use this new definition, Lankford misses lots of cases where there was just one mass public shooter and dozens of cases of two mass public shooters.
Examples of news media outlets where he refused to provide his data or let others find out how he put his list together.
“In phone calls and emails from RealClearPolitics, Lankford was asked how he supplemented the NYPD methods. He did not answer those queries. Nor has he responded to requests for his raw data, which is missing from his published paper, or to clear up basic questions. One of them is why he lists “shooters” instead of “shootings,” the term most criminologists use when comparing data. This is significant because mass shootings outside the United States often involve multiple triggermen. Also, although Lankford cites 202 shooters globally from 1966 to 2012, these cases aren’t listed in any appendix and he only lists totals for a handful of countries. This means that other scholars can’t replicate his research to test his findings — or point out shootings he overlooked.”
— Carl Cannon, Washington Bureau Chief, Real Clear Politics, September 4, 2018
“Unlike Lankford, Lott has released all of his data in nearly 500 pages of appendixes so people can reach their own conclusions. Lankford declined a request to release his research or to discuss in any way his findings in comparison to Lott’s report. . . . We appreciate Lott’s willingness to recalculate his results based on our questions, as well as his decision to make public the voluminous data he has collected as he tried to replicate Lankford’s findings. Lankford has chosen to keep his data set private, which makes it difficult to understand how the two researchers come to such different conclusions. Indeed, Lott was unaware that Lankford did not include the Mumbai attacks in his data set until The Fact Checker learned that from Lankford. (That’s because Lankford refused to respond to his queries.)”
— Glenn Kessler, Washington Post, September 5, 2018.
Michael Smerconish has had Lankford on his SiriusXM radio show in the past to discuss his claims about mass public shootings around the world, and Michael has been extremely favorable to Lankford (segments of Lankford’s past discussions with Smerconish available here). But when Smerconish asked Lankford to appear on his show to discuss these objections, Lankford refused.
— email from TC Scornavacchi (Smerconish’s producer) available here, September 12, 2018
— Lukas Mikelionis, a reporter at Fox News, September 1, 2018
— Stephen Dinan, a reporter at The Washington Times, August 29, 2018
“Lankford dismissed the criticism, writing in a statement to Circa that he is ‘not interested in giving any serious thought to John Lott or his claims.’ Academics and gun control advocates have expressed deep skepticism about Lott’s research credentials, arguing his work is informed by his pro-gun stance.”
— Leandra Bernstein, a reporter at Circa News, September 1, 2018
“Lankford’s study reported that over the 47 years there were 90 public mass shooters in the United States and 202 in the rest of world. Lankford hasn’t released his list of shootings or even the number of cases by country or year. We and others, both in academia and the media, have asked Lankford for his list, only to be declined. He has also declined to provide lists of the news sources and languages he used to compile his list of cases.”
— John R. Lott, Jr. and Mike Weisser in an op-ed in the New York Post, August 30, 2018
An expert on transparency said that such data should always be released.
“Any research that seeks to influence the public debate on this topic, as this research clearly does, should be required to make their data available so that other researchers can confirm their findings,” professor Robert Reed, replication editor at the journal Public Finance Review, told FoxNews.com.
— Fox News, July 28, 2016
Lankford refuses to explain his data to anyone—to Stossel, to Lott, to the Washington Post, and apparently anyone else who comes asking, including this writer. (I emailed Lankford inquiring about his research. He declined to discuss his methodology, but said he would be publishing more information about mass shooting data in the future.)
— Jon Miltimore, Fee.org, February 25, 2019
“AmmoLand reached out to Lankford through multiple mediums to see if he would provide us with a list of resources that he used in his research, but so far Lankford has refused to respond to our request. In fact, in the three years since his widely cited study became a Democratic talking point, he has declined all request for copies of his data set.”
— John Crump, Ammoland, September 24, 2018
— Christen Smith, Guns.com, October 11, 2018
Twice we have asked Lankford to debate and respond to our new research, but he has refused to respond. Of course, we would cover his costs and even provide an honorarium, but Lankford has still not answered any emails.