Anti-gun forces are screaming that mass shootings happen at an alarming rate, so we should “do something.” Of course, as we all know, that “something” usually means punishing those of us who did nothing wrong for the crimes of someone else. They want to make it harder for the law-abiding citizen to get guns despite no evidence it will actually stop such mass killings.
However, some are spouting numbers that make no sense, claiming there’s a mass killing nearly every day. That doesn’t sound remotely right. After all, if that were true, wouldn’t we be seeing news about these almost every day?
Well, David Kopel did a little fact checking over at the Wall Street Journal.
Sen. Chris Murphy of Connecticut responded to last week’s Las Vegas massacre by issuing a statement in which he claimed: “Already this year there have been more mass shootings than days in the year.” That was last Monday, the 275th day of 2017. Can Mr. Murphy possibly be right?
Certainly not by the ordinary definition of “mass shootings,” which includes attacks such as the one in Las Vegas this month, at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, Fla., in 2016, and at Colorado’s Columbine High School in 1999. Of late such infamous crimes have hit the national news several times a year—nowhere near a daily basis. Gun-control advocates like Mr. Murphy seek to alarm the public by exaggerating the scale of the problem.
The FBI defines “mass murder” as “four or more victims slain, in one event, in one location.” Starting with the FBI’s definition of four or more fatalities, the Congressional Research Service reported that from 1999 through 2013 there were an average of 20 to 22 mass shootings in the U.S. annually. In an average year, four of these would be “mass public shootings”—the kind that often get national media attention. Of the rest, about half were “familicides”—killings within a family or estranged family, usually taking place in a private residence. The other half were “attributable to an underlying criminal activity or commonplace circumstance,” such as armed robbery, gang activity, insurance fraud or romantic triangles.
The website Mass Shooting Tracker, by contrast, counted 340 mass shootings in the U.S. between New Year’s Day and last Monday—consistent with Mr. Murphy’s claim of more than one a day. The site uses a much broader definition of mass shooting: “an incident where four or more people are shot in a single shooting spree. This may include the gunman himself, or police shootings of civilians around the gunman.” Under this definition, the shootings needn’t be fatal.
It’s not surprising that people who favor gun confiscation would prefer an indiscriminate methodology. But it’s not helpful in actually reducing violence. Different solutions are needed for different types of crimes.
No, it’s not surprising at all. However, it’s total bovine excrement.
As Kopel notes, different crimes need different solutions. Tighter restrictions on the purchasing of firearms won’t do much to impact gang violence, for example, since most gang members can’t and don’t buy firearms legally.
Yet anti-gunners don’t actually care about any solution that doesn’t explicitly ban the instrument used. So, they’ll use numbers that are purposefully broader than those accepted by law enforcement simply because they will make the scope of the issue appear to be much broader.
It’s a dishonest dance meant to scare the crap out of the suburban set who know little about guns, little about crime, but think they’re fully informed because they watch the news and read articles that scroll by on Facebook. Folks who use this broad definition want people terrified because terrified people aren’t rational. Terrified people will accept almost anything so long as it promises to keep them safe.
It’s also important we not allow people buy into this. These numbers and this definition of mass shooting need to be shouted down at every opportunity. Many people accept these numbers on face value simply because they don’t know any better.
Never let them get away with it.