UPDATED: Errors in Associated Press, the Washington Post, and the New York Times articles on how rarely concealed carry permit holders stop active shooters

Jul 30, 2022 | Media Bias, Original Research

UPDATED (original post on July 19th): Errors in Associated Press article titled “Rare in US for an active shooter to be stopped by bystander.”

It isn’t common for mass shootings to be stopped in such fashion. From 2000 to 2021, fewer than 3% of 433 active attacks in the U.S. ended with a civilian firing back, according to the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University. The researchers define the attacks as one or more people targeting multiple people. . . .

Ed White, “Rare in US for an active shooter to be stopped by bystander,” Madison.com, July 19, 2022.

The Washington Post focused on the data that the Texas State University people put together for the FBI.

Advocates for expanding gun access frequently justify their positions by citing a scenario in which an armed civilian stops a shooter: “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” the National Rifle Association tweeted Monday. But in practice, this is an uncommon occurrence during mass shootings. In recent studies of more than 430 “active shooter incidents” dating back to 2000, the FBI found that civilians killed gunmen in just 10 cases. . . .

“I think you might get more individuals carrying, sort of primed for something to happen, which is particularly dangerous,” said Jody Madeira, a law professor at Indiana University Bloomington who researches the Second Amendment. “And I think also you’ll get this idea that these people are needed out there to help protect citizens, when in reality that’s the job of the police.” . . .

James Bikales, Paulina Villegas, Praveena Somasundaram and Reis Thebault, “Rampage in Indiana a rare instance of armed civilian ending mass shooting,” Washington Post, July 18, 2022. and James Bikales, Paulina Villegas, Praveena Somasundaram and Reis Thebault, “Rampage in Indiana a rare instance of armed civilian ending mass shooting,” MSN, July 18, 2022.

As to this being the job of police, what gun control advocates such as Jody Madeira fali to acknowledge is a point that we have repeated over and over again. A police officer in uniform has an extremely difficult job in stopping these attacks. These terrorists have huge strategic advantages in determining the time and place of attacks. They can wait for a police officer to leave the area, or pick an undefended location. Even when guards or police are in the right place at the right time, those in uniform who can be readily identified as guards may as well be holding up neon signs saying, “Shoot me first.” Terrorists know that once the officer is killed, they will have free rein to go after everybody else. In addition, with 332 million Americans and only 665,380 police and sheriff’s patrol officers (with at most not much more than a third on duty at any give time), there are simply too many targets for police to be able to guard everyone of them.

A similar article was published in the New York Times.

But Dicken’s act, though heroic, was also a statistical unicorn. An examination of 433 active shooter attacks in the United States between 2000 and 2021 showed that only 22 ended with a bystander shooting an attacker, according to data from the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University. In 10 of those cases, the armed bystander was a security guard or off-duty law enforcement officer. In other encounters, civilians attempting to step in and stop an assailant were themselves shot to death by police.

“It is exceedingly rare, the exception rather than the rule,” Adam Skaggs, chief counsel and policy director at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, said of scenarios like the one in Indiana. “The reality is that more people carrying guns means more conflicts escalating into deadly violence and more people being shot and killed.” . . .

RICHARD FAUSSET, ELIZA FAWCETT AND SERGE F. KOVALESKI, “After Indiana mall shooting, one hero but no lasting solution to gun violence,” New York Times, July 20, 2022.

An article a month earlier in the New York Times made the same point.

Bystanders stop some attackers, more often with physical force than with a gun.

In the wake of deadly shootings, gun rights advocates often push to arm more people, citing prominent examples where a “good guy with a gun” stopped a “bad guy.”

After a gunman shot 46 people in a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, in 2017, an armed neighbor arrived at the scene and exchanged gunfire with the gunman, injuring him, until the gunman fled.

But armed bystanders shooting attackers was not common in the data — 22 cases out of 433. In 10 of those, the “good guy” was a security guard or an off-duty police officer. . . .

Larry Buchanan and Lauren Leatherby, “Who Stops a ‘Bad Guy With a Gun’?” New York Times, June 22, 2022.

Unfortunately, these numbers are badly flawed. The media seems unable to report another side to the story even when they are presented with the opposing facts. With in literally a couple of hours of its publication, we contacted Ed White, the reporter with the Associated Press, to point out the missing cases in the reports that he was relying on, but he never corrected his reporting. This report was done while Dr. John Lott was at the US DOJ as the senior advisor for research and statistics at OJP and OLP. Examples of people legally carrying guns who have stopped mass public shootings are available here.

Corrections to the FBI’s Reports on Active Shooting Incidents

Abstract

The claim in the original FBI report that active shooting cases have increased over time resulted from data errors, both in terms of how the cases were collected and the missing of many attacks. Some of the cases that the original reports missed involved as many as four to nine people being murdered.

For the period from 2014 to 2019, the FBI had missed additional cases. Once those cases are included, there were 25 cases out of 162 (15.4%) where people with permitted concealed handguns stopped the attacks. The FBI reports exclude cases where shooting attacks have been stopped by concealed handgun permit holders. To put it differently, while 36% of active shooting attacks have occurred in places where guns are allowed, almost half (42.3%) of those were stopped by people who legally carry concealed handguns.

In light of these errors, media, courts, law enforcement, and policymakers, are advised to rely on the updated, corrected data provided in this report. 

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