Have you ever wondered why people in the US and many other countries have the idea that the US leads the world in the number of mass shootings? The media obviously has a lot to do with it by over-coverage of each incident, but that is only part of the picture. Where they get the lion-share of their data is a huge part of it.
The main reason there is a mistaken belief that the US leads the world in mass shootings is actually because of a paper on mass public shootings that was written by Adam Lankford in 2016. This paper has circulated worldwide and still gets used, though the data has been debunked. Major media outlets in the US and in at least 35 other countries continue to use this flawed data.
The paper claimed that during the period of time from 1966 to 2012, 31% of mass shootings occurred in the US. The problem is that the data is unsupported and the author has refused to disclose where he got the data. Further, when data from reliable sources, such as the CDC and FBI is used, an entirely different picture is painted.
Using data that is available on both the CDC and FBI sites, as well as other sites in other countries, 1.43% of mass shooters, 2.11% of the mass shooting homicides, and 2.88% of the attempted mass shootings occurred in the US over the same time frame. This is a long way from 31%. It should also be noted that the US only makes up about four and a half percent of the world population.
So, how can the data in this paper be so far off? It apparently is because the number of mass shootings outside of the US was grossly undercounted, whether purposely or by design. The paper claimed that in the 47 years it covered, there were 202 mass shootings outside of the US and 90 inside of the US.
According to the Crime Prevention Research Center (CPRC), though, in just the past 15 years, there have been almost 3,100 mass shooters and about 1,450 attacks outside of the US.
As it turns out, the real data shows that the US rate of mass shootings is actually lower than the global average. It becomes more telling when the mass shooting murder number is compared to a number of other countries.
Over the 14 years from 1998 to 2012, the mass shooting murder rate in the US was about .11 per 100,000 people. In other words, just over 1 person in a million. That is higher than the mass shooting murder rate in the UK (.02 per 100,000 people), though it doesn’t include mass murders by other means than shooting. The US rate is also higher than in Canada (.01 per 100,000 people). However, it is lower than in Russia (.16 per 100,000) and substantially lower than in Finland (.44 per 100,000), Norway (1.46 per 100,000), or Algeria (2.8 per 100,000).
Dr. John Lott has done a careful and detailed analysis that sets the record straight. Keep in mind that the study is 437 pages long, but it is free for download. In fact, the entire Global Terrorism Database is available for free.
Adam Lankford’s paper is available as well.
In no way is this article meant to make light of any kind of murders, done in any way. It is my personal belief that any murder is a tragedy, whether done by guns, knives, clubs, rocks, or whatever. The purpose of this article is to get the truth out. Only with the truth can there be an honest and realistic discussion on the topic of gun control, regardless of which side of the debate a person is on.