The FBI massively erred about civilians stopping active shooters
I’m one of those who believes that what stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Sometimes, that good guy is a police officer, and sometimes, the good guy is a civilian. Leftists claim that the good guys’ contribution is so inconsequential that it doesn’t justify honoring citizens’ Second Amendment to keep and bear arms. New Mexico governor Michelle Grisham certainly agrees with that viewpoint. Leftists look to FBI statistics to support their arguments—so will you be surprised to learn that the FBI’s statistics are wrong? And, as always, that the error works to support leftist ideology and political positions?
The Crime Prevention Research Center (“CPRC”) has done a deep dive into the FBI’s Active Shooting Reports from 2014-2022 and discovered that the reports grossly underestimate the number of times armed civilians have stopped active shootings. The FBI says that civilians stop fewer than 5% of active shooters, while the actual data say that civilians, on average, stopped over 35% of active shooters, with the number going up to 63.5% if you include defensive use of guns outside of “gun-free guns” (which I call “shooting fish in a barrel” zones).
The essay opens by reminding readers of what happened in July 2022 in Greenwood, Indiana. A man opened fire in a shopping mall, killing three. He was stopped when 22-year-old Elisjsha Dicken, a licensed carrier, killed the shooter:
While Dicken was praised for his courage and skill – squeezing off his first shot 15 seconds after the attack began, from a distance of 40 yards – much of the immediate news coverage drew from FBI-approved statistics to assert that armed citizens almost never stop such attackers: “Rare in US for an active shooter to be stopped by bystander” (Associated Press); “Rampage in Indiana a rare instance of armed civilian ending mass shooting” (Washington Post); and “After Indiana mall shooting, one hero but no lasting solution to gun violence” (New York Times).
However, honest data show that all those claims that good guys with guns don’t really matter were a case of “lies, damn lies, and Deep State statistics.”
In fact, the FBI has been pretty bad about collecting data from those instances in which good people stepped up and, at great risk to themselves, used their legal firearms to stop someone intent on murdering large numbers of innocent people. Thus, according to the FBI, of the 302 events that the FBI identifies as “active shootings,” armed citizens only stopped 14. (According to the FBI, an “active shooting” occurs in a public area when someone is intent upon killing and does kill multiple people.)
Au contraire, says the CPRC:
An analysis by the CPRC identified a total of 440 active shooter incidents during that period and found that an armed citizen stopped 157. A previous report looked at only instances when armed civilians stopped what likely would have been mass public shootings. There were another 27 cases that we didn’t include where armed civilians stopped armed attacks, but the suspect didn’t fire his gun. Those cases are excluded from our calculations, though it could be argued that a civilian also stopped what likely could have been an active shooting event.
The FBI reported that armed citizens thwarted 4.6% of active shooter incidents, while the CPRC found 35.7%.
The problem with the FBI data is twofold: First, the FBI misclassified active shootings five times, whether by failing to acknowledge that it was an active shooting or by misidentifying that civilian’s identity. Second, and more significantly, the FBI missed 103 incidences that comported with its own definition of an “active shooting.”
What also matters in understanding that the numbers are fundamentally flawed is that they roll together shootings in places where civilians can carry arms and those in which they can’t (those “fish in a barrel” situations):
There is yet another reason that these corrected percentages are biased downward as they ignore that about half of these attacks occur where guns are banned, so law-abiding citizens who obey those rules wouldn’t have a chance to stop them.
The FBI’s active shooting reports do not mention whether the attacks occur in gun-free zones. “The issue is that when places are posted as gun-free zones, law-abiding citizens obey those rules and would be unable to stop the attacks in those areas,” notes Carl Moody, a professor at William & Mary and the CPRC’s research director.
There is much more in the CPRC essay, so I urge you to review it yourself. I just wanted to focus on the top-line information: Once again, an organization that is hostile to a constitutional right manages (coincidentally, I’m sure) to pervert the available data in a way that supports its biases.
Guns are an integral part of liberty. A government that is hostile to liberty is also hostile to guns, believing that only the government should control the great equalizer. This was/is the M.O. in Nazi Germany, Soviet Russia, Communist China, Communist Cuba, all of socialist Europe, etc. When only the government has guns, you live in a concentration camp, and that’s true no matter how nice a camp it seems.
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