Mass Shooting Statistics
Posted 25 November 2018 - 06:59 PM
Posted 25 November 2018 - 09:26 PM
Another study released this week called into question an often-cited statistic that the United States leads the world in mass shooting incidents, accounting for nearly one-third of mass shootings globally.
Dr. John Lott, the founder of the Crime Prevention Research Center and author of the controversial book, "More Guns, Less Crime," claimed the United States, on average, had fewer mass shootings and less deadly incidents than previously reported.
Lott argued that a 2016 paper, published by Adam Lankford, now a professor of criminology at the University of Alabama, "botched" the figures. Lott reduced the previous estimate by more than 95 percent, saying the United States accounted for less than 3 percent of global mass shooting incidents.
Lankford's study looked at data from 171 countries over the period of 1966 to 2012 and found the United States accounted for 31 percent of worldwide mass shootings despite having 5 percent of the world population. The study concluded there was a correlation between the high rate of gun ownership in a country and the odds it would experience a mass shooting.
Accurate gun violence data is notoriously difficult to come by in the United States. It is even more difficult to gather from developing and underdeveloped nations as well as countries that have the incentive to underreport violence.
Lankford's critics have questioned the accuracy of his foreign mass shooting statistics and the researcher has not made those datasets available for cross-checking.
Lott's study relied on firearm incidents reported in an international terrorism database and foreign media reports. He charged the 2016 report "grossly undercount foreign attacks" and the findings were used to advance a political agenda.
"The whole episode should provide a cautionary tale of academic malpractice and how evidence is often cherry-picked and not questioned when it fits preconceived ideas," Lott wrote with gun control advocate Michael Weisser in an editorial in the New York Post.
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.
CONFOUNDED BY BIASES AND DEFINITIONS
In an issue as contentious as firearms policy, facts are not only stubborn things, they can vary wildly depending on who finds them, who funds them and who cites them.
"We need data grounded in science to understand the causes of gun violence, where it's happening, and how we can best stop it," said Jason Phelps press secretary at the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence. "But American history is littered with people who have used serious issues to peddle their own ideology. The same is true when it comes to guns."
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