John Lott’s Crime Prevention Research Center exists just to take a look at crime data, particularly crimes related to firearms. In the process, it’s found that guns aren’t the evil many anti-gun groups like to portray them as. It exists to inject some sanity into the debate about guns.
An older claim made by the CPRC started getting some circulation following the Parkland tragedy. It got enough that fact checker Snopes stepped in to try and set the record straight.
And by “set the record straight,” I mean they tried to dismiss something that went against leftist orthodoxy.
Leave it to the CPRC to smack them down.
Snopes.com recently fact-checked a post that we first put up in June 2015 and updated on January 7, 2016. This became an issue for them because a story that Fox News’ Special Report that had run a couple years ago was getting circulated on Facebook after the Florida high school shooting. They wrote: “Our conclusion is that this is accurate based on the CPRC’s definition of a mass shooting, but also extremely misleading. It uses inappropriate statistical methods to obscure the reality that mass shootings are very rare in most countries, so that when they do happen they have an outsized statistical effect.”
They made two general points: questioning our definition of mass public shootings and that we obscure how rare these attacks are in European countries.
Now, the CPRC spent more time on the first point than I will. Instead, I’ll just say the CPRC is using the exact same definition for a mass shooting as the FBI.
I’m sorry, but that should be all that needs to be said on the subject.
As for how rare these attacks are in other countries…
The claim that the CPRC Study “obscure[s] the reality that mass shootings are very rare in most countries”
The first thing to note about the rankings is that Lott has compared the mass shooting death rate in the United States with that of other countries where there was a mass shooting between 2009 and 2015. This might seem obvious, but it’s important to point out that very many countries did not see a single mass shooting as defined by Lott during this period.
The second striking thing about the list of mass shootings in Europe is that it is dominated by outliers. Where the United States saw at least twelve mass shooting deaths every year between 2009 and 2015, some of the other countries on Lott’s list experienced one or two rare but very high-casualty shootings. When you average out the death rates, this creates a highly misleading impression about the consistency and lethality of mass shootings outside the United States.
Looking at individual countries in Europe is a lot like examing individual states in the United States. Snopes.com thinks one should look at the median yearly rate that mass public shootings occur. If you want to compare median yearly rates that there are deaths in different countries in Europe, why not compare individual countries in Europe to individual states in the US. The countries in Europe that had a mass public shooting had an average population of 23.5 million. The total US was 323.3 million.
We can break down the US into individual states just as Europe is broken down into individual countries (click on the table below to enlarge). Snopes makes much of the fact that while Europe as a whole has mass public shootings every year, most European countries didn’t. Indeed, eleven of the fifteen European countries shown had only one year from 2009-2015 where they had a mass public shooting (if you include Russia, it would be eleven out of sixteen countries). But the same pattern holds true for US states, where 14 of the 18 states that had a mass public shooting experienced only one year with such deaths from 2009-2015. To put it differently, 73% of the European countries had deaths from a mass public shooting in only one year (69%, including the European part of Russia). By contrast, 78% of the states with a mass public shooting had deaths in only one year.
While it’s true that all European countries have a median mass public shooting death toll of zero, it is also zero for all but one of the 50 US states — California. Looking at average deaths among states and European countries, we find that six of the ten worst are European countries.
The whole thing is worth the time it takes to read it, so I highly recommend you do so.
The long and the short of it is that if you look at it this way – a way which makes sense considering how Europe is structured with nations existing in a similar status as states in this country – Europe actually has more mass shooting deaths. However, CPRC acknowledges that number is skewed by the Paris terrorist attacks of just a few years ago. Removing France from the equation puts the United States and Europe on par with one another.
Basically, it’s not nearly as dangerous here as the media likes to pretend.