February 2019

Why Hide Your Sources?

todd woodard

One of the more important claims in the gun-control debate is that the United States has more mass public shootings than any other countries. I’m sure you’ve heard that reported on gun-ignorant major media outlets. But as John R. Lott, Jr., president of the Crime Prevention Research Center points out in a new video, conventional TV wisdom on this topic is likely misinformed — but we can’t find out for sure.

Lott says, “A paper on mass public shootings by Adam Lankford (2016) has received massive national and international media attention, getting coverage in the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal, plus hundreds of other news outlets spanning at least 35 different countries. Lankford’s claim was that over the 47 years from 1966 to 2012, an enormous amount of the world’s mass public shooters — 31% — occurred in the United States. Lankford attributed this to America’s gun ownership.”

Lott goes on to explain that Lankford claims to have “complete” data on such shooters in 171 countries. “However, because he has neither identified the cases nor their location nor even a complete description on how he put the cases together, it is impossible to replicate his findings,” Lott said.

It is particularly important that Lankford share his data because of the extreme difficulty in finding mass-shooting cases in remote parts of the world going back to 1966. Lack of media coverage could easily lead to under-counting of foreign mass shootings, which would falsely lead to the conclusion that the U.S. has such a large share, Lott points out.

Adam Lankford is a criminology professor at The University of Alabama. This reminds me of the claims by Michael A. Bellesiles, then a history professor at Emory University in Atlanta, who claimed that there were few guns and gun owners in early America. He, too, initially refused to allow others to corroborate his findings, and his book Arming America was later proved to be fraudulent.

Given the massive U.S. and international media attention Lankford’s work has received, and given the considerable impact his research has had on the debate, his unwillingness to provide even the most basic information to other researchers raises real concerns about Lankford’s motives, in my estimation.

You can view John Lott’s video on John Stossel’s YouTube channel.

Comments (3)

As tragic as "Mass shootings" are, they are a subset of the national murder rate and discussion of mass shootings should not distract us from the bigger picture. Wikipedia quotes a number of sources for its list of national murder rates, and one can draw one's own conclusions. The US rate doesn't seem to be particularly high at 5.35 per 100,000. The Americas are listed as the region with the highest average murder rate at 16.3 per 100,000, with places like like El Salvador at 82.84 and Honduras at 56.52. It's interesting that the folks who are trying to escape violence in those countries are lining up at our border to come to the US. By the way, Wikipedia has a listing of worldwide gun control laws, and one can draw one's own conclusion about how effective such laws are. Wikipedia information is a starting point for a discussion - it's not definitive or verified or original source information. See the wiki listing for "List of countries by intentional homicide rate" and "Overview of gun laws by nation."

Posted by: James D | February 18, 2019 3:28 PM    Report this comment

One I like best when asked by me is "Well they said!"
Another one I get often, "Well I read that" . . . .
When asked again who, what and where . . . . I get the old stand by, "I can't recall exactly."

Mostly when I ask for a source it ends the conversation.

Posted by: NorCalChuck | February 7, 2019 2:08 PM    Report this comment

Mr. Woodard,

I have just read the Downrange posting in the February 2019 issue of Gun Tests.

This is a good article exposing the heart of the anti-gun agenda in the US: There is no consciousness in the anti-2d Amendment/anti-gun camp when bending facts, skewing facts, and outright lying to avoid presenting facts, leads to justifying their agenda.

There needs to be a follow up article that is put in the prospective of the 2d Amendment of the US Constitution.

That would be an article that revels the number of people that have been murdered by governments between 1966 and 2012, discounting war zones.

Those numbers would paint a picture that justifies the 2d Amendment and deny any anti-2d Amendment/anti-gun advocate a platform.

But then, perhaps it would be asking too much for everyone to view the historical facts that accompany a disarmed society.

Charles E. Clift

Posted by: Charlie Clift | January 26, 2019 4:16 PM    Report this comment

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