CPRC’s Research on Errors in the FBI’s Active Shooting Reports Get Coverage: Daily Caller, Washington Examiner, Breitbart, and more

Sep 5, 2023 | Media Coverage

Former senior advisor for research and statistics for the U.S. Department of Justice, John R Lott Jr., claims the FBI has misreported how many armed citizens have stopped active shooters.

Lott had the task of evaluating the FBI’s active shooting reports. He found the bureau had missed and misidentified cases regarding armed citizens stopping active shooters, Lott reported. The former senior advisor claims the correct rate of armed citizens stopping active shooters is almost eight times higher than the FBI’s claim of 14 of 302 from 2014-2022.

“While the FBI claims that just 4.6% of active shootings were stopped by law-abiding citizens carrying guns, the percentage that I found was 35.7%. I am more confident that we have identified a higher share of recent cases, and our figure for 2022 was even higher — 41.3%,” Lott reported.

“The CPRC’s numbers tell a different story: Out of 440 active shooter incidents from 2014 to 2022, an armed citizen stopped 157. We also found that the FBI had misidentified five cases, usually because the person who stopped the attack was incorrectly identified as a security guard.”

Lott identified that a portion of the misreporting comes as a result of the FBI not differentiating between law-abiding citizens stopping attacks where guns are banned and where they are allowed.

“In places where law-abiding citizens are allowed to carry firearms, the percentage of active shootings that were stopped is 51%. For 2022, that figure is a remarkable 63.5%.”

Lott details he made the errors known to the FBI but was dismissed, according to Real Clear Politics.

“The FBI data on active shootings is missing so many defensive gun uses that it’s hard to believe it isn’t intentional. Errors can happen, but the failure to fix past reports shows a troubling disregard for the truth. The reality is that armed, law-abiding citizens are unsung guardian angels”

Mia Hernandez, “FBI Misleads Americans About How Often Armed Citizens Stop Active Shooters, Gun Violence Expert Claims,” Daily Caller, August 31, 2023. Also published at Microsoft News.

A large percentage of “active shooter” incidents are thwarted by armed citizens who sometimes don’t even fire their weapons, but those cases are no longer counted under President Joe Biden’s pro-gun control policies.

According to just-released data from the Crime Prevention Research Center, 41% of active shooting incidents were stopped by armed civilians.

Outside of so-called gun-free zones, which bar the legal carrying of firearms, over 63% of active shooting cases were ended by an armed civilian, according to the center.

The new data from John R. Lott Jr., the former Justice Department senior adviser for research and statistics, are his latest to challenge undercounting and bias in government reports on shootings and back up efforts by Second Amendment and police groups to encourage people to carry firearms.

Lott continually updates his data to include all the cases, including those the government overlooks or misclassifies, to counter media reports that it is rare for civilians to put down active shooters. His information is especially critical since the Biden administration stopped counting defensive actions by civilians.

Following the Sandy Hook school shooting in 2012, Wayne LaPierre, executive vice president of the National Rifle Association, famously held a press conference to decry the shooting and offer a solution. He said, “The only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is with a good guy with a gun.”

Liberal anti-gun groups and media allies mocked the comments, but they have been unable to come up with a winning solution to stopping often deranged shooters. Lott’s data show that LaPierre was likely correct.

Of 440 cases he cited from 2014-2022, 157 active shootings were stopped by an armed civilian. By comparison, the FBI cited fewer cases, 302, and even fewer thwarted by armed civilians, 14.

The FBI data from 2014-2022 have led the media to call the interventions rare. Lott said the FBI data often misclassify cases, do not dig deeper than skimpy police reports, or wrongly identify the civilian with the gun as a security guard.

“Evidence compiled by the Crime Prevention Research Center shows that the sources the media relied on undercounted the number of instances in which armed citizens have thwarted such attacks by an order of more than 10, saving untold numbers of lives. Of course, law-abiding citizens stopping these attacks are not rare. What is rare is national news coverage of those incidents,” Lott’s new report shared with Secrets on Friday said.

“The FBI reports that armed citizens only stopped 14 of the 302 active shooter incidents it identified for the period 2014-2022. The FBI defines active shooter incidents as those in which an individual actively kills or attempts to kill people in a populated, public area. But it does not include those it deems related to other criminal activity, such as a robbery or fighting over drug turf,” he added. Those types of shootings, however, have recently been included in cases of “mass shootings” by several media outlets.

In his updated report, he also made this argument:

“An analysis by the CPRC identified a total of 440 active shooter incidents during that period and found that an armed citizen stopped 157. A previous report looked at only instances when armed civilians stopped what likely would have been mass public shootings. There were another 27 cases that we didn’t include where armed civilians stopped armed attacks, but the suspect didn’t fire his gun. Those cases are excluded from our calculations, though it could be argued that a civilian also stopped what likely could have been an active shooting event.”

“The FBI reported that armed citizens thwarted 4.6% of active shooter incidents, while the CPRC found 35.7%.”

“Two factors explain this discrepancy — one, misclassified shootings; and two, overlooked incidents. Regarding the former, the CPRC determined that the FBI reports had misclassified five shootings: In two incidents, the Bureau notes in its detailed write-up that citizens possessing valid firearms permits confronted the shooters and caused them to flee the scene. However, the FBI did not list these cases as being stopped by armed citizens because police later apprehended the attackers. In two other incidents, the FBI misidentified armed civilians as armed security personnel. Finally, the FBI failed to mention citizen engagement in one incident.”

He added, “As for the second factor — overlooked cases — the FBI, more significantly, missed 35 incidents identified by CPRC where what would likely have been a mass public shooting was thwarted by armed civilians. There were another 103 active shooting incidents that they missed.”

Finally, he broke out shootings that occurred outside of gun-free zones where, presumably, those with concealed carry permits enter without their weapons as required by law. . . . [more is available in the article]

Paul Bedard, “Over 60% of ‘active shooters’ stopped by ‘good guy with a gun’,” Washington Examiner, September 1, 2023.

A report from John R. Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), shows that from 2014 to 2022 armed citizens stopped active shooters eight times more often than the FBI claimed.

In the report, excerpts of which Lott published on Real Clear Politics, he noted, “Out of 440 active shooter incidents from 2014 to 2022, an armed citizen stopped 157. We also found that the FBI had misidentified five cases, usually because the person who stopped the attack was incorrectly identified as a security guard.”

He observed, “While the FBI claims that just 4.6% of active shootings were stopped by law-abiding citizens carrying guns, the percentage that I found was 35.7%. I am more confident that we have identified a higher share of recent cases, and our figure for 2022 was even higher – 41.3%.”

Despite Lott’s findings and the findings of CPRC, the FBI’s data has not been adjusted. Lott highlighted this by pointing to an email he received in 2015 in which the FBI admitted the Lott had uncovered an example they had missed of an armed citizen stopping an active shooter. Despite the admission, “the FBI database never added the incident.”

Lott suggested that “political pressure” may be causal in the FBI’s hesitance to correct the record:

Up until January of 2021, I worked in the U.S. Department of Justice as the senior advisor for research and statistics, and part of my job was to evaluate the FBI’s active shooting reports. I showed the bureau that many cases were missing and that others had been misidentified. Yet, the FBI continues to report that armed citizens stopped only 14 of the 302 active shooter incidents that it identified for the period 2014-2022. The correct rate is almost eight times higher. And if we limit the discussion to places where permit holders were allowed to carry, the rate is eleven times higher.

Lott concludes, “The FBI data on active shootings is missing so many defensive gun uses that it’s hard to believe it isn’t intentional. Errors can happen, but the failure to fix past reports shows a troubling disregard for the truth,” he writes. “The reality is that armed, law-abiding citizens are unsung guardian angels.”

AWR Hawkins, “Report: Armed Citizens Stop Active Shooters 8x More Often Than FBI Claims,” Breitbart, August 31, 2023.

As the nation wrestles with yet another mass shooting, this time in Jacksonville, Florida, a new report provides some troubling news for the anti-gunner lobby, which exploits these tragedies to push for more restrictions on gun ownership. However, the numbers do provide some good news for proponents of the 2nd Amendment and those who understand that decent people with guns save lives.

The Jacksonville shooting not only reignited conversations about racism but also about gun rights. However, as always, these discussions neglect a significant factor in this debate: The role of armed citizens in preventing or mitigating mass shootings. The Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC) sheds more light on a reality of which most Americans remain unaware.

When was the last time you saw a report detailing how an armed citizen foiled a mass shooting? Chances are that the answer is “never.” But these numbers suggest it happens more often than we think.

The report noted that the FBI’s statistics on these cases do not tell the whole story. The Bureau says armed citizens have stopped only 14 out of the 302 active shooter incidents between 2014 and 2022. The media has used these numbers to paint the picture that this rarely happens.

However, the CPRC’s report reveals that 41 percent of active shooting incidents were stopped by armed citizens. Furthermore, in incidents taking place outside of “gun-free zones,” 63 percent of active shooting cases were stopped by a “good guy with a gun.”

The organization’s report shows that, in reality, armed civilians stopped about 157 out of 440 active shooter situations during the aforementioned time period. Dr. John R. Lott Jr., the head of the CPRC, indicated that this discrepancy is the result of FBI oversights and misclassifications, including omitting cases in which armed citizens scared away attackers or were mistaken for security personnel.

The CPRC also provides a list of local news stories detailing incidents in which an armed civilian stopped a mass shooter. One example occurred in 2014 when a gunman opened fire at Mystic Gentleman’s Club in Portland, Oregon. After shooting three people, he was fatally shot by an armed citizen. . . . . [more available here]

Jeff Charles, “Anti-Gunners Don’t Want You to Read This: The Truth About Armed Citizens Stopping Mass Shootings,” Red State, September 2, 2023.

The FBI is going off the rails.

Rogue federal agencies are probably the greatest threat to the liberty of the American people. They present more of a threat than drug cartels or terrorists because they operate under the pretext of law and have a legal monopoly on the initial use of force to compel compliance.

Now, Dr. John Lott, president of the Crime Prevention Research Center and the author of “Gun Control Myths,” is exposing how the FBI may well be deliberately misleading the American people on how often armed Americans really do stop active shooter incidents. Dr. Lott points out that there are a number of problems with how the FBI gathers and presents this data, starting with how shootings are defined and categorized.

The FBI defines active shooter incidents as those in which an individual actively kills or attempts to kill people in a populated, public area. But it does not include shootings that are deemed related to other criminal activity, such as robbery or fighting over drug turf. Active shootings may involve just one shot being fired at just one target, even if the target isn’t hit.

To compile its list, the FBI hired academics at the Advanced Law Enforcement Rapid Response Training Center at Texas State University. Police departments don’t collect data, so the researchers had to find news stories about these incidents.

Did you get that? They relied on a third-hand source to gather data, data that will be presented to try to influence policy. To call this sloppy work is the grossest of understatements. Dr. Lott’s organization did its own research and, unsurprisingly, came up with a different result.

Unfortunately, the news media unquestioningly reports the FBI numbers. After 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken used his legally-carried concealed handgun to stop what would have been a mass public shooting, an Associated Press headline noted: “Rare in US for an active shooter to be stopped by bystander.” A Washington Post headline proclaimed: “Rampage in Indiana a rare instance of armed civilian ending mass shooting.”

The CPRC’s numbers tell a different story: Out of 440 active shooter incidents from 2014 to 2022, an armed citizen stopped 157.

We also found that the FBI had misidentified five cases, usually because the person who stopped the attack was incorrectly identified as a security guard. We found these cases on a budget of just a few thousand dollars. Though we found that armed citizens had stopped eight times as many cases as the FBI claims, I make no assertion that we unearthed all of these stories. It is quite possible that the news media itself never covers many such incidents.

I would say that it’s not only quite possible but indeed quite likely that the news media never covers many such incidents, but not having done my own research, I will defer to Dr. Lott on this. But it’s undeniable that the FBI and the legacy media are badly underestimating and under-reporting the numbers of active shooters taken down by armed citizens, just as they do other incidents of defensive gun use.

This is another example of the FBI’s ongoing deterioration, devolving from what was once a premier law enforcement agency to a barely concealed advocacy group for ever-more-intrusive government policy. They have acted in many cases as the political Left’s enforcement arm against such disparate groups as Catholics and elderly protestors. The FBI has arguably gone rogue, and the answer may well be to simply defund the agency, disband it, and start from scratch. There is, after all, already a Federal law-enforcement arm that predates the FBI by many years – the U.S. Marshals – and they do not appear (yet) to suffer from the failures in leadership that are plaguing the FBI. . . .

Ward Clark, “Firearms Researcher Dr. John Lott: FBI Is Deliberately Misleading Americans on Defensive Gun Use,” Red State, August 31, 2023.

I doubt there’s a more maligned character in the debate over gun rights than Dr. John Lott. Just ask any gun control activist.  They can’t stand him.  His research often refutes their favorite narratives.   His command of the data often leaves them little refuge.  I’ve had the opportunity to meet and talk with Dr. Lott on occasion since 2018. I’ve found him knowledgable, willing to test a hypothesis, willing to have his ideas and research challenged.  In short, when I look back at his work, I’m convinced it’s less about defining gun policy and more about getting to a set of facts that should influence gun policy. Hence the animus.

In his latest article in Real Clear Politics raises critical concerns about the credibility of government data, specifically from the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), in the ongoing debate on policing and gun control in the United States. Lott argues that these agencies have been influenced by political agendas, thereby skewing the data on the efficacy of defensive gun use and the actual number of active shooter incidents that are stopped by armed citizens. Let’s parse his critique.

The CDC and Defensive Gun Use

Lott begins his critique by calling out the CDC for removing its estimates on defensive gun use at the request of gun control organizations. According to Lott, for nearly a decade, the CDC cited a range of 64,000 to 3 million annual incidents where people used guns defensively. The removal of these numbers from the CDC’s website, Lott suggests, indicates political influence affecting empirical data, thereby obstructing honest discourse on gun control.  As reported by The Reload, it appears gun control groups were at the source of the take down.  So why did the CDC capitulate? It’s pretty clear that gun control activists and the Biden Administration dislike any discussion of defensive gun uses and will stop at to block any narrative which furthers a citizen’s right to defend themselves and or the fact that firearms are used quite frequently in self-defense.  With over 496 defensive gun uses in 2023, with 147 in just in the past 90 days, the Defensive Gun Use tracker hosted by the Heritage Foundation shows how often firearms are used by Americans to defend themselves.

The FBI and Active Shooter Incidents

Lott’s main contention with the FBI centers around its reporting of active shooter incidents, specifically the role of armed citizens in stopping these events. He alleges that the FBI’s count is severely underestimated and that his organization, the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), found the real rate to be nearly eight times higher. Lott claims that if the focus is narrowed to places where carrying firearms is permitted, the rate is eleven times higher.  In fact, Lott’s research tells a different story,

Out of 440 active shooter incidents from 2014 to 2022, an armed citizen stopped 157. We also found that the FBI had misidentified five cases, usually because the person who stopped the attack was incorrectly identified as a security guard.

Lott criticizes the FBI for relying on news reports to compile data, implying that such a method is inherently flawed. While it’s true that using media coverage can lead to underreporting or misreporting, it’s the FBI’s lack of follow up that ensures its data is in error. Their unwillingness to improve their data collection methods, even after multiple requests to correct it, sure  smacks of bias.

Glenn Kessler reporting as “The Fact Checker” for the Washington Post called out the FBI, citing their own report,

But the FBI reports, though often cited by the news media, have numerous errors and, by the FBI’s own admission, are not necessarily complete or even consistent in how certain criteria are applied. “Incidents identified in this study do not encompass all gun-related situations; therefore caution should be taken when using this information without placing it in context,” the FBI said when it issued its first report.

The primary issue here is not necessarily methodology, but intent. Does the FBI follow up on those news stories with local law enforcement to get a more accurate and complete picture of the defensive gun use?  With the FBI’s massive budget, they certainly could do a better job of following up on the incidents, as Lott’s organization has with “a budget of a few thousand dollars.”  As Lott rightly points out, “The FBI data on active shootings is missing so many defensive gun uses that it’s hard to believe it isn’t intentional. Errors can happen, but the failure to fix past reports shows a troubling disregard for the truth.”

Avoiding repeated questions by Kessler, the FBI responded,

We have no additional information to provide other than what is provided within the active shooter reports on our website.

When the self-proclaimed “defenders of democracy” like the Washington Post get the run around from the FBI, it lends credence to Lott’s assertions.   Irrespective of one’s stance on gun control, the credibility of data used in shaping public policy is of utmost importance. If government agencies are providing inaccurate information—either intentionally or even inadvertently, and are unwilling to correct it—it hampers the ability to form effective policies and deepens public mistrust in essential institutions.

John R. Lott’s research is a provocation that should encourage further examination of how data on policing and gun control is collected and presented. Above all, this debate underscores the need for transparent, reliable data collection methods that can serve as the foundation for public policy decisions. The news media, when using FBI data should disclaim that the data as the FBI did and should consider giving stories about defensive firearms uses more airtime.

Ryan Petty, “An honest debate about gun violence statistics,” Bearing Arms, September 1, 2023.

A report from John R. Lott Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), shows that from 2014 to 2022 armed citizens stopped active shooters eight times more often than the FBI claimed.
In the report, excerpts of which Lott published on Real Clear Politics, he noted, “Out of 440 active shooter incidents from 2014 to 2022, an armed citizen stopped 157. We also found that the FBI had misidentified five cases, usually because the person who stopped the attack was incorrectly identified as a security guard.”
He observed, “While the FBI claims that just 4.6% of active shootings were stopped by law-abiding citizens . . .

“Armed Citizens Stop Active Shooters 8X More Often Than FBI Claims,” Political Signal, September 1, 2023.

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