U.S. rank in mass shoot­ings ‘botched’

The Washington Times Weekly - - National - BY STEPHEN DI­NAN

A shock 2016 study ar­gued that the U.S. ac­counted for nearly one-third of all mass shoot­ings, spark­ing global head­lines about the dan­gers of an Amer­i­can gun cul­ture.

Now an­other re­searcher says the orig­i­nal study “botched” the data.

John R. Lott Jr., pres­i­dent of the Crime Pre­ven­tion Re­search Cen­ter, crunched the num­bers and said his count shows that the U.S. had less than 3 per­cent of the world’s mass pub­lic shoot­ings over a 15-year period.

That is smaller than the 4.6 per­cent of the world’s pop­u­la­tion that the U.S. ac­counts for — and way less than the 31 per­cent of global mass shoot­ers that Adam Lank­ford, a pro­fes­sor at the Univer­sity of Alabama, claimed in his widely pub­li­cized stud­ies.

“If you fix the data, you get the op­po­site re­sult from him,” Mr. Lott said. “He has the United States way out there, all by it­self in terms of mass pub­lic shoot­ings. He’s sim­ply wrong. The United States, when I go through this, ranks 58th in the world in the rate of mass pub­lic shoot­ings and 62nd in the world in terms of mur­ders from mass pub­lic shoot­ings.”

Mr. Lott said he tried to get Mr. Lank­ford to dis­close his data but the pro­fes­sor won’t share it with him or other re­searchers, mak­ing it im­pos­si­ble to dou­ble-check the orig­i­nal claims or to fig­ure out why Mr. Lott’s num­bers are so dif­fer­ent.

Mr. Lank­ford’s re­search, first re­leased in 2015 and pre­sented to the Amer­i­can So­ci­o­log­i­cal As­so­ci­a­tion in 2016, gar­nered sto­ries from The New York Times, Newsweek, CNN and The Washington Post, among dozens of oth­ers, that said it was proof, as CNN put it, that “the U.S. has the most mass shoot­ings.”

Mr. Lank­ford stud­ied the period from 1966 to 2012 us­ing data from the New York City Po­lice Depart­ment’s ac­tive shooter re­port, a 2014 FBI ac­tive shooter re­port and some for­eign ac­counts.

He iden­ti­fied 292 in­ci­dents world­wide in which at least four peo­ple were killed — the FBI’s def­i­ni­tion of a mass mur­der. Of those, 90 were in the U.S. — 31 per­cent of the to­tal among 171 coun­tries.

The pro­fes­sor also found that shoot­ers in the U.S. were more likely to arm them­selves with mul­ti­ple weapons and more likely to at­tack at schools and busi­ness lo­ca­tions.

Mr. Lank­ford, who claimed to be the first to at­tempt a global sur­vey, said his re­sults sug­gested there was some­thing to the Amer­i­can psy­che that left peo­ple dis­af­fected when they failed to achieve the Amer­i­can dream. He said they turn to vi­o­lent out­bursts with firearms.

“It may thus be the lofty as­pi­ra­tions and bro­ken dreams of a tiny per­cent­age of Amer­ica’s stu­dents and workers — com­bined with their men­tal health prob­lems, dis­torted per­cep­tions of vic­tim­iza­tion, delu­sions of grandeur, and ac­cess to firearms — that makes them more likely to com­mit pub­lic mass shoot­ings than peo­ple from other cul­tures,” he pos­tu­lated in his 2015 pa­per.

Yet he has failed to post the data on all 292 shoot­ings. Early aca­demic crit­ics said it’s easy to find data for U.S. shoot­ings but trick­ier for track­ing in­ci­dents in for­eign coun­tries.

Mr. Lott, mean­while, turned to data from the Univer­sity of Mary­land’s Global Ter­ror­ism Database and fol­lowed up with Nexis and web searches to try to catch cases that the database missed.

He said good data ex­ist only for re­cent years, so he looked from 1998 to 2012 and found 1,491 mass pub­lic shoot­ings world­wide. Of those, only 43 — or 2.88 per­cent — were in the U.S. Di­vide that by per capita rates, and the U.S. comes in 58th, be­hind Fin­land, Peru, Rus­sia, Nor­way and Thai­land — though still worse than France, Mex­ico, Ger­many and the United King­dom.

Looked at from the num­ber of vic­tims in those shoot­ings, the U.S. again ranks low, with just 2.1 per­cent of mass shoot­ing deaths, Mr. Lott said.

He has re­leased a 451-page ap­pen­dix de­tail­ing each of the shoot­ings and his thoughts on how he clas­si­fied it, and he shared his data with other aca­demics, in­clud­ing, he said, Mr. Lank­ford.

The pro­fes­sor, though, told The Washington Times that he wasn’t go­ing to get drawn into a back-and-forth over the is­sue.

“I am not in­ter­ested in giv­ing any se­ri­ous thought to John Lott or his claims,” he said in re­sponse to an email seek­ing com­ment.

An­other pro­fes­sor, Carl Moody, an econ­o­mist who stud­ies crime at the Col­lege of Wil­liam & Mary in Vir­ginia, said Mr. Lott got it right.

“When I saw John Lott’s pa­per, I went to the Global Ter­ror­ism Database … and counted the num­ber of mass shoot­ings in the U.S. com­pared to ev­ery­where else. Lott is right,” he said by email.

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