Bombshell write up from Real Clear Politics: Mass Shootings in America: Anatomy of a Hyped Statistic

Sep 4, 2018 | Featured

A must read: RealClearPolitics’ Washington Bureau Chief has a very detailed article on a completely false and highly influential claim regarding distribution of mass public shootings around the world.

Three years ago, which means it was before the mass murders at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando and First Baptist Church of Sutherland Springs — but after Sandy Hook Elementary and Fort Hood — a University of Alabama professor sought to answer a chilling public policy question: Do countries other than the U.S. experience anything approaching America’s mayhem at the hands of shooters who randomly slaughter people in public places?

The researcher’s name is Adam Lankford, and his answer was unequivocal. No, it only happens here, he proclaimed in a much-quoted 2016 academic paper. America, he said, stands alone. From 1966 to 2012, he documented 90 mass shootings in the United States. In the rest of the world combined – Lankford said he canvassed 171 other nations – there were 202 mass shooters, meaning that the overwhelming number of nations had, on average, one mass killing.

It also meant that the United States, with less than 5 percent of the world’s population, had 31 percent of all the mass shootings.

“This is not a matter of opinion; this is a matter of applying statistical models to data from all these 171 countries,” Lankford said at the time. He explained that he compared national homicide rates, suicide rates, gross domestic product statistics, level of urbanization, and even the balance of men and women in each population. None of these factors proved relevant, he reported, which he said surprised him. Only one variable proved significant, he said: the availability of guns.

“The difference between us and other countries, [which] explains why we have more of these attackers, was the firearm ownership rate,” he said. “In other words: firearms per capita. We have almost double the firearm ownership rate of any other country.”

This conclusion, which is neither counterintuitive nor surprising, was referenced by President Obama. Lankford’s study was also showcased on the front pages of newspapers here and around the world, trumpeted by online news outlets and broadcast networks, invoked by pundits and politicians, and passed along on social media. It is revived, uncritically, every time there is a new mass shooting.

On Aug. 26, even as SWAT teams in Jacksonville, Fla., searched for survivors after a video game participant opened fire on other gamers, Moms Demand Action founder Shannon Watts tweeted, “Gun violence is a uniquely American crisis.”

Obviously, that’s a vast overstatement. Gun violence has never been “uniquely” American. But what about the mass shootings Professor Lankford writes about, the ones law enforcement calls “active shooting” cases as they unfold? Is this America’s singular cross to bear, the price of our Second Amendment? Although that is the dominant story line among gun control advocates, the media, and the Democratic Party, a close reading of Lankford’s report — and new research by a skeptic — suggests that his claims are also vastly exaggerated. Lankford’s key finding, namely that these cases are a rarity in the rest of the world, does not appear to be true. . . .

The rest of the long article is well worth your time and is available here. The piece has a very detailed discussion of the history of mass murder in the US before it goes into an in-depth discussion of Adam Lankford’s completely false claims. Our research upon which the RCP piece is based is available here.